We agree that the university system is “broken.” The reasons why are obvious: ideology and money have so corroded the foundations that a collapse is imminent. These facts naturally lead to one question (phrased two ways).
What is the purpose of a university? Why have one at all?
(That it is broken I take as obvious. Here is one documentary. I know nothing about the organization behind it.)
For most it is to “get a degree”, which is to say, to be awarded a document with as much intellectual validity as that issued to the Scarecrow, who, it will be remembered, after he became credentialed began spouting mathematical nonsense—with the utmost confidence in himself.
What the “degree” is in matters almost not at all, except to a remnant. And it’s that remnant which will become of eventual interest to us. The “degree”, however, is necessary because most employers, forbidden to engage in systematic intelligence or aptitude testing, require the “degree” as an increasingly weak measure of potential. Worst of all is that most holders of “degrees” are just like Scarecrow and assume their diplomas guarantee their opinions.
It’s true that by the time children ascent to university they have been stewing in ideology spooned out by “educators” too in love with theory and so emerge from high school largely untutored. (Side note: it is interesting that many “researchers” in education write that their findings are “novel”.) That a large fraction of students entering university unable to read or calculate and who are misinformed and uninformed about much accounts in part for the decline in the value of a university education.
Now if the purpose of a university is to provide jobs training, then it’s going about it badly. A child wanting to be an accountant would learn what he needed were he to attend a, say, six- or twelve-month daily (a full eight hours) program. Further, this young man would escape the ideological hemlock he would be forced to imbibe at regular university. He would live more soberly as well, as class begins tomorrow morning, every morning, at nine sharp.
He would be younger, too, than a university graduate, and be far, far less in debt, if he is in debt at all, because his teachers would not require (I use that word purposely) vast salaries, and the place at which this training would take place could be in the basement of some accounting firm, or wherever.
The criticism is that he would be less “rounded”, but this is clearly false. He merely would have not had to have undergone training in material that was not suitable to him, or that was best avoided, or that he was unable to complete. He would instead know what he has to know, and be certified as actually knowing, what it is an accountant needs to know. He would be a proficient accountant, which was his desire.
If this is true for accountants, it is true for “business” as well, and “business” now comprises an enormous proportion of “degrees”. And if it’s true for “business”, it’s also true for “communications”, and if true for “communications”, it is true for “comedy writing”, etc. (These are all actual “degrees”. Have fun looking others up yourself.)
The vast bulk of students, therefore, would be better off were they to attend jobs-training classes, as plumbers and electricians now do.
I know what you’re thinking but don’t want to say. Plumbing and electricity are low fields of endeavor, whereas a university “business” graduate from a named school has embarked on a sort of high adventure. Well, this is true, in the sense that snobbery plays an outsized—no: fundamental—role in the university scheme. This is largely why parents want their child to attend a “good” school, because, used as they are to a culture saturated in advertising, a “brand” name “degree” is seen of significant value. And it is, too, as most employers buy the same line of reasoning.
So far we have jobs and branding as purposes. These are the largest. Following closely in importance is “research.” Many people who want to engage in basic mathematical and physical subjects would be better served, in just the same way as jobs candidates, to engage in direct training in the fields in which they have an interest. This is already done, too, in what we call “graduate school”. There, the pretension of being “well grounded” is abandoned and students get right to it, apprenticing themselves to a master (if we’re still allowed to use this word).
“Research” is also broken, though. Scientists are too enamored of money and politics. It’s doubtful even a handful of scientists remember what it was like before the tsunami of government funding (which began mid-Twentieth Century) washed away the vestiges of the old ways of learning. To them, it is inconceivable their work could take place without government oversight, influence, direction, restrictions, and bureaucracy that accompanies the money.
The solution is to cut the money off, or most of it. That won’t happen, of course—the Deans and Deanlettes wouldn’t stand for it; neither would the half dozen offices of Diversity & Grievance which rely on grant indirects—so any solution to fix research will have to happen outside the university system.
We finally arrive at the last component, and the most important. Training to become an interesting person. This is desired, as I said above, only by a remnant. It can only be accomplished by a few, because it requires the most from a person. Just as all men cannot be the center on a professional basketball team, not all handle the rigorous effort this component requires. It would be well, of course, and preferred, if the folks who went into the sciences first had this training, but it clearly isn’t required for all.
The fiction is that everybody who now attends university gets this last component. Students attend to acquire a “general education” and to become “well rounded”, as said. But, with decreasing exceptions, this is a farce. (I won’t bother trying to prove this here.)
Solution? Parents won’t give up on branding, and employers won’t relinquish desire for “degrees”. To become a scientist, it is required to first submit to four years of standard university. The remnant still want to become interesting, and are interested “in the best that has been thought and said”, as racist and sexist and X-aphobic as that is, but they have very few choices, and anyway most are torn between education and employment.
The money is now controlled by the government. The Feds took over student loans with Obamacare (remember that?). The screechers who are responsible for the most poisonous ideology (they are usually in “Studies” departments and the humanities) won’t stand for any cuts in funding. Can you imagine any university eliminating its offices of Diversity? No, sir, you cannot. You can only imagine the doomed attempts.
The solution, I think, is that there is no solution. Even small, faithful (to Truth) colleges, which are aware of the depths to which we have sunk, often offer “Business” degrees, because without them they would have a difficult time attracting paying students. (Economics as it was classically thought of is not what I mean; and anyway, Economics cannot, and should not, stand on its own.)
Well, that’s the situation. I have my own ideas, not to fix what exists, but to separate from it. What would you do?
Update I very stupidly left off Entertainment, perhaps the main purpose of our largest schools. Go team. Entertain us!