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01/19/2011

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BJ

I live in a college town and have witnessed and noted first hand many of the things you mention. College administrators are very happy to help young naive people sign up for student loans they will not be able to afford, in part because the degree they receive is of no value in the real world, yet the students are told they are guaranteed to make 70% more than those with only a high school education. (A credit counselor recently rolled her eyes when I made this comment when discussing the idea of me going back to college; I said it jokingly.) As has been mentioned, student loan debt is one of the big bubbles out there, and that is what is supporting my town, a huge debt bubble. And guess who is going to be left holding the bag? The taxpayer. They even created a million plus dollar office intent on forcing through a new tax especially for "higher education."

But the unfortunate truth, corporate America values these bogus college degrees more than they do knowledge and intellect, as demonstrated by the fact that I was once told I wasn't qualified to do my own engineering job anymore, because I hadn't paid for a fancier piece of paper. Someone in HR, obviously with a college degree, decided my job required a college degree, even though colleges didn't teach what I knew. Others have experienced the same. A piece of paper, is of more value than knowledge and skill, in America today. Yes, the decline of an empire.

More incentive to move to a 3rd world country.

Bill Hicks

I blame the parents first and foremost. My parents were working class and did not have the money to pay for my college. So I went to community college for two years, did an Army stint to get tuition benefits and then was a commuter student for my last two years at a major university. I worked my rear end off and graduated Magna Cum Laude in part because I recogniozed how much I had sacrificed just to be there. Oh, and I also graduated without ANY student loan debt whatsoever.

Not only is the consumer culture responsible, but this is what happens when a child is given everything it wants by its parents throught its childhood. :(

BJ

When I was in college, one of my technical instructors was under pressure from the administrators to make his class easier to pass, as he had in their eyes, too high a dropout and fail rate. After all, if students drop out, they aren't paying tuition. The instructor was already putting the formulas on the white board during tests, you only had to know how to use them, yet his class was considered too challenging.

Jason

I teach at a med school where the students have the power to elect not to have a professor back to teach by grading the teaching "performance". What would Professor Kingsfield say to these spoiled would be professionals (in his case lawyers)? (a few selections of goodies from the past):

"You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer."

"Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer."

[after getting kicked out of class by Professor Kingsfield]
Hart: "You... are a SON OF A BITCH, Kingsfield."
Kingsfield: "Mr. Hart! That is the most intelligent thing you've said all day. You may take your seat."

Adrian

Much of what you say rings true, especially about young people socialized to be consumers.

As a community college instructor, I would like to point out that we are hired to teach, not do research. Many of my assignments are specifically designed to teach critical thinking skills.

Many (of course there are also slackers) of my students come to class aware of how their public high schools have let them down, and anxious to try to correct that lack.

Many are the opposite of the type of "entitled" student you are describing. They work hard, in class and out. Much of their time is spent working at low-wage jobs to support themselves and help out their families; many have little time to socialize in the way you are describing. They are also unable to devote as much time to their studies as they or I would like.

Yet they persevere, under sometimes punishing conditions, sometimes the first in their family to graduate high school, much less attend a college of any kind.

Julie

I have had a suspicion that the growing student body over the past ten to fifteen years has been encouraged by governments as a way of disguising unemployment. At any one time a significant chunk of the population is purportedly "studying" (and borrowing to meet living costs) but not actually gaining skills that will lead to real jobs.

sharonsj

Main example of American stupidity: claims that the health reform bill contains "death panels." The paragraphs covering said panels were posted for people to read, but if you read them, you immediately realized they said no such thing. I wondered why I could understand the meaning of the paragraphs when others could not; I guess I'm old enough to have gone to public schools when they taught critical thinking, let alone how to read.

What's going on at colleges is not limited to higher education. My state school taxes shot up so that the new high school could have, among other things, a fancy Olympic swimming pool and, naturally, a football field. Sorry, but I think my taxpayer dollars should go only to the three Rs and nothing else.

Gail

Here is the letter I sent last summer to the President of Princeton U:

Dear President Tilghman, Dr. Austin, and Dr. Happer,

I am writing in reference to this undated letter to which Drs. Austin and Happer are purportedly signatories.

As a proud Princeton parent, I am dismayed that anyone affiliated with this institution would trample on its prestige, reputation, and academic integrity by being party to this fraudulent folly. I can only hope that the names of Drs. Austin and Happer were attached to this screed without their knowledge.

Their entire premise of asking the EPA to hold hearings on the CO2 endangerment finding is based on this crucial lie:

"In our view, particularly with temperatures now falling, the argument for CO2 regulation rests solely on the “validity” of the climate models relied upon by the IPCC and the EPA."

Global average temperatures are NOT falling, they are demonstrably, irrefutably rising, as stated by NASA here - reputable, reliable corroboration for which any undergraduate could find in the most trivial search attempt. For Drs. Austin and Happer to state otherwise is pure drivel. It is either unforgivably inept at best, or mendacious at worst.

I am looking forward to a public statement by them repudiating this dangerous, deliberately misleading political propaganda; or to an announcement that their employment with Princeton has been terminated on grounds of moral turpitude.

Of what value will my child's Princeton education be when she inherits a world dominated by climate catastrophe thanks to her elders, those charged with her education, disseminating and perpetrating lies that benefit no one other than energy corporations?

