9.10.03

QUOTE OF THE DAY. "Increasing academic standards is obviously not an option unless you're a scholar-oriented institution, which most state universities (I'm generalizing) are not, at least on the undergraduate level. If what you want to do is give out certificates of suitability for middle class life, then your audience is not going to be drawn in by something that purports to make life more difficult for them. So instead, you turn your University into Disneyland." That's Highered Intelligence. Why not outrage at this misappropriation of state property, or a Carthaginian Peace for the universities? In Highered Intelligence's view, because the outcome is the desired outcome.

"So do parents and students really balk at the increased cost?

"No. They are getting exactly what they paid for: a diploma with a minimally intrusive course schedule and all the amenities money can buy. Parents will do it because to not is to risk that your child will become... gods above... a PLUMBER
."

(Via Betsy's Page, some commentary on the pacifying effects of third-party payments, and the continued neglect of breach of the social contract by the universities.) Moreover, plumbers might have a brighter financial future to look forward to. Mr Lopez is right in part and wrong in part with his inferences:

"The truly tragic thing about the transformation of the American University from an elite (if exclusionary) institution to a populist system of social certification is that none of the parties involved really lose out on an individual level. Professors still get paid, students get their diplomas and get decent jobs. Parents get saddled with debt, but they got what they paid for. No one has an incentive to say, "Wait a sec... I just graduated with a degree in English and I never had to read King Lear!" Because the point of studying English or History is just to have a major so that you can get a job.

"Ultimately, the cost is invisible. We -- the country and Western Culture in general -- will not know what we do not know. The cost is not in economics: people will still train for jobs and perform them well. America does not need philosophers in its factories, in its offices, in its public works. This is not about national survival, it is about something more subtle.
"

Working backwards, the cost IS in economics. First, using the university to certify entry-level file clerks because the high schools failed to do so doesn't come cheaply. Second, why do you suppose employers are taking advantage of improved communications to outsource jobs, including increasing numbers of computer programming and engineering jobs? Professors' working conditions worsen, and parents have to deal with boomerang kids. (Is it really worth sending them off to Beer and Circus U to hang out with other Party Animals for five or six years only to get 'em back later?)

A long time ago, John W. Gardner saw the consequences of such attitudes toward philosophy and toward plumbing.

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