Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Stupid Idea Alert | Main | Judgment »

From The Basement Of The Ivory Tower

Here's a depressing piece on people who shouldn't be in college but, due to various societal pressures, are.



Monte Davis wrote:

Yep. It's hard to say such things without sliding towards (or at least being accused of) nasty old-school elitism: "Why can't the masses be contented laborers and carpenters and file clerks as they always were?"

But in a long historical view, any public education for a majority is an experiment only ~150 years old... secondary education to ~18yrs for a majority only 50-60 years old... and education beyond that for a majority only a generation or so old, in a handful of G8 societies. There's no guarantee that it will work out, or that an unexamined "more ids better" drive hasn't taken us past some critical trade-off level.

Scott wrote:


You have missed the point. This isn't about elitism (full disclosure, I am a Dean at one of those schools of last resort...the author is dead on target), but quite the reverse. By requiring a college degree (or at least credits) for a whole variety of jobs that manifestly do not require such baubles, we are locking the 'non-elite' out of any real road upwards. It used to be that any bright person with basic academic credentials could do just about any job outside of a few of the professions. This gave huge upwards mobility to 'the masses' and benefitted everyone. Now we are progressively sawing off the lower reaches of that ladder upwards for everyone who cannot afford or complete a college education, and slowly but surely eroding the options for upwards mobility. This is the worst sort of elitism...

There is far more to it than that, but I have a really bad habit of making huge posts here, so I will stop at this time...


redneck wrote:

It is depressing to realize that I am one of the people that couldn't pass the classes described. My last completed english class was thirty mumble years ago in 'high school level' night school, before I gave that up and grabbed a GED.

ken anthony wrote:

After reading the article, I have just one question...

What happened to prerequisites?

Seems like the failure is not the students and possibly not the instructors.

I had a physics professor in college that complained
that physics students didn't have enough calculus to
get the most out of physics. But we never had to
derive any of the equations we used so the course
didn't really need a calculus prerequisite. My high
school calculus was more than I needed.

If I had needed calculus and they didn't make it a
prerequisite then I would have been robbed. Which
seems to be the point this author is trying to make
without ruffling too many feathers.

Greed and lack of professionalism seem to be the
common factors... but it's probably easier just to
blame the students.

Ed Minchau wrote:

Ken, the prerequisites thing is one part of the problem. Another part is the padding of college education with useless courses. Honestly, there isn't anything presented in English 101 that wasn't covered in 8th grade English, and again in 9th grade and again in 10th grade and 11th and 12th. If one hasn't figured it out by then, then one doesn't belong in college, and if one has then one certainly doesn't learn anything new in that course. Even so, it is a requirement for graduation. Journalism and Education departments are filled with such useless courses to pad the degree out to four years, when they should only require one or two years at most.

Beyond the occasional (hah!) useless-but-required course, the value of a college degree has been diluted. A Gender Studies graduate is only qualified to teach Gender Studies, or to operate the fry station at McDonald's - and there are many, many such useless fields of study in colleges today. Don't anyone give me that garbage about "learning critical thinking skills" (if that was the case, then the student would get the hell out of Gender Studies and into something useful) or "interacting with people from other cultures" (it's the freakin USofA! Everywhere you go you're interacting with people from other cultures). A garbage degree is a garbage degree, and assigning it the same value (BSc or BA) as a useful degree diminishes the value of all degrees in the long run.

Atheletes who have been allowed to slide through school due to some physical prowess without even learning how to read are certainly not deserving of a college degree, and if they aren't drafted into major league sports their sheepskin might as well be toilet paper. And once again, assigning their degrees the same value as a Physics degree diminishes the value of all degrees.

Monte obliquely mentioned training people in the trades. For quite a few people who go through the college mill, the trades would have been a better option. Compare the salaries of plumbers and doctors; by the time each has paid for their education and worked to retirement, the plumber is WAY ahead, and is likely not subject to comparable job-related stress. A good drywaller can earn a hell of a lot more than a chemist. A deep-sea welder earns far more than the highest-priced lawyer; they can retire after only three years on the job.

Monte Davis wrote:

Scott, we have no disagreement: I wrote of perceptions of elitism. (Full disclosure: I was lucky enough to get among the elite-est of educations, taught at a private HS c. 1970, and at public HSs and at Temple U. c. 2001 while pursuing a M.Ed.) The credentials creep you describe and my "unexamined 'more is better' drive" are the same thing seen from two angles.

Karl Hallowell wrote:

Honestly, there isn't anything presented in English 101 that wasn't covered in 8th grade English, and again in 9th grade and again in 10th grade and 11th and 12th.

Ed, there's a problem with that statement. You're assuming that the high school is competent. There's a number of cases of reasonably intelligent people coming out of a high school without that English 101 course. I'm a teaching assistant for mathematics at my university (University of California at Davis). I routinely run into people with holes in their knowledge. Usually it's more esoteric knowledge like L'Hopital's rule or some convergence tests for sequences, but sometimes they haven't seen basic things like the properties of trigonometric functions or integration by parts. That's in addition to the brain wipe that occurs after you graduate from high school. It's particularly sad when you get someone in that condition that has managed to make it three or more years in college without taking a math course. By then, math is a completely alien tongue and too many fail to pick it up.

ken anthony wrote:

Another part is the padding of college education with useless courses.

I'd like to know the reasoning behind this. One friend told me that just putting your butt in the chair for a prescribed period of time was part of the degree... not something I agreed with.

My point is that letting a student into a class they are not qualified for is pure theft and not just for the student themselves because it takes away from the others in class as well. I don't think in most cases you can blame the student for this. The instructor knows what qualifications are required for a particular class and shouldn't allow anyone in that isn't prepared for it.

If internet skills are required to write a research paper, the instructor should know that all students are competent in that area before the class even begins. Whining about it later doesn't do anybody any good.

I'm planning to go back to school myself as soon as I can so this isn't just an academic discussion for me. I'm too old to waste my time. I do intend to do my due diligence, but I'm seeing a failure on the institutions part that is disturbing.

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 10, 2008 5:19 AM.

Stupid Idea Alert was the previous entry in this blog.

Judgment is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1