Thursday, October 18, 2007

Degree of Value?

Know any young people with college degrees working in restaurants, retail stores, or somewhere else for which their degree is worthless? Do they owe tens of thousands in student loans? There are lots of them out there. Perhaps they are reevaluating the worth of a college education. I’m not talking about people who want to be engineers, nurses, biologists, or something else in the hard sciences. I’m talking about some of the the so-called “soft sciences” like Women’s Studies or Art History, or some other useless course of study. Only people with huge trust funds should pursue these majors.

A man who graduated from the University of Iowa in the early forties told me three weeks of summer work could pay for a year’s tuition there at the time. I earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Massachusetts State College system in the sixties and seventies by paying my own way throughout - no loans, no parental assistance, no financial aid of any kind. I just worked. I wanted to be a teacher and I needed at least one degree for that. My courses of study didn’t actually prepare me for the classroom, but they did get me certified. Can young people do that today? It would be much more difficult, if not impossible.

The cost of college has risen faster than nearly everything else while the quality has declined drastically. Government is contributing more and more for “higher education” and getting less and less. The federal government has $448 billion out there in student loans and put out $74 billion in new aid for the 2004/5 school year alone. Are we getting better citizens with all that investment? Doesn’t look like it. According to an April, 2007 article in The Eagle Forum:

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute contracted with the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy to undertake the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted in order to find out what colleges and universities are teaching their students about U.S. history and institutions. They surveyed 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities. The students were tested with 60 multiple-choice questions to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: American history, American government, America and the world, and the market economy. Freshmen and seniors were given the same test, and here are the results. Seniors scored only 1.5 percent higher, on average, than freshmen, and at 16 schools, seniors scored lower than freshmen.

So, what are we getting for our investment? Looks like less for more. Which are the institutions where seniors know less than freshmen? They’re some of our “prestigious” universities like Yale, Brown, and Georgetown with tuitions nearing $40,000 per year. It’s not just tax money being wasted either. The big foundations like the Ford, Carnegie, Mott, Rockefeller and Mellon Foundations have invested tens of millions in Women’s Studies, African-American Studies as well as Gay and Lesbian Studies. What can a person with a degree in one of those majors do? Teach Women’s, African American, or Gay and Lesbian Studies courses, I guess. Nothing else comes to mind. According to a 1996 City Journal article by Heather MacDonald:

Not content with setting up separate departments of ethnic and gender studies, foundations have poured money into a powerful movement called “curriculum transformation,” which seeks to inject race, gender, and sexual consciousness into every department and discipline. A class in biology, for example, might consider feminine ways of analyzing cellular metabolism; a course in music history might study the hidden misogyny in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—actual examples. One accomplishment of the curricular transformationists is to distinguish bad, “masculine” forms of thinking (logic, mathematics, scientific research) from good, “feminine” forms, which subordinate the search for right answers to “inclusiveness” and “wholeness.”

Uh-huh. You can’t make this stuff up. Do you wonder what Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller would have say about how their money is being spent? Clearly, our colleges and universities suffer from a problem of too much money rather than not enough. Our young people will probably be able to live normal lives without searching for the “right” answers to “inclusiveness” and “wholeness,” much less incurring huge debt to do so. I know I have.

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