Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where’s the Media in Higher Education?

By Professor Doom

     I know it sounds a bit vain to ask “why isn’t anyone paying attention to me?”, but it really seems like higher education is ignored by the major media, at least for the most part. Only the UNC scandal gets coverage of late, and it’s already fading fast.

     Should it be? Around 2/3rds of high school graduates go on to college. Is that not a large enough percentage of the population for higher education to merit some constant attention from the media? I’m writing this mid-October, but let’s take a look at the stories major media think are more important than what’s affecting 2/3rds of high school graduates this year, and the over 20,000,000 students enrolled this year.

     I go over to CNN.com, and I see they have front page articles on baseball news regularly. Does anything like 20,000,000 citizens even care about baseball anymore? I find it hard to believe, but perhaps I’m just in a part of the country that cares nothing for it.

     Another article talks about Wal-Mart cutting health benefits for 30,000 of its employees. Hey, Wal-Mart is pretty mean, and those people having their meagre pay reduced another $1,000 a year is bad news…but college tuition is going up thousands a year, and that affects millions of students.

     CNN has a whole section devoted to entertainment, with articles on Clooney’s wife taking his name, and on who’s going to host the Oscars. Does 2/3rds of the country really care about such things? Am I really out of touch? Maybe it’s CNN? Why not a section devoted to higher education?

     Wandering over to MSN.com, and I still see nothing on higher education. MSN does have a nice little piece on McDonald’s skipping the National McRib rollout…perhaps that affects more of the country than higher education? In other news, Halle Berry’s child support payments were severely reduced. Also, it turns out ‘real’ clowns are offended about their depiction in American Horror Story. Seriously, are these things of greater import to this country than what’s going on in higher education? Put those three stories together and I still don’t see it by a longshot.

     MSN does have a link to one article relating to higher education: a Yale student might have Ebola. Ok, that’s more of an Ebola story than a higher education story, but I have to scrape the bottom of the barrel here.

      Keep in mind, basically every community college violates Federal law by offering coursework that is below the 9th grade. They were violating the law last year, and years before that. They’re doing it this year, and have already published their course offerings, showing they’re planning on breaking the law next year, too.

    This is an ongoing scandal of huge proportions. Why isn’t this front page news? Why hasn’t some mainstream reporter, somewhere, enrolled in a local community college and taken some courses to show exactly what’s going on there? It’s not like it would cost him any money, since at the very least a Pell grant would pay his tuition.

    For that matter, colleges, especially community colleges, are running Pell grant scams. A ‘student’ can enroll in a college, get a check through a Pell grant, and never come to class. Then the ‘student’ can enroll in a different college, one not even ten miles away or across a state line, and do it again. This scam is very well known, and exists because administrators are highly motivated not to keep records (getting rid of the scammers would cut into growth, after all). After the mainstream reporter enrolls in community college to show how much of the ‘work’ there is below the 9th grade level, he can do it all over again at another community college, and show how the Pell scam works. Pell runner scams are quite common, but why do only education-specific news sites discuss them? It’s a billion dollar fraud that can be trivially stopped any time by putting in background checks that can be completed within a month.

      Student loan debt is over 1.2 trillion dollars, and at least articles on that hit the mainstream news from time to time. Still, it’s an ongoing, growing, problem. Every single day, there should be a mainstream news article asking how the debt got so huge, how so many students got enrolled in bogus courses, got handed bogus degrees, and now are stuck with massive debts with no means to pay them off. Why isn’t some reporter asking a question how this happened? Why isn’t some mainstream news site willing to do the five minutes or so of investigation necessary to understand what happened?

     Most teachers in higher education are minimally paid adjuncts, that have neither benefits nor job security. There are plenty of mainstream articles about minimum wage and why it’s so important to raise it  (not saying I agree, just saying such articles seem pretty common)…but adjunct professors, the most common position for a teacher of college coursework, get paid less than minimum wage, why isn’t this front page news, day after day?

     Occasionally there are articles about how college tuition is rising, rising fast, always rising. But why hasn’t University of the People made it to the front page of CNN.com? UoPeople offers fully accredited, jobs-related, degrees for 5% of the cost of a degree at most other institutions…seems like a 95% reduction in tuition would be newsworthy.  Best I could find regarding University of the People is one tech-related piece on CNN—not even presented as an education piece!

     It really seems like the only time mainstream media pays attention to higher education is when it’s sportsball related. I’ll grant the scandals involving violent college players or Penn State are of news merit…but do they really dominate the relevance of other scandals that affect virtually every student in higher education?

    Recently I addressed an article that presented the possibility that the destruction of higher education is part of a big conspiracy. I disagreed, of course, but the silence of mainstream media of the many, ongoing, incredibly newsworthy stories about the widespread corruption in higher education is deafening.

     I don’t want to say there’s a conspiracy here, but can anyone suggest why none of the big mainstream news sites are so unwilling to investigate the obvious issues in higher education? My imagination fails to help me come up with a satisfactory answer.



  1. One reason is that the general public believes higher education is a right and not a privilege. I'm old enough to remember when anyone going to university was highly regarded and, should they go all the way to a Ph. D., they acquired a status close to godhood.

    Nowadays, anybody and their dog can get a degree. They are now so commonplace that I'm surprised that they're not given away free with boxes of breakfast cereal or that they're stapled to one's birth certificate. No wonder the media don't pay attention.

    It sort of reminds me of the society shown in the beginning of the Monty Python bicycle repairman sketch.

    1. "To borrow a phrase which was often used in your day, we should not
      consider life worth living if we had to be surrounded by a population
      of ignorant, boorish, coarse, wholly uncultivated men and women, as was
      the plight of the few educated in your day. Is a man satisfied, merely
      because he is perfumed himself, to mingle with a malodorous crowd?
      Could he take more than a very limited satisfaction, even in a palatial
      apartment, if the windows on all four sides opened into stable yards?
      And yet just that was the situation of those considered most fortunate
      as to culture and refinement in your day. I know that the poor and
      ignorant envied the rich and cultured then; but to us the latter,
      living as they did, surrounded by squalor and brutishness, seem little
      better off than the former. The cultured man in your age was like one
      up to the neck in a nauseous bog solacing himself with a smelling
      bottle. You see, perhaps, now, how we look at this question of
      universal high education. No single thing is so important to every man
      as to have for neighbors intelligent, companionable persons. There is
      nothing, therefore, which the nation can do for him that will enhance
      so much his own happiness as to educate his neighbors. When it fails to
      do so, the value of his own education to him is reduced by half, and
      many of the tastes he has cultivated are made positive sources of pain.

      "To educate some to the highest degree, and leave the mass wholly
      uncultivated, as you did, made the gap between them almost like that
      between different natural species, which have no means of
      communication. What could be more inhuman than this consequence of a
      partial enjoyment of education! Its universal and equal enjoyment
      leaves, indeed, the differences between men as to natural endowments as
      marked as in a state of nature, but the level of the lowest is vastly
      raised. Brutishness is eliminated. All have some inkling of the
      humanities, some appreciation of the things of the mind, and an
      admiration for the still higher culture they have fallen short of. They
      have become capable of receiving and imparting, in various degrees, but
      all in some measure, the pleasures and inspirations of a refined social
      life. The cultured society of the nineteenth century--what did it
      consist of but here and there a few microscopic oases in a vast,
      unbroken wilderness? The proportion of individuals capable of
      intellectual sympathies or refined intercourse, to the mass of their
      contemporaries, used to be so infinitesimal as to be in