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.
A quote from Students know less after 4 years of college: Harvard gets D+ on civics quiz, in the NY Sun:
Students at many of the country's most prestigious colleges and universities are graduating with less knowledge of American history, government, and economics than they had as incoming freshmen, with Harvard University seniors scoring a "D+" average on a 60-question multiple-choice exam about civic literacy.
According to a report released yesterday by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the average college senior at the 50 colleges and universities polled did not earn a passing grade.
"At the most expensive colleges, they actually graduate knowing less," the executive director of the Jack Miller Center at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Michael Ratliff, said. "Colleges and universities are not directing students to the courses that would educate them. We want to know whether after getting $300 billion to do their work, universities are actually educating their students."
What has happened in academia is tragic. But it is interesting that there is today such a popular appetite for traditional history - biographies of the famous, the development of Enlightenment civic ideas, military history - written in ways accessible to the average person and read by them in a search for aspects of their own culture that the academics will not teach. Large parts of society are simply making an end-run around their old professors. Nothing wrong with that. The real tragedy is that many kids have to wait until adulthood to make these discoveries themselves.
The real trick will be to take advantage of this end-run around the professors to somehow re-invent the teaching of history and (what used to be known as) the humanities in general. And we re-invent academia in the process. Somewhere in the mix of this popular hunger for historical knowledge, in the Amazon.coms, the internet, and traditional classrooms will be found the answer. We aren't quite there yet, but we can see the components.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Send your kids to Catholic colleges. (And I'm not Catholic.) But my daughter goes to Fordham, and for the first two years, they literally have no choice about what to take. An incredibly rigorous humanities and English program, including philosophy and theology, along w/ a foreign language and some science and math. She is a sophomore now, and last night we chatted on the phone about Descartes and Martin Luther. Every class at Fordham is 20 kids or less, and the discussions are intense. My two sons went to more typical colleges, where the only requirements were "distribution" requirements, and as long as you took a certain number of (usually BS) courses from certain departments, plus a major, you could graduate. They know nothing.
Yes, that is very true and a Fordham education may be a good solution. But not all Catholic schools are so rigorous and your solution isn't within the reach of many. So one question is how to broaden the opportunities to make the typical American experience more like that of your daughter and less like that of your sons.
I hope you're right, that we can change the public colleges. Both my sons went to public colleges, one of which UNC Chapel Hill, is considered creme de la creme of the public colleges, and there was no core curriculum requirement, just "distribution" courses. My impression is that the only way to change it is to wait for the 60's baby boomer professors to die; they are tenured (totally entrenched) and they still think it's 1970. I got turned on to Catholic colleges because my niece and nephew went to a tiny Catholic college in New Hampshire, and one night I had dinner with them and their friends, and they were SO FAR more intelligent and well-educated than any other group I had met and spent time w/. Their conversations included casual references to Acquinas and the Brothers KAramazov and modern politics, and I was so happy. This is not some hard-to-get-into school where everybody has high SAT's. It is just a school, like Fordham, w/ a really rigorous core curriculum.
Hey, let's not panic. The vast majority of these overeducated dimwits are liberals who, if they even bother to vote, will do so for one of the three mousketeers, probably the (blond?) from New York. If The Lord punishes this often demented and depraved society, we will wind up with her as Commanderette with Chief. That being the case, these dimwits will be soon be eligible for the usual Democratic Party benevolence of $2.00 and a pint of bourbon if they vote in 2010--and double that if they vote twice as they compete for jobs with the folks from Michoacan and Oaxaca.