How incisive was it for the speaker at Class Day, Charlie Gibson, to basically admit that "our" generahtion has abdicated any responsibility for the existential threats we have created - insurmountable debt, increasing income inequality, squandering energy and polluting the Earth's air, land and water? The hapless graduates and future generations are left to contend with rising seas and global warming likely to render many regions uninhabitable.

And I might add, from observing the many students I have met, their Princeton education has left them woefully uninformed about the most important challenge facing humanity ever, and thus less prepared than a third-world peasant on a subsistence diet to survive in a rapidly and radically changing world.

The university's approach to educating students about the perils of climate change has been wholly inadequate. If history is not to judge your enterprise as nothing more than a sham to prop up the status quo, there must be a fundamental effort to disseminate the facts throughout the curriculum, and professors who lie about the facts must be, at the least, called out and disciplined.

Sincerely,

Gail Zawacki
Princeton Parent 2010

BJ

What I love is those who promote the idea of everyone getting a college degree. Now ask yourself, how much do you expect your trash hauler and baby sitter to want or need to be paid if they have a 4 year degree, a PhD, a student loan?

I already see this in my town. Parents are complaining about the cost of childcare. Chances are, their baby sitter has a college degree, and a student loan, and expects to be paid accordingly. How many infants or toddlers can that college graduate take care of at one time? Now divided their expected/required salary plus benefits & employment taxes/fees by that number. Proposed solution, have the taxpayer subsidize childcare.

Now consider this, I doubt the average college graduate is smarter than a 5th grader, based on a couple episodes of the TV shows I have see, especially since at least one teacher wasn't. So what exactly are we spending years and years in school doing? We must be forgetting 90% of what they say is essential knowledge, so how essential is it?

Another nice thing coming through the pike is, colleges are running out of potential students, so some are doing their best to get funding for teenagers who are in our country illegally. They say it is to help out the underprivileged, when it truly comes down to money in their pockets.

Brian M

"The "business models" are different but the goal is the same: make or attract money. Education of the young is no longer the primary goal of so-called educational institutions."

Just as our for-profit health care system is not about health care, and many of our service industries want nothing to do with actually providing service. In a society solely judged on the number of dollars you can collect, doing meaningful work is secondary to accumulating money. These are all symptoms of a society that has lost it way... we used to do the job to be proud of what we accomplished and believed that the money would follow a job well done; now we do the job because it's the only way to make money, and as long as we get paid we don't care all that much about whether it gets done well or even at all.

It seems to me that this is just another symptom of life in an empire with its eyes surely fixed on the rear-view mirror.

majia

I've been a university professor for about 20 years. The growth of over-payed administrators and "star" faculty, who are payed in excess of 200k, is a problem and directly contributes to higher educational costs, in addition to expensive amenities and costly, but unavoidable, technology.

Most of my students are working class and do not have an entitlement attitude. However, nearly all of them are working 30-40 hours a week. This affects their performance and effort.

They do not read course materials, at all. I use articles from the popular and business press in addition to selecting course materials that students find relevant. Students seem interested in most "real world" issues discussed in class but still fail to read the assigned materials.

I assign critical analyses in every class I teach. Students must conduct real world analyses of economic, political and social trends and events. Students are capable of writing analyses but must be trained. They typically must overcome poor writing skills. I meet with students who are behind during my office hours.

I can do these types of assignments because my class sizes are small for a public university. However, we are under pressure to increase student numbers and deliver online education using a model of a 100 plus students per course.

Additionally, high school students are encouraged to take "dual enrollment" courses taught by high school teachers, yet afforded college credit, for their general electives. Consequently, student knowledge of basic historical events and contemporary phenomena is at an all time low.

The pressure to make higher education cheaper while using student teaching evaluations as the sole measure of teaching quality is a deadly combination for quality education. Prioritizing research over teaching is also problematic, especially when so much research is essentially intellectual masturbation. [Faculty do need time for expanding their expertise but this process should not interfere with good pedagogy.]

Higher education is deteriorating but this problem is only growing worse with budget pressures.

I really believe that the public really cares more about degrees than learning and that is where education is headed

Morocco Bama

Higher education is a racket to further extract the last traces of physical and psychical blood from the vampire's purposely unwitting prey. Fraternities and Sororities help groom the little sadists for their technocratic subservience to the Plutocratic Elite. It has nothing to do with pure knowledge, but everything to do with learning how to kiss up, kick down and laugh dismissively at the carnage this consumptive lifestyle has, is, and will continue to create.

Gail

So-called higher education is actually a marriage market.

 Steven

Every one says that a collage degree will help you in life. But no one asks which type of degrees. How many good jobs are there for people with history, language, physical education, etc. There are thousands of people with these degrees but few if any jobs for them. However if you get a degree in engineering,drafting, architecture, medicine, you are in some cases guarantied to get a good paying job as soon as you graduate. However these degrees are difficult to get since they require a lot of work and time. Most student are not interested in putting a lot of work into getting these degrees. At some colleges in only 10 to 20% of the graduating class receives a degree in a engineering, medicine, architecture,etc. The rest of the student body get a degree that isn't worth much.

Student loads should only be offered to those students most likely to to get a good job after graduation in the degree they apply for. We should not be offering student loans to students looking to get degrees in history and language since it is highly unlikely the degree that they get will ever get them a job with sufficient income to allow them to pay it off.

Philip Arlington

I agree with most of what you say but your statement that "Advertisers can't sell pointless junk to educated, sophisticated people who know how to discriminate," is simply nonsense. Education and sophistication are not incompatible with greed, emotionally insecurity, compulsive behaviour or the urge to impress others with material things.

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