William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Open Discussion: Universities Are Dead, But Still Haven’t Dropped

Students learning how not to be triggered. A required course.

Students learning how not to be triggered. A required course.

Today, an open discussion, with the promise of much more to come, on the astonishing amazing I-can’t-believe-he-said-that article “Dear Parents: Everything You Need to Know About Your Son and Daughter’s University But Don’t” by Ron Srigley in the LA Review of Books. It is a must read. Go there first then return here for the discussoin.

Srigley identifies the symptoms besetting so-called higher education, but I don’t think he has the identified the disease. That being so, his prescription, such as it is, is not likely to cure what ails us. Regular readers know that my suggestion, a sure fire treatment, is to nuke ’em from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure that the contagion does not spread further.

Here are some excerpts from Srigley I thought most important:

#1

… I want to talk to you, the parents of the students I am supposed to teach…I suspect that you, like me, are part of the problem…Why wouldn’t I inflate Susan’s and Bill’s grades…if doing so comes with the added perk of preventing me from catching hell from students, administrators, and you for ruining the party by refusing to say that two plus two equals five?

#2 This one had me pumping my fist in the air in agreement.

And the fact that universities, in the interest of increasing enrollments (= money), are willing to flatter you and your children so shamelessly about how wonderful and intelligent you all are should tell you that you are being played. This isn’t even political correctness and the therapeutic culture anymore; this is a straight-out scam.

#3 (Entertainment all the time. What did we read about bicycles in the library?)

During one class a couple of years ago, I dimmed the lights in order to show a clip of an interview. The moment the lights went down I saw dozens and dozens of bluish, illumined faces emerge from the darkness. That’s when I understood that a lecture or discussion is now only one of several entertainment options available to students in the university classroom. Given the way the game is played, lectures and discussions rank well below Facebook or Tumblr. You can’t get mad at them for this, not like in the old days. “Hey, you, pay attention! This is important.” Say that today and you won’t hear anger or shame. You’ll hear something like: “Wha…? Oh, sorry sir. My bad. I didn’t mean anything.” And they don’t. They don’t mean anything…

There is no real education anymore, but I still have to create the impression that education is happening. Students will therefore come to class, but they will not learn. Professors will give lectures, but they will not teach. Students will receive grades, but they will not earn them. Awards and degrees will be granted, but they will exist only on paper. Smiling students will be photographed at graduation, but they will not be happy.

#4 (Except as SJW training grounds…)

To state the matter bluntly, the liberal arts and sciences don’t matter anymore…

In the intervening years the culture had declined so precipitously that to argue, say, that the work of Albert Camus offered an important critique of the contemporary cult of efficiency that merited serious consideration would be met with silence, incomprehension, or even ridicule.

#5 (He means everybody.)

When it comes to a fair fight the barbarians are…well…barbarians. Incapable of virtue, they insist hypocritically on etiquette — and the powers that be are so vigilant about keeping up the appearance of civility that they may even suspend you or charge you with harassment should you have the temerity to call them on their hypocrisy and refuse to play nice.

#6 (Don’t skip this one!)

This talk of academic freedom is more hope than reality, and the resistance it suggests is anything but the rule. If you are mocked and denigrated for years on end, whether passively-aggressively through the slow, clawing back of your budgets or the Disneyfication of your course offerings (Religious Studies 211: The Whore of North Africa: Augustine Gone Wild in Carthage) by more “progressive” colleagues, sooner or later your rational self will tell you that the game is up and you will stop doing what it is you do (serious study of texts and historical events, honest lectures with real content) and start doing what you are expected to do (keep an increasingly disengaged and intellectually limited group of young people entertained or otherwise distracted for three hours a week)….You dumb down your lectures to keep your subscriptions up and to justify your courses in the eyes of the administration, and the dumber they become the less justification there is for continuing them and the more the administration sneers when it hears your defenses of the ennobling powers of the humanities or the arts or even the pure sciences.

#7

…students do not read anymore.

#8 (Entertainment all the time…)

So long as your class is fun and well subscribed to, you’ll be favored by the administration and probably receive a teaching award — and this even though the truth of the matter is that your students will leave your class in worse condition than they entered it, because you will have pandered to their basest inclinations while leaving their real intellectual and moral needs unmet.

