Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Higher Ed, Anointed Academes, and the Coming of the Free Market

On the sadness of higher education by Alan Charles Kors - The New Criterion:

"[T]he academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. .... In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton, and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation."
Yeah, I bet those self-same guardians of academe have never been in a public school system where everything comes to a grinding halt in February to celebrate African American History Month. ( --No, I'm not saying it's not worthy of observing; it is, but some districts go overboard --which is ironic considering how many of those districts are increasingly dominated by Hispanic students. For the record, Hispanic History Month is September, but most districts are too busy organizing football to pay attention --and Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday for non-Mexican Hispanics, so don't even go there.) Public school social science books are among the most politically correct works in existence today. You will never see criticism of FDR (except for mild disappointment over court-packing), JFK or Clinton --but you will see thinly-disguised contempt for Reagan and Bush 41.

"Academics, in their own minds, face an almost insoluble problem of time. How, in only four years, can they disabuse students of the notion that the capital, risk, productivity, and military sacrifice of others have contributed to human dignity and to the prospects of a decent society? How can they make them understand, with only four years to do so, that capitalism and individual- ism have created cultures that are cruel, inefficient, racist, sexist, and homophobic, with oppressive caste systems, mental and behavioral? How, in such a brief period, can they enlighten “minorities,” including women (the majority of students), about the “internalization” of their oppression (today’s equivalent of false consciousness)? How, in only eight semesters, might they use the classroom, curriculum, and university in loco parentis to create a radical leadership among what they see as the victim groups of our society, and to make the heirs of successful families uneasy in the moral right of their possessions and opportunities? Given those constraints, why in the world should they complicate their awesome task by hiring anyone who disagrees with them?"
And this is the world in which I work and revel? I must be a masochist.

Oh well. As online coursework availability explodes from places like the University of Phoenix and an increasing number of community and junior colleges, many of those Worthy Academics may find themselves with decreasing enrollment, as students switch their non-essential classes to situations where they may only have to encounter a professor once or twice a semester. I actually root for the day that happens: education may yet become a truly free market where students pick classes from wherever and whomever they wish. The big schools dare not complain. Phoenix's cash flow is growing comparable to some of the truly awesome endowed campuses' figures, and with that comes political/governmental Schwang. The day will come when no one is forced to take "History of How White Guys Ruined Everything For Everyone" unless they really want to; they can just go online and instead take "Mojo's History of How Stuff Happened And Why Folks Still Argue About It --With PowerPoints!"

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