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.
Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.
Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years. Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that's terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they'd still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they're brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.
Read the whole thing. It makes sense that the degree must be degraded as more people seek it, and as more colleges seek students to fill their buildings.
I am reading the new biography of Albert Einstein. Few college students today could pass the entry exams that he took, which included calculus, literature, French, physics and chemistry. He failed them the first time, in part because his French exam was judged to be weak. (No, he never flunked math.) He spent a year after high school studying to take them a second time.
My point is that "education" or a liberal arts degree was never intended to be a "consumer product." Now it is viewed that way, in the US. And that is a big part of the problem in how we think of education today, because it is not something that can be bought for any price: it is something that can only be taken by those who really want it.
Photo: Columbia College's Alma Mater - one college where a BA degree still means something. Same goes for the great University of Chicago.
As is often said, government action tends to produce results the opposite of those desired...Politicians sticking their collective noses into higher education has in fact inflated the costs at many times that of natural inflation. My state has a so-called education lottery that rewards high-school students with a $5000 bonus for high GPA. The result is that a lot of new cars show up to our colleges driven by freshmen...And, the costs of our higher education continue to spiral out of control. As well, the number of students attending our higher institutions of learning far exceed the numbers of qualified students who should be in attendance. It is the old entitlement game where everyone is entitled whether they work for it themselves or are in fact qualified to receive "it". Again the results are lamentable. I often meet college graduates who are serving coffee in downtown Charleston coffee houses. And, I have met several parents of college graduates who were buying homes for their children. And so, the parents even continue the entitlement game by supporting their now adult child graduates...
With the internet, what does one need with a college education? More (and more accurate) information is available at my fingertips today than what I was taught in college, with more diverse ideas. Not to mention mission out on the nonsense and urban legend that passed for knowledge 20-30 years ago.
If I had acted more on the common sense God gave me in place of the supposed "wisdom" of certain professors, I'd be a damn sight richer materially and otherwise. I had a statistics professor who got into a disagreement with Marylin vos Savant and to this day, I still don't think he admits he was wrong. The greater diversity of opinion and the ability to interact on the 'net with people from all over the world and from all (ok, almost all) walks of life is a far better teacher of how to handle and process information than what our universities have provided over the last 30 years or so. Not that they're completely useless, but the more expensive they become, the less valuable they are.
There is another effect, beyond graduate inflation going on, but a word on that first: it is a palpable effect. When talking with my parent's and grand-parent's generation, what was amazing is that a high school educations had a lot of value - it was a highly prized item. Higher education was for the few, and often was done via religious-based schools to defray costs. By the time I got to college, the HS diploma was, essentially, worthless and the Bachelor's degree had become the new 'minimum standard' for half-way skilled employment. This, essentially, moved all degrees down one notch from their previous status to the point where post-doctorate work is the new doctorate level.
Effect two is insidiuous in the sciences: knowledge packing. Asking my father for help in calculus caused a startling revelation for us both, as he took a look at the tome I had for the course and that the first year covered 13 chapters. He took out his two calculus books from college and identified that it ended at chapter 9 of my book... that was four years of calculus for him. Chemistry and physics are a bit better, geology is about the same for packing because of all the work that has gone on in the 20th century. This has not been true in the arts and humanities courses I've taken... and even skipped up to junior and senior level courses to get some interesting courses...
Graduate inflation has been highly concentrated outside of the sciences and engineering, from what I have seen of student body concentration through the 1980's, at least. In the science and engineering courses more gets packed in to a set amount of time, causing a steep learning curve requirement. At the university I attended 50% of freshman engineers had washed out after one year, and similar percentages in each of the next two years. This is not a good trend for the culture or sustainment of our manufacturing base...
I totally agree. Of course this has been the case going back at least 25 years. Yet in all the discussion about education and how it should prepare students for the working world, this subject rarely comes up.