#9 (The university is a playground for administrators.)

There is no clearer example of the administrative caste’s contempt for faculty. But there is also no clearer example of their contempt for your children. Under-educated instructors fill university classrooms, compromising the value of your sons and daughters’ education. But these instructors also allow administrators, many of them without PhDs, to weaken and destroy real academic departments, thereby giving themselves a free hand in setting a curriculum that has far less to do with knowledge than with pandering to market forces and student whims.

#10 (You knew the end was near when universities created a degree in university management.)

Universities, like people, are duplicitous and loathe having their duplicity exposed publicly…At my university, which is a small, primarily undergraduate institution with a student population of roughly 4,000, [the Communications Department] has a full time staff of 12 in addition to whatever operating budget it receives…

However, often [building programs] are undertaken not to serve real needs but to generate revenue and pad the CVs of senior administrators in preparation for their next career appointment…

#11 (Note “degrees” not “education”.)

Since most degrees involve no real content, it doesn’t matter how they are assessed.

#12

As students are awarded ever-higher grades, over time they will begin to believe that they deserve such grades…The customer is always right. As one vice president I know of states on her website, she promises to provide “one-stop shops” and “exceptional customer service” to all. Do not let the stupidity of this statement fool you into believing it is in any way benign.

#13 (We’ve had free libraries for two centuries with only a diminution of education. Online forsooth.)

Online courses are perhaps one of the most complete expressions of this denigration of university education.

#14 (Sounds like a government near you.)

As university classrooms die, the administrative sector of the institution thrives and grows at a staggering rate…

Today presidents and vice presidents act like bosses and CEOs as they jet around the world, post pictures of themselves on their institutions’ websites receiving clown checks, cutting ribbons, and shaking hands, and build around themselves large cadres of expensive staffers dedicated exclusively to serving, well, them…

…consider that in 2011 there were 609 permanent and contract staff members working for the university and 303 permanent and term faculty members…

If you think I overstate the matter, consider this: I know of faculty members who have been summoned by student services staff members to “discuss” a grade with which one of their students was unhappy.

#15

You’re here to have fun, to have lots of cool social and personal experiences, to ‘get a degree’ and perhaps acquire a couple of employable skills along the way. But you are not here to learn or to become more intelligent. What’s worse, no one cares if you do or don’t!

And I could have gone on and on. Let’s hope the good prof manages to keep his job.

34 Comments

  1. Bread and Circuses

  2. universities: overpriced daycare for adult children

  3. Sander van der Wal

    December 30, 2015 at 10:22 am

    How long for America’s enemies to figure out how to take advantage of America’s newfound born-stupid-stay-stupid ideology?

  4. Excellent article – thanks for focusing attention on it.

    I’m not familiar with Canadian accreditation practices, but in the U.S., if enough of the Ph.D. faculty is replaced with temporary employees without advanced degrees, I think that accreditation is at risk. His other points, of course, apply just as well here as in Canada. What about Europe, I wonder?

  5. Sander: They already have. Russia and China hack our computer bases effortlessly and the only response of someone taking personal information on government employees is hand-wringing. Our ‘commander in chief” couldn’t command a group of fourth graders. He’s more intent on shutting the kids up, rather than actually leading. How could our enemies not have figured this out by now?

  6. Interesting, but I think that your linked article somewhat misses the point. There is no acknowledgment that the problems of the humanities are largely self inflicted and that they were enthusiastic enablers in the process, but now are playing the victim. The humanities should know their history. It is also interesting that the author tries to drag the sciences into this, but the sciences have, by and large, maintained standards. I think the solution is to move to institutes of science and technology and let the humanities whither on their own.

    Something else that I noticed is best expressed by a commenter to the original article. I quote:

    “Every random individual example from this article is feminine (a student, ‘she’, an administrator, ‘she’, etc etc).

    When I read that, I assume the author is either pandering to feminists, or self-censoring his thought, or genuinely has drunk the Koolaid and thinks the one of the main problems in modern discourse is the distribution of pronouns. I thus don’t take him seriously.”

  7. Scotian, didn’t you know, when you said

    “ ‘Every random individual example from this article is feminine (a student, ‘she’, an administrator, ‘she’, etc etc).

