Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Higher Education and Dumbing Down





By Professor Doom

     Last time I looked at an article that bemoans the dumbing down of higher education, which is certainly true, and worthy of bemoaning. The article complains, cluelessly, that higher education is turning into job training.

      I grant that it’s a bad thing that “education” and “job training” are becoming synonymous, but I’m not clueless about why this is happening. The student loan scam is naturally drifting higher education into a massive jobs training program.

     Most students are paying for university with loan money. The only financially sound reason to take out a loan is to get something that will pay off the loan. If you can pay off the loan otherwise, you don’t need the loan, and if you can’t pay off the loan with what the loan money got you, taking out the loan means you’ll be in debt forever.

      So, yes, every student that’s taking out a loan for higher education should be focused on job training. Now, higher education can certainly be about education…but the prices for such should reflect accordingly. I just don’t see why Fundamentals of Accounting 101, filled with perfectly relevant job training, should cost the same as Women and Gender Studies 101, filled with, well, stuff. One of these courses might well lead to a job, but the other? Not so much. 

      It’s criminal that higher education takes advantage of our young people by burying them in debt for an “education” that will not allow getting out of debt.
 
      The article meanders back to the anti-intellectualism of our society:

Well-educated and intellectual students are commonly referred to in public schools and the media as "nerds," "dweebs," "dorks," and "geeks," and are relentlessly harassed and even assaulted by the more popular "jocks" for openly displaying any intellect.


      This certainly rings true: I quickly learned not to raise my hand in class to answer a question, as that would simultaneously make me a target for bullies. I know there is intense hostility towards the “bright” students in school (and even experienced it towards the “bright” faculty in community college). I quickly learned to fail the first assignment every year, and to proudly display it in my notebook for classmates to see. It kept a few of the bullies away, and it made the teachers happy that I would improve so much. I imagine quite a few other “bright” students developed similar tricks. 

     Often indeed the bullies were jocks, untouchable because nobody wanted to risk the school team’s record for the year. Sportsball is taken way too seriously in our government schools. It’s also taken way too seriously in higher education—the highest paid public employee, per state, is typically a sportsball coach, after all. Public education might not be destroying intellectualism…but public education makes it clear you risk severe punishment for being smart or knowledgeable, and can receive tremendous accolades for being athletic.

     It’s really worth noting that the rest of the world doesn’t put sports in schools. There is no demented devoted sports culture on campuses in the rest of the world. I can’t help but suspect it’s why the rest of the world generally does better in educating its children, even when spending far, far, less per child than we do. At the very least, they don’t have to pay a huge salary to a coach.

     And back to dumbing down:

A 2008 University of Texas study found that 25 percent of public school biology teachers believe that humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously.


      Higher education has a role in the above. You don’t need a Biology degree to teach in school, you could just as easily have an Education degree. A look at the curriculum for such degrees, even at the graduate level, will find the whole program filled with special courses, such as “Math for Education Majors,” “Art for Education Majors,” and “Biology for Education Majors.” These courses are very watered down versions of the real courses that the non-Education majors take. I’ve written of much of the fraud of Education departments on campus, particularly “Math Education,” where it’s quite possible to get a graduate degree without having taken a math course higher than 10th grade math…and then go on to teach courses in advanced mathematics, somehow.

      So, yeah, sure, some percentage of biology teachers probably do believe humans and dinosaurs inhabited the earth simultaneously (don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to consider the Earth’s age might be younger than mainstream science currently says, but I’d need to see some cave paintings of dinosaurs or similar evidence before I’m willing to accept more than coelacanths). Higher education is creating biology teachers untrained in biology in much the same way it’s creating math teachers untrained in mathematics.

     To give some idea of just how bad it is, a kid was suspended from school because he built a clock, and brought it to school. The teachers and administrators thought it was a bomb, you see, and called in the police. Now, nothing wrong with being cautious, mind you, but I feel the need to point out: not a single teacher, not a single administrator, has enough education to be able to look at a clock’s workings and distinguish it from being a bomb.

     The police, of course, were clueless, but every single teacher/administrator in that school system has a college degree...an Education degree. That is how watered down our Education degrees are.

     A final factoid from the article that, incidentally, indicates higher education’s role in the dumbing down of America:

“According to a 2006 survey by National Geographic-Roper, nearly half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 do not think it necessary to know the location of other countries in which important news is being made. More than a third consider it "not at all important" to know a foreign language, and only 14 percent consider it "very important;"


     In ages past, our young students were told “if you want to get into college, you better start studying now.” You had to take “college prep” courses in school, and do well in them, if you were wanted to get accepted into college. This was part of the mythology of higher education I’ve discussed before…and those days are over. 

     It used to be important to learn a foreign language so you could get accepted into a college. It used to be important to be able to read and write coherently to get into college. It used to be important to be able to calculate, perform basic arithmetic, to get accepted into college. All these educational requirements have been removed, and this, too, has led to the anti-intellectualism that is part of American culture now.

     Now, anyone can get into college, most any college. Just click the box saying you’re willing to take loan money, and you’re in…and administration will hire people to help you click the box (because so many students don’t even possess that much skill). Open admissions foolishness has destroyed any respect for learning. So, it’s not important to learn a foreign language…or to learn anything else. Social promotion will advance you through the school system, and now there’s social promotion in higher education as well. You don’t even need to learn these things once you’re in college.

       And so the dumbing down of our population no longer ends in high school. For many of our youth, additional dumbing down now occurs in college. The question is whether it’s incidental to the student loan scam, or by design.