From Sultan Knish: ‘Universal Education Or Universal Competence’

Full piece here.

One of the main targets here is the political Left in polemical fashion, and some folks on the Left deserve criticism as much as anyone:

‘The more you universalize education, the lower the value of that education becomes. When the goal of education is not to teach, but to graduate, then the educational system becomes a cattle run which exists only to move students through the system and then out the door through classroom promotion. The High School education of today is inferior to the Elementary School education of yesterday and the four year college graduate of today couldn’t even begin to match wits with a high school graduate from 1946.’

Diminishing returns.  Undoubtedly, the ground has shifted beneath our feet, and our educational institutions have not changed to keep pace.  This problem belongs to all of us.  Perhaps our educational system will be increasingly fertile ground for the culture wars. Even the Left has recently been criticizing the very meritocracy they’ve helped to create.

There are many political, monied, and ideological interests who have a big stake in resisting any change in our schools.  If and when necessary changes are suggested, they will naturally fight for their own self-interest, often under universalist ideals through political means (especially in our cities…a piece of the pie they are sure they have been denied).  This can end up harming the people these institutions are meant to serve.

‘Above all else, a society of competent men and women is self-ruled. Competence is the core of independence while standardized education is the essence of collectivism. Once you know how to do something, you are less likely to be awed by men and women who only know how to rule over others.’

All standardization is not necessarily harmful, but it can be increasingly harmful in the current context, under many current conditions that have led to a top-down, politicized educational-industrial complex.   It is incredibly wasteful and inefficient.

There is a spirit of egalitarianism in America that needs to be protected from the excessive and collectivist egalitarians, the teacher’s unions and many an educrat, the politicians and a corrupt system of patronage in our cities.   Education naturally attracts a lot of ‘universalists’.

Millions of young people are passing through lower and higher ed shielded from much genuine criticism and failure, and academic rigor that both rewards hard work and intellectual challenge, and is appropriately competitive.  They are receiving inflated grades and playing the system for what they can.  The rest of us are paying for it in one way or another.

Did lower or higher ed fail you?  Your children?  If so, how?

Addition:  Megan McArdle has a piece here on the value of college.  It’s still probably worth it for the average student, and especially for the bright, motivated student who is aware of what he/she’s paying for, and with a stake in his/her own costs and future in the labor market.  Otherwise, there’s a large psychological and public buy-in and many individuals making many bad decisions.  A bubble?

uploaded by mattbucher

Related On This Site:  Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’

Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

Via Instapundit: Jerry Bowyer At Forbes: ‘A College Bubble So Big Even The New York Times And 60 Minutes Can See It…Sort Of’

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be…mostly like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

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
Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  He has a big vision with some holes in it, but it’s one that embraces change boldly.

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