    When I read that, I assume the author is either pandering to feminists, or self-censoring his thought, or genuinely has drunk the Koolaid and thinks the one of the main problems in modern discourse is the distribution of pronouns.”

    That it’s the last? We are required to replace the formerly sexless but gender-referring “he” by “she”, to be published. I (and some others) refuse to pander to this practice. I do he/she, and others maintain the “he” of old.

  8. There are a few institutions of higher learning where the road is not going off the cliff: St. John’s College (Annapolis/Santa Fe), Thomas Aquinas (Calif), and some other Catholic colleges, where a Great Books program is followed and the teachings of dead white men are not held in scorn.

    A solution is to cut off financial support for all the other institutions. Most of the students should go to trade schools, learn how to be plumbers, electricians, maids, cooks, anyhow. Revise secondary school curricula so that students learn how to write and read and the lessons of history (uncensored by politically correct educators).

    Alas, it won’t happen.

  9. Sounds like the old Soviet economy.

    Students pretend to learn, and the administration qualifies them with pretend degrees.

    How could anything bad come of that?

  10. I just finished two bachelor’s degrees not that long ago from a state school in the USA; one was in Greek and Latin, the other was in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I’m one year into a Ph.D program, but the standards now are even lower, and the work even less relevant, so I’m anticipating withdrawing from this program.

    I would come to Greek and Latin classes, in which we were supposed to have prepared the day’s readings for in-class translation. Few to none of the other students would have even looked at the text beforehand. The instructors, probably already desperate, would say nothing; rather, they would hold the students’ hands through the readings, acting as their personal dictionaries and assistants, and we would spend all of our classes sight-reading about 1/4 or 1/2 of the material that had been assigned – when the ideal, of course, would have been to quickly read through everything assigned because we had already done the work to understand the passages, and then could enjoy some bonus sight-reading at the end (because sight-reading is good practice).

    Exacerbating the problem, was that essentially every course that was not at the graduate level was taught by a graduate student or a “visiting professor,” a professor racking up one- or two-year positions at school after school in the hopes that eventually he’ll find a permanent position and tenure. These people have absolutely no pull, and are bound by policies very tightly. So, when I would go to the professors/instructors and ask them to do something about the problem – either failing or dismissing students who never did anything, or allowing me to absent myself from pointless classes – they were always sympathetic but unable to help. I finally started taking graduate-level courses (realizing that they couldn’t be very hard, if this was the nature of the undergraduate experience!), and even then I only found one professor – a real old-timer, he – who said that the classes were for the students’ benefit, he didn’t care if we showed up or were prepared, etc., but our asses would belong to him if we couldn’t pass a midterm or a final. He allowed me to simply quit coming to class; if I was ever confused by a reading, I could come to him during office hours.

    For my Medieval Studies degree, things were even worse – the students had a great deal of freedom to just design whatever “studies” they wanted. On the one hand, I can’t complain, because I was able to focus on Old English language and literature, and even got permission to take the highest-tier graduate courses while still an undergraduate. But the program was also littered with the detritus of incompetent goth girls who wanted to study “wicca.” Obviously, I almost never found myself in the same classes with such people, but each year there was the one, required course of the department.

    These were the deepest bowls of “liberal” arts, where your opinion was tantamount to truth. I would listen to students express interpretations of various Medieval texts that were based on simple, factual misunderstandings of the culture at that time (say, that Baptism created a certain bond of kinship), and when I would point this out the teachers would tell me that I shouldn’t rob another student of her experience of the text! These gals would routinely fail to prepare their presentations/projects, ask for extensions, and then, after two extensions, still come in to class with no real preparation and nothing to say. One girl passed out an outline that she hadn’t even finished! I wondered what the point of this “student-led instruction” was, when we easily would have learned more if the professor simply lectured and we simply shut up.

    I understood why there were almost no male students mucking about. There were two other men, one effeminate, who came through the (Medieval) program with me. There were more in the Greek/Latin department. If I didn’t feel that I was representing my monastery and faith (I was in habit, already), and if I hadn’t found two of the best Old English/Latin professors in the country, I don’t think I could have stood to hang around the structure-less, content-less, hippy jamboree that was the “University.” It is a “female safe space” if ever there was one – just hugs and accolades, never any challenges, never any consequences, never any standards. And if I were an employer, I would immediately cease regarding a bachelor’s degree as proof of anything, except perhaps in the case of fields where one has to know something (Science, Math, Greek/Latin). But English, Medieval Studies, Literature, Comparative Studies, Communications, let alone any of the grievance and bitterness studies… if anything, a degree in such a department is proof that you’re dealing with a soulless rube. I suppose some employers would be interested in those qualifications, though.

