Happy New Year!
1 Arrgh! In an op-ed called “Higher Ed’s Low Moment, Farnk Bruni bemoans the fact that colleges “found themselves on the defensive.” Citing the Pew Center’s findings that I discussed here, he writes of declining opinions about the value of college,
“That’s not so surprising, given Americans’ intensifying resentment of anything that smacks of elitism and given Republicans’ attacks on science and intellectuals. As Ron Daniels, the president of Johns Hopkins University, recently told me, “Even if we were completely unblemished in the way in which we pursued our mission, it would be hard to imagine that in Trump’s America, we wouldn’t be targets for scorn.”
Incredible. (Or, as my late, schizophrenic cousin Trefon would say, “Umba!“, as in “Umbelieveable!” I always found that funny, and I would love to see his slang word enter the popular lexicon. Trefon was a great kid who had a short, empty life, and ended it by jumping off an overpass into an oncoming truck. It would be nice if he left some enduring contribution to the culture, even if it was a silly one.) No, the reason so many Americans no longer think college is a wonderful thing is that they can see and hear. Students aren’t being educated. Graduates have minimal knowledge of history, literature, government and culture. They can’t write, and they can’t argue. Their professors get on social media and issue things that would destroy trust in any institution that employed them.
The campuses are increasingly hostile to free speech, free thought, democracy, capitalism and the United States of America. None of these factors penetrate Bruni’s biases and conventional wisdom. He keeps repeating the mantra that caused me to resign from an education board many years ago: ” a college degree is one of the surest harbingers of higher earnings and better economic security.” That’s how college has been regarded as a reflex for a century now, and the policies that followed that starting point–a degree, means jobs and money—have created the sick system in which students who are not qualified to attend college are accepted anyway, and tuition has soared to obscene level., all while the actual content of the curriculum and teaching have become an afterthought. It’s the diploma that matters!
No, it’s the education. Bruni says, ” [T]he continued competitiveness of the American economy depends on the skills of our work force, the intellectual nimbleness of our citizens, the boldness of our scientific research and the genius of our inventions. Our colleges and universities are central to that.” If getting as many people diplomas as possible is the mission, however, seeking “intellectual nimbleness” is obviously an afterthought.
This emperor has no clothes, and hasn’t had for a long time. The disturbing development isn’t that so many conservatives have finally realized that the golden ideal of an American college education no longer comports with reality. It is that so many opinion makers and policy makers hold on to that ideal when it is so evidently false. If college degrees don’t prove that graduates have core knowledge, writing and critical thinking skills, then they are just high-priced tickets to be incompetent.
And they don’t.
2. That’s how we get this...Gina Bellafante writes for the Times News Service:
Economic mobility will remain a pipe dream until we improve the city’s public college graduation rate. This month, a report from the Center for an Urban Future, a nonpartisan policy group, pointed out that while New York City’s high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 76 percent in 2016, graduation rates at the city’s public two- and four-year colleges — where poor, immigrant students have remade themselves for decades — remain alarmingly low. Among community-college students in the City University of New York system, only 22 percent who enter associate degree programs finish in three years; among students at four-year schools, about 55 percent finish within six years.
Well, colleges just have to make it easier to graduate, right? The problem is really in that “good” stat: more kids are graduating from high school. More kids are graduating because policy makers kept saying that high school diplomas were essential to getting a job. Now they (and columnists like Bellafante) are saying that college degrees are essential to jobs, so the response will be the same. Lax standards. Easy grading. Near automatic graduation. Worthless degrees. Defrauded graduates. Dumber and dumber Americans.
I will never forget the look on the face of an intern I had at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a college junior, when I told her that a memo she had prepared for me was pathetic—virtually illiterate. “But I’m a good writer!” she protested. “I got an A in my composition course. I got all A’s in English in high school!”
“You’ve been lied to, and I’m sorry,” I told her. “You can’t write at all, and I would never hire you, because I don’t have the time to teach you, and I shouldn’t have to.”
She’s a lawyer now, by the way.
Think about that.
3. Protests? What protests? The mainstream news media is finally beginning to cover the protests in Iran. As I noted yesterday, Trump and his State Department were lightening quick to show support for the protesters and their cause, in stark contrast to how President Obama handled the violent street protests in Iran his first year in office. ABC, CBS and CNN all began by either ignoring these protests or downplaying their importance.
In Tablet, Lee Smith makes a powerful case that mainstream media biases and progressive agendas, as well as the realities of reporting in Iran, make fair and competent coverage impossible, writing,
The short answer is that the American media is incapable of covering the story, because its resources and available story-lines for Iran reporting and expertise were shaped by two powerful official forces—the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Obama White House. Without government minders providing them with story-lines and experts, American reporters are simply lost—and it shows.
It nearly goes without saying that only regime-friendly Western journalists are allowed to report from Iran, which is an authoritarian police state that routinely tortures and murders its political foes. The arrest and nearly two-year detention of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian drove this point home to American newsrooms and editors who might not have been paying attention. The fact that Rezaian was not an entirely hostile voice who showed “the human side” of the country only made the regime’s message more terrifying and effective: We can find you guilty of anything at any time, so watch your step.
The Post has understandably been reluctant to send someone back to Iran. But that’s hardly an excuse for virtually ignoring a story that threatens to turn the past eight years of conventional wisdom about Iran on its head. If the people who donned pink pussy hats to resist Donald Trump are one of the year’s big stories, surely people who are shot dead in the streets in Iran for resisting an actual murderous theocracy might also be deserving of a shout-out for their bravery….
Networks like like CNN and MSNBC which have gambled their remaining resources and prestige on a #Resist business model are in even deeper trouble. Providing media therapy for a relatively large audience apparently keen to waste hours staring at a white truck obscuring the country club where Donald Trump is playing golf is their entire business model—a Hail Mary pass from a business that had nearly been eaten alive by Facebook and Google. First down! So it doesn’t matter how many dumb Trump-Russia stories the networks, or the Washington Post, or the New Yorker get wrong, as long as viewership and subscriptions are up—right?
The problem, of course, is that the places that have obsessively run those stories for the past year aren’t really news outfits—not anymore. They are in the aromatherapy business. And the karmic sooth-sayers and yogic flyers and mid-level political operators they employ as “experts” and “reporters” simply aren’t capable of covering actual news stories, because that is not part of their skill-set.
The current media landscape was shaped by years of an Obama administration that made the nuclear deal its second-term priority. Talking points on Iran were fed to reporters by the White House—and those who veered outside government-approved lines could expect to be cut off by the administration’s ace press handlers…
So the New York Times writes this as an op-ed, still endorsing Obama’s studied indifference after President Trump tweeted (and Iran shut down access to the internet in protesting regions),
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!
“One reason to worry that Mr. Trump may try to seize the moment by championing the protesters is that it has become an article of faith among President Barack Obama’s critics than in 2009 he missed a golden opportunity to do just that, when many Iranians took to the streets after a disputed election result. But it was never clear what difference American rhetorical support would have made then, other than allowing the Iranian government to depict the protesters as American lackeys, giving the security services more of a pretext to crack down violently.”
We do know that Obama’s way did not lead to successful reforms or the weakening of the current rogue regime , don’t we? Doesn’t that suggest that another approach might be wise, and have more promise? Isn’t the United States supposed to be the champion of freedom and the foe of oppression and dictatorship?