We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
We recently posted the report that Google is not particularly interested in interviewing American grads with college degrees.
The fact is that the meaning of Higher Ed has changed in the past 100 years in the US. In 1900, around 2% of Americans had BA degrees. That was a meaningful socio-cultural marker, but as the numbers now exceed 35%, and as even the most elite schools do not seem to know what their mission is, it no longer means very much more than a piece of paper required to manage a McDonald's store.
For a couple of decades, as BAs became commonplace, graduate degrees seemed to become more meaningful and popular as markers. Now, however, we are overrun with unemployed and marginally-employed MAs, PhDs, JDs, D. Divs, and MBAs with huge loans and no way to pay them off. And, assuming that MOOCs begin to take off thanks to the internet, there will be far less need for Profs.
How do all the other tenured, morally self-congratulatory educators live with the knowledge that many of their students, after having had their narrow certainties and provincial visions broken down, face years of indentured servitude? We can begin to understand by thinking of the 2,774 U.S. institutions that (as of 2010) grant bachelor's degrees as being in the credentials business rather than the education business. The Daily Beast's Megan McArdle, summarizing an interview with economist Bryan Caplan, points out that it's "actually fairly easy to get a Princeton education for free, as long as you don't want the degree: just walk in off the street and sit in on the classes. It's unlikely that a professor will kick you out, or even notice." No one does this, of course, since no matter how much you might have learned auditing courses, your degree-less self will fare no better in the job market than will the next autodidact.
Many students do the opposite, however: earning, or in any case receiving, college degrees after learning as little as possible. After all, writes McArdle, college students "cheer when class is cancelled. This makes no sense if the goal is accumulation of human capital. In no other business are customers excited to get less than they were promised."
Large public universities, where millions of Americans enroll, are especially conducive to the avoidance of intellectual exertion and achievement. As John Merrow, a journalist specializing in education, discovered in 2005 after investigating academic life at the University of Arizona, "learning seems to be optional." Many undergraduates, in the words of one administrator he interviewed, are "‘maze smart'—they have figured out what they have to do to get through: buy the book, find out what's going to be on the exam and stay invisible." Another spoke of the "mutual nonaggression pact," in which the professor gives the students high grades for mediocre work, and the students give the professor generous evaluations for indifferent teaching. As Arizona's dean of students acknowledged, "We have a lot of students whose motivation for coming here is to get a good job. They think, ‘How do I get the grades?' instead of trying to learn."
Like most of us Maggie's Farmers, I get my education now via a pre-MOOC. If you like to learn, that's what you do. It used to be called The Teaching Company, but now it's called Great Courses. Once you're hooked, you will never waste time on TV or movies again.
Books are good, too. Some students give it up after a paper credential, but some use it as a launching pad for a lifetime of curiosity and intellectual pursuits. In my view, the latter are the only ones deserving of a liberal arts education.
I said it before, but my degree process was total crap - the students taught the (so called teachers\facilitators) more on the subject than they provided, but it remanded to "I know the real-world is different, but I'm teaching to the book, not what really works."
Sad, actually, just getting a document that really doesn't relay my total knowledge, but just a punched ticket and the money wasted obtaining that.
My fear is many degrees are of this sort, instead of the pursuit of learning's path...
Had a young relative who had almost completed his degree get a job with Google, only to leave it a year later for a better job with a $5/hour raise. Google is not the place to use as an example of what is a worthy background for employment, as I believe they take advantage of that lack of education / experience to pay their employees a lesser salary.
My relative is now much happier in his new job with better pay and a better / larger cubical!
Recently, i considered why students can't sue universities and professors for breach of contract. A student signs up for a class in say Introductory Psychology but the professor spends most of the class time pontificating on gay rights? Or perhaps the university cancels one of the scheduled class times for a Day of Diversity?
The student signed up to learn about basic psychology. The syllabus listed a plan of topics so that upon completion a student could know basic psychology. But the professor did not perform their promised duty when they took time away from psychology to "discuss" gay rights. The university took away at least one hour of promised time with the expert in the field who would share their knowledge so that they could put on a special event unrelated to the promised performance of the contract entered into when the student signed up for the class based on the course description.
So why no lawsuits? Could it be that the university/professor will simply claim they fulfilled their side of the contract by giving the student credit for the course to use toward the award of the credential? Could it be that no judge would find a student suffered a loss by not receiving the contracted instruction if they are given paper credit regardless of the learning or instruction?
It would be nice, though. To have such a suit answered by the universities admitting that they offer not schooling, much less education but credit toward a degree.
I agree with you about the higher-ed scam, but I sure wouldn't use Google's totally opaque hiring practices as evidence of that or of anything else. Whatever the true explanation is for Google's success, it's company confidential.
I've audited 3 Yale history classes with I tunes U. All three were very good and I got to listen to the incomparable Donald Kagan. I read widely, but this is a great way to spend the 2.5 hours I drive to work. I also listen while doing chores around the Ponderosa.
...at age 23, Lincoln had begun his political career by declaring: "That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance."
Reading is the only way to achieve a liberal arts education. Attending classes, listening to some professor might stimulate one into reading and more importantly thinking on the topics. It might provide a base from which to operate but it cannot give one a liberal arts education.