  11. @Scotian

    I imagine his exclusive use of “she” is deliberate, and tongue-in-check. My experience at the university was that 90% of this is an effeminacy problem, and it is largely driven by the increasing presence and role of women (and effeminate, weak men) at all levels. Passing out hugs and smiles and easy grades, and never hurting anybody’s feewings, is the name of the game. If the University had remained a male space, intended primarily if not exclusively for men (as is right and proper), they would be very different places still today, as would the rest of society.

  12. @Bob Kurland

    I sat in on a few classes at St. John’s (Santa Fe). Sad to say, but it is if anything even more brain-dead than your average State school, because they spend a lot of effort over-compensating for their “patriarchal” content. They have embraced the deconstructionist approach that is common elsewhere; in the classes I sat it on, the professors were adamant that they were “facilitators” of conversation, and not “teachers.” The students were to get their own truths from the texts. It was infuriating to watch these scores of students, who had never been trained to think before, suddenly grappling with Aristotle or the like. Even the supposed study of Greek by St. John’s students is much exaggerated; I had taught myself basic Koine Greek (in high school from a dinky little book), but in the Aristotle courses I sat in on, (with students who supposedly now have studied it at University), I was the only one trying to pull the group away from their “feelings” about what Aristotle “could mean,” to put feet firmly on the ground. “What is the Greek term Aristotle (or his copyist) uses here? Where else does he use it? What is *his* conception of this term or idea?”

    No, no, I was told, that was the wrong approach; nobody could really know what Aristotle meant. We can only get from his texts whatever meaning it has for us, today. I was so insanely frustrated by the subjectivism, deconstructionism and nihilism in the courses I attended at St. John’s (and the sneaking suspicion that nobody in the whole institution was competent, but that it was all a society for the mutual blowing of smoke up each other’s posteriors) that I easily forgot about applying. It’s easier to be around mediocrities when they don’t even know which feathers to pretend they have in their caps. I sat in on these courses in 2005.

  13. One of the strengths of the U.S. system is that an adult can enter or re-enter college as an undergraduate at any age. In other countries, a student is put on the path at an early age, and there isn’t really any jumping from one track to another. Not only that, “lifelong learning” is on the tip of many tongues, and colleges and universities do a bang-up business providing training and credentials for the adult “learner” (who is not necessarily enrolled in a degree program).

  14. I believe Bob is correct that this will not be solved. The reason—people would actually have to love their children and there is no evidence that this is true. You don’t lie to your child constantly and love them. You don’t sell out their future by appeasing them. Note the Afluenza case—claiming no discipline made it impossible for him to know right from wrong. And he’s probably right. He killed four people as a result. People just do not care about a future with Sharia Law, doctors who can’t stand the sight of blood but feel good about themselves, etc. America is a nation of selfish people who would welcome ISIS if that meant they’d get their face on TV more often and a bigger welfare check. They live staring at Iphones. You cannot come back from this—someone should have grown a spine long ago. The best you can hope for is forgiveness for the atrocity of selling out the future for your own selfish pleasures.

    Yes, this is harsh and some of you are going to be angry. However, people who love their children do not lie to them and sell their future out. A social worker once told me that throwing your child down the stairs was an act of love. It was an insane statement then and it still is. It’s not loving your child, it’s selfish and evil. As is lying to and turning children into eternal victims.

  15. Dear Doc:

    The key sentence in the article is, I think, this one:

    “All the literature says that if you drop standards to accommodate inability, students will not try harder and become better — they will become worse, and this no matter how much universities lie to you about it.”

    You’re right that he doesn’t label the disease, but this sentence identifies it as Affirmative Action and the consequent belief in the King’s clothes by those stockholm syndrome victims most directly responsible for adapting the Universities to the job of graduating illiterates.

