Of course, in higher education, there’s a very good chance we’re looking at a bubble, where prices are being artificially inflated beyond the value of the education itself in an unsustainable manner. There are many reasons for this, and the government getting into the business is an important one.
A few related thoughts:
As Peter Thiel noted (and Charles Murray has for a while), there are some interests in our society which will not allow the open discussion of differences between people for reasons ideological which can become political, however plain these differences appear to us, however statistically valid they may be argued to be. Thiel is a libertarian-minded reformer putting his money where his mouth is regarding the higher ed bubble, and Murray has been the voice of a contrarian social scientist, making unpopular arguments and observations for decades.
I think all of us recognize some good (and likely something essential) in public education, the educational experience, and the equality of opportunity found therein. I tend to be more tolerant of much less conservative ideas regarding the social contract when it comes to our schools, young people, and the idea that all men are created equal for our democracy. I also believe (perhaps naively) that we can find a way around the current impasse without necessarily backing ourselves into a European tiered solution, nor simply a return to the “soft-tiering” of prep schools and the Ivy League as a path to a good education, the right connections, and influence.
That said, it as vital as ever to challenge the failures of some interests who define the role of our educational institutions too broadly to be effective, and I think many of these interests aren’t going anywhere. I think this is where Thiel and Murray are most effective. Said interests have created:
1. The misplaced loyalty of teachers unions protecting their own and creating a twisted system of incentives that can reward mediocrity and harm students
2. The waste and mismanagement of public resources in public schools, and the politicization of the issue increasingly on the Federal level (all of us have a stake in this) sending good money after bad. We have ended up with top down, inefficient set of standards and a huge bureaucracy. Much of it can be trimmed.
3. The tragedy and cost that the self-esteem movement will have to those who were never really included and challenged to learn in the first place, either dropping out or graduating without many basic skills, lacking in core compentency, and ill-equipped for the technological revolution and the global competition going on around us. Civics, reading, writing, and arithmetic wouldn’t be a bad place to start…though most of these basic problems will always be with us.
It’s not clear to me at all that demanding our institutions serve principles of redistributive wealth, fairness, “justice” and the dread “social justice” really do any better with these problems in the long run. And as for higher ed, it is deeply influenced by “lower” ed.
All of this said, there do seem to be deeper issues at play, which are certainly up for debate as this subject has economic, cultural, political and personal implications for all of us.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
Related On This Site: Should you get a college degree?: Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism…
The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill: From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.
A deeper look at what education “ought” to be A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’
Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind, at least with regard to a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’
Perhaps some of the problem is due to the ideological interests holing up at our universities; at least in the liberal arts: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-