“It is almost unbelievable how ignorant and ill-educated America’s college students are. They are well below average in every material way. For all my life I have been an advocate for higher education, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that college is generally a mistake, as young people are mostly misinformed there, rather than educated. There are a few technical fields–medicine, engineering, possibly law–where such education is actually useful. Otherwise, we and our young people would be better off if they eschewed institutions like Colgate in favor of trade and technical schools, or immediate entry into the labor market. They couldn’t possibly do worse than to pursue the typical four-year liberal arts degree.”
The reason this seems almost unbelievable to Hinderaker, and the reason I chose this as an ethics quote, is that his painful conclusion that nobody wants to admit is true. I don’t want to admit it, and I was becoming convinced of this decades ago, when I was part of the administration of Georgetown Law Center and discovered that we had Yale graduates who couldn’t write a coherent sentence, and later, when I had Stanford interns who thought Jane Fonda was an aerobics instructor and who looked at me blankly when I mentioned the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and still later, when a smart young woman who had graduated from Hofsta didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was, and when a Skadden Arps attorney with a Cornell degree guessed that the Civil War was fought sometime in the 1930s.
This is why I was not disappointed when my son, scion of a family with three Harvard graduates and a career Harvard employee, announced that he saw no point in going to college.
Yet still I had a hard time accepting that it was as bad as, deep down, I knew it was. One more factor that convinced me was the dynamics of social media. I have watched as people who were once capable of independent thought and intelligent analysis have been cowed, and bullied and brainwashed into mouthing, and perhaps even believing, the Facebook Borg’s official cant regarding the President of the United States, which requires absorption at the cellular level of the tenets of “the resistance” cult, fertilized, as they must be, by the eight Big Lies that have been the mission of the mainstream media to indoctrinate the duller members of the public into accepting.
I imagine, indeed I am certain, that this is what college is like for most 18-year-olds. They are quickly made aware of the official political viewpoints that will get them friends, dates, sex and A’s, and the subversive, meaning non-conforming, opinions that will make them lonely pariahs. So they adapt, most of them. They don’t have principles; most can’t define “integrity.” They have no role models who embody ethical values; they aren’t proud of their country, and they don’t know its history. So they capitulate, and like our corporations and school administrators, they take the path of least resistance. Maybe this is why the Left is so hot to make it cheap and easy to get into college: the next generation will get its brains washed there. Obviously, a lot of washing has been going on.
Not education, however. When I challenge a member of the Facebook Borg to back up theur reflex ant-Trump slogans with facts, they whiff, badly. They can’t explain why Trump should be impeached, they just know he should be. They repeat buzz words: he was looking for “dirt” on Joe Biden. If you ask how they know he’s a white supremacist, they say that he described Nazis as “good people.” (He didn’t, but that’s what they have been told.) If you ask why they are so sure Trump colluded with Russia, all they can say is that he’s horrible, and that means that he must of done horrible things. Then they’ll say that the Times and the Post has documented 15,000 lies. It’s sad and embarrassing: this level of advocacy and analysis would have failed in my sixth grade AP class, though to be fair, Mrs. Penwarden was demanding. But you see, the victims of social media couldn’t stand being ganged up on, and berated, and left out of the mean girls clique. It is so much easier to be part of the club than to fight with the club: you don’t really have to understand much, all you have to do is nod and click on “like.”
Fortunately, I was raised by a father who was a lifetime iconoclast who didn’t care who was annoyed by his non-conforming opinions and a mother who instinctively refused to knuckle under to anyone, like her mother. My reaction to any mob, cult or movement has always been to move in the opposite direction. I went through the Sixties never touching pot, seldom taking a drink and crossing protest lines. When I was told by my law school professors that not making a law journal would doom me to poverty and shame, I started a theater company. Like Dad, when my bosses wanted me to violate my principles, I quit, or got fired. College indoctrination wouldn’t work on me.
But, as my friends and family members constantly remind me, most people aren’t like me, and a good thing that is. Nevertheless, it means that college, which was once supposed to teach our young to learn to think for themselves, now does the opposite, and intentionally too. This reality, which shatters an ideal that we all so want to believe, that college makes successful human beings, more productive citizens and better Americans, has to be faced and dealt with. College is making our young and our country worse.