  16. Whenever I think that the system of higher education is dying, I think back to my own undergraduate career (more than 40 years ago) and recognize that the decay was evident then. It probably always has been evident. I worked hard in school, or at least I did after mid-sophomore year, in a difficult major (physics), but still, I was given better grades than I deserved in some courses. In other words, I think grade inflation was already apparent and probably always had been.

    Students want to negotiate better grades after the fact? When was this not so? My tactic is to first explain why they got the grade they did, and ask them to make an argument for a better grade. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes they agree with me; and for real pests, there are ways to set a trap of the sort that makes a ‘D’ become an ‘F’.

    The points where I agree with the author are; first, that administration is eating the substance out of education, and, second, that there are many unqualified instructors. For a time I taught at a community college, then I became a trustee. During my time as an instructor my school hired four administrators and supporting staff for each new instructor, even in the face of greatly rising enrollment. As a trustee I had endless trouble reversing this trend. I could get the Board to agree to tell the President do not do ‘X’. Yet he, or one of his minions, would find a way to do ‘X’ just the same. The problem is that governing boards are composed mostly of jellyfish. This is a problem not limited to colleges, but with all institutions–there is no courage and no accountability.

    Lack of accountability at the community college allowed people to hire their pals. The administrators truly thought that some who could say “mathematics” was, in fact, a mathematician; and if someone held a degree in education, well, that person could teach anything, right? There were administrators who believed that simply defining a problem was equivalent to solving the problem. The issue is lack of accountability. Accreditating agencies to the rescue? Oh, please. They are a bigger lot of jellyfish than trustees.

    We have a much larger fraction of the population who now attend college. Did anyone really think standards wouldn’t suffer as a result? I suppose the folks with advanced degrees in education did.

    I am optimistic that we will continue to muddle along, but then, what do I know? I merely teach for a living.

  17. Lots to discuss in that article. Just to start off it reminds me of Bill Buckley’s God and Man at Yale published 65 (!) years ago in which he said much the same thing. So not much is new … except now there are more schools with more students with more discipline areas and higher costs, more financial aid, and greater expectations for the institutions to fulfill. Perhaps it’s just more noticeable.

    Everybody seems to think higher education (HE) is Lake Woebegone-esque where everything has to be above average. Apply the Gini Coefficient to anything measurable in HE and you will find inequality is a Fact of Nature even though nobody wants it so. In all populations of sufficient size there will be only a few exemplary individuals; the rest pedestrian. To expect otherwise ignores reality.

    Regarding administrators & faculty: 1. At my university the academic administrators have come from the faculty. I don’t know where he gets the idea they are without PhDs or untrained. 2. And with on campus residency it takes 2 to 3 times the number of faculty in support staff to run a larger school. 3. There is a problem with too many adjunct faculty, that results from an oversupply of PhDs and the excessive costs of full-time/tenured positions. 4. The growth in administrators in the “equity” and “social justice” sphere has been absurd — but as another commentor pointed out, a self-inflicted harm also encouraged by the larger political environment.

    The author needs to get a grip and realize that flecks of gold must be mined from tons of dirt. It’s his duty to search and find the gold and be a little less whiny about his plight as a professor under the guise of telling parents the secret truth.

  18. “At my university the academic administrators have come from the faculty. I don’t know where he gets the idea they are without PhDs or untrained.”

    Just guessing here, but he may be describing his university, and not yours.

    “There is a problem with too many adjunct faculty, that results from an oversupply of PhDs and the excessive costs of full-time/tenured positions.”

    How does an oversupply of Ph.D.s lead to them being too expensive to hire? Do you have this backwards, or do I misunderstand you?

  19. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson

  20. aurelius moner, thank you for your comment. I’m very sad to hear that St. John’s has followed the crowd. I don’t believe that is true of Catholic Colleges that use a quadrivium type–“Great Books–curriculum–Thomas Aquinas, Christendom, are the two with which I’m most familiar.

  21. Lee Phillips,

    I offer the example of academic advisers at my university as typical of larger, research, PhD-granting institutions.

    You misunderstand. The oversupply means they can be hired to teach per course at a much lower expense than if they were full-time permanent faculty. $5K per course x 6 courses per year beats $90K + benefits annual salary.

  22. I hope this isn’t happening in engineering schools. Can you imagine?

  23. This blog is fascinating. I see that “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” applies here.

    Education is personal, schooling is not!

