This latest example of a “Look! College grads are too ignorant to come in out of the rain!” survey” isn’t entirely surprising to me, but it is infuriating in a new way. Usually I react to such things with intensified contempt for the grads themselves, their lack of intellectual curiosity, their failure to meet the barest of requirements for competent citizenship. I still feel that way, but my disgust has refocused on other miscreants: the schools themselves, but most of all, the shills for continuing the myth that a college education is not only indispensable for personal and professional success, but worth beggaring the nation to ensure that everyone obtains one.
From a press release of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (and one which was ignored by the news media so they could spend all their time giving Donald Trump free publicity. That’s incredibly incompetent, but hey, the news media is run by college grads, so what do you expect?):
College Graduates Don’t Know Basic Facts About the Constitution
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 8, 2015 — The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) today released a survey that shows how little college graduates and the general public know about the Constitution.
According to the study, nearly 10% of college graduates think Judith Sheindlin — commonly known as Judge Judy — is on the Supreme Court; one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments; and 32% believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate. Shockingly, 46% of college grads don’t know the election cycle — six years for senators, two years for representatives. Turning to the general population, the report finds that over half (54%) of those surveyed cannot identify the Bill of Rights accurately, and over 1 in 10 (11%) of those ages 25–34 believe that the Constitution must be reauthorized every four years….
Parallel with this development, which has been proceeding in plain view for decades, the primary candidates for the Democratic nomination have been calling for college to be free for all, Hillary Clinton believes (or says—who knows what she believes, if anything) that the US should add 350 billion dollars to its already dangerous debt over the next decade to pay for bad higher education for everyone; Sanders’ proposal is more than twice as much. (Sanders’ policy proposals, so far, would cost an estimated 18 trillion dollars.)
This kind of irresponsible advocacy is accompanied by standard paeans, from all segments of the culture, to the value of a college degree. Not a college education, mind you: the value of education, once understood to be a virtue itself, has been subsumed by statistics showing how much easier it is to find good jobs and high paying careers if you have a piece of paper certifying that you have completed a lousy college education, because everyone knows that the lousy education provided in high school is next to worthless.
What to we have? We have a mandatory credential that no longer is a reliable evidence of the reason the credential is considered a credential, priced at a level that would be unconscionable if the credential meant what it purports to, but is obscene to the point of fraud and theft for what the credential actually signifies (that is, nothing). Despite the abundant evidence that the credential is worthless, it is still blindly treated by employers and society as if it is still meaningful, in part because those treating it as such have similar fraudulent credentials, and similarly empty educational experiences. Thus the institutions of higher learning are permitted to charge more and more for their defective product, while trusting students and their parents cripple their finances and life options for decades so young adults can spend four years learning next to nothing of worth, while being indoctrinated into extreme ideologies.
Is that an unfair assessment? Tell me how. Certainly many graduate from college with sufficient knowledge and critical thinking skills to make their degrees more than false advertising. These people, however, could almost certainly and would almost certainly learn just as much without college, at far less expenditure of time and money, because they are motivated, have intellectual curiosity, and have been properly raised and acculturated by their families.
Who are the villains in this societal death-spiral scenario, besides the students themselves? Pretty much everybody:
…The culture, which no longer elevates knowledge, intellectual inquiry, speaking, writing and erudition as respected values.
…Scholars and intellectuals, who isolated themselves from popular culture and became irrelevant and faintly ridiculous
…Policymakers, who confused employability, a beneficial byproduct of education which should be its own reward, with the goal of education, leading to the gradual marginalizion of the real goal of education—learning.
—Educators, who put up weak or ineffectual defenses to this fatal concept
…College administrators, who began thinking of their jobs as part of a profitable business rather than a society-serving profession.
…The Public School System, which through its own collapse churned out generations of students who could not survive a traditional, rigorous college education.
…Employers, who lazily and blindly accepted degrees as a substitute for actual proof of competence and ability, while passing over competent and able individuals without the degrees.
…College sports, which warp the budgets and attention of alumni and the schools while symbolizing the lack of respect for learning over other pursuits in alleged institutions of higher learning.
…Affirmative action and diversity ideology, which first, forced schools to accept students who were not qualified for admission for reasons unrelated to education; second, warped admission standards and principals of fairness to do so; third, dropped academic standards and requirements to allow unqualified students to graduate, since affirmative action would be pointless if the students accepted without sufficient ability flunked right out again. It is not that just minority graduates often have degrees that do not really prove that they have the skills and knowledge the credential seems to signify. All students receive similarly fruadulent degrees. The result is “educated” professionals like Shirley Malone-Fenner, the ex-Wheelock College vice-president in charge of academic affairs, who plagiarized a simple letter because she lacked the skill to write one herself.
…Parents and families that do not meet their traditional responsibility to educate their own children, relying instead on under-qualified teachers in incompetent public schools, in part because the parents lack basic education and critical reasoning skills themselves. No books in the home, no substantive conversation between adults and children, no debates, no tales of history and national tradition, no exploration of current affairs in the home, waning conversation skills and sloppy vocabulary—all of this and more makes the jobs of all but the most gifted teachers impossible, guaranteeing that by the time the students reach college, they are too intellectually and educationally handicapped to complete any college education regimen of value.
…Politicians, the news media and celebrities on public service announcements ignoring the reality of college education to perpetuate a non-existant ideal that masks the problem and excuses the society from addressing it.
The latter is the most remarkable. What is a good analogy for a situation where an entire society is in thrall to a complete delusion that is documented and obvious, and yet continues to reject reality and enable the delusion? A useful one would have to be of similar society-wide significance. That eliminates “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I’m open to suggestions. The Holland Tulip Craze, perhaps? American slavery?
What happens, as in those cases, when we wake up and asks, “Oh, God, what have we done?”
What happens if we don’t?