    Back when I was a young whippersnapper, college was not considered to be for everyone. Then again, people didn’t worship ‘Equality’ back then either, for ‘Merit’ and ‘Results’ mattered more to them, given that we were just a generation removed from economic and political misery.

    My undergraduate major was chemistry and many of my classmates were studying chemical engineering. It was a state school, but tried to do things the ‘old-fashioned way’. Class attendance was not mandated, but exam attendance was. Lectures were done to introduce you to material and for you to work things out yourself, with or without help from others. Do that well, you passed the course and got your degree, without making yourself ill, making other ill, or killing yourself or others.

    I did get two very good opportunities while I was there. One was the opportunity to teach an undergraduate chemistry lab class. The other was the opportunity to do some original research that required several spectroscopic methods and high resolution analytical chemistry.

    There was an elderly professor who taught physical chemistry and to this day, now nearly 40 years ago, I can only remember him by his nickname. His was the only class that I didn’t get good grades in, for I made the mistake of taking his course with another course that required a lot of time. I regret my choice of Biology as a minor. It should have been math or philosophy ;). I did learn physical chemistry well enough, and there were only 30 or so BS Chemistry and BA ChemE degrees issued the year that I graduated.

    My sister followed me and later told me that I’d had made quite the impression among the chemistry faculty. Unfortunately for her, they wanted her to live up to what I’d done; but family matters cut that short.

    Even then, the phenomenon being discussed was being noted and heads were wagging in disbelief.

    “Some things will never change”. “That’s just the way it is”.

  24. It all reminds me of Max Weber’s critical commentary of Universities in late 19th Century Germany. I remember one of my professors, Brian Mitchell, an Economic Historian, saying that students make the University and that we would learn from each other not from him. If the students’ views were that it is a rite of passage rather than an opportunity to learn and to master new knowledge, then it will be Animal House.
    My son is at a second rate public university. He is working hard but I see no passion yet for what he is doing. He is a late bloomer and barely interacts with the other students, though there is plenty of structured “group work”. I hope he finds inspiration somewhere.

  25. @Aurelius Moner

    I take it you may be a Monk and have only time for prayer and work (studies). If you do have the time read this astounding book, a rare gem: The Secret History by Donna Tartt, pub. 1992.

    Dan Kurt

  26. Silly higher-ed bashing. We have a huge higher education sector in this country, with 6% of the population enrolled in some way in one institution or another, and the system is many layered and tiered and interwoven. Even among just the universities, things are certainly not all like what is described above. There are problems, but we still have one of the best systems in the world. We should be making it better, careful with the baby in the bathwater. I wouldn’t care to implement whatever solutions the right wing in this country would offer.

    JMJ

  27. JMJ: The USA ranks far behind other countries for education. However, for handing out money and for party life, a quick look on school rankings gives us:

    “Princeton was the first university to offer a “no loan” policy to financially needy students, giving grants instead of loans to accepted students who need help paying tuition.

    This Ivy League school is the oldest higher education institution in the country and has the largest endowment of any school in the world.

    Yale students are divided into 12 residential colleges that foster a supportive environment for living, learning and socializing.”

    So sure, if we are ranking free party schools, the US shines.

  28. The second quote refers to Princeton.

  29. This post describes a problem that is also abroad.
    It’s true of the British system. I’m assuming the West has drifted the same way.
    Gary’s comment reflects the problem of attitude or expectations of University and what University means now compared with what it meant and reinforces the points of this post.
    They were in England originally places of religious study.
    They were places of “higher” learning. The first subject being the holy text.
    Arts an science were studied with always reference to ancient texts or knowledge accumulated over time. It is loss of the classical component which has allowed academia to drift. History and philosophy should underpin any serious study which is what university is supposed to be about. I would like to see politics and philosophy taught in junior school and I’m sure there’s a baby philosophy book yet to be written so that children can discover that “thinking” can be refined or channelled. That is a precious thing and is lost on lecturers let alone students.

    Pupils from primary to secondary schools used to be selected through their education and streamed towards their potential.
    The active selection was true of less academic pupils as well as brighter students.
    All went wrong when it was considered “unfair” to label children clever or not so.
    polytechnics existed as a secondary layer for students with lower grades or different skills. These were wiped out and all were labeled “University’ which was an insult to both.
    Unfairness underpinned this shift which was also politically convenient for the left wing government at the time.
    There are examples of famous and others not famous who have become very rich without being academic, since richness is now the measure for success I use that measure here. These individuals all went through the “unfair” system.
    My Dad was clever enough to go to university of old, although he came from a lowly background, evacuated, “running wild” with his brother, didn’t do his homework, but went to grammar school. He had to go to work to earn money for the family he was unable to attend university. He’d have been thrilled to receive the grant money that students receive today for very little reason or talent. Yet he never says “that wasn’t fair”
    Life isn’t fair. If more people really took this in there’d be less efforts to try and adjust society to look prettier on the surface.
    In England grammar schools offered bright children a lift so they could be educated in subjects that would naturally lead to a classical university education. Pupils who took A-levels were already only five percent of the population. From that five percent, Universities were poised to teach a selection. A mechanism existed to level the financial burden so as to capture brighter children that would otherwise not reach that potential. It worked.

    Out of that five percent Gary there’s a better chance of finding emeralds, grues? and other treasures.
    We have still “top” layer universities as does the US. My prediction is that they will hold fast. Colleges can take the cream off the top so they do.
    The clear solution is to start at junior schools and reintroduce streaming. Restore grammar schools if not in name that give opportunity to less privileged children. Then there will be no need for school league tables which inflate house prices. Parents won’t clammer to move to areas with excellent state schools.
    Most state schools that rank high are either church schools or ex grammar schools anyway.
    This kind of approach would work in any country that provides state education.

    There is a point in the list about making children more intelligent. I don’t believe this is possible. As for how to think! That’s another matter. Classical Education and Universities were all over this. They’ve forgotten why they’re there. That’s a gem for someone to rediscover as if it were brand new.

    Somebody said too many “she’s”? Same problem, same cause, same solution.
    She’s are not all equal as children are not. Allow for the difference rather than forcing expectations based on a misconstruction of the nature of “she’s”.

  30. JMJ: If by “right-wing solutions” you mean control costs, assess the value of programs and trim back or eliminate the worst, or maintain some core of standards, then by all means let’s not do any of that. As you can plainly see from my posting I don’t think U.S. higher ed is in terrible decline. The current generation of students are more entitled and less well prepared than were earlier generations, but they are not irredeemable.

    Since you are intent on turning the discussion toward politics we may as well list the contributions of the political left. They have larded up the administration with a swarm of offices of dubious value for the sake of employing the otherwise unemployable, invented a host of academic programs of dubious value the worst of which is the Ed.D., politicized programs in the humanities and social sciences and enforced a hiring orthodoxy, and poured over the campus a thick goo of political correctness. If you are looking for reasons why a college education is expensive compared to the value it offers, starting looking here.

    Sheri: There is a lot of partying on campuses, but I doubt it is worse than when I started 45 years ago. My students are largely in engineering and the hard sciences so they tend to be serious about school, but the students I meet even in social sciences seem serious about ideas and scholarship. I’d like to blame problems of preparation on the K-12 system, but I’m not sure it’s much different than it was 40 years ago other than infection of politics which plagues everything in this country.

  31. Yep, we should nuke Earth from orbit too. You know, all the bad things and bad people that exit on earth.

  32. JH,
    I can’t believe I’m blogging at stupid O’clock but I thought that was funny. it was a joke!
    Happy 2016.
    “Life is a flower” Ace of base. like chrysanthemums.
    Joy

  33. Question: I was watching a very old TV show (in black and white, no less) and Shakespeare was being quoted. I wondered if Shakespeare could even be taught now, since many schools have ideology so foreign to the ideas in Shakespeare that students would not understand. I realize that Shakespeare did not seem relevent to many before, but the ideas in the plays are completely foreign now. Is it possible that progressivism and subjective reality has finally killed off Shakespeare?

  34. JMJ, how’s this sound to your ear?

    Silly capitalism bashing. We have a huge corporate sector in this country, with over 50% of the population employed or invested in one institution or another, and the system is many layered and tiered and interwoven. Even among just the large corporations, things are certainly not all like what is described above. There are problems, but we still have one of the best systems in the world. We should be making it better, careful with the baby in the bathwater. I wouldn’t care to implement whatever solutions the left wing in this country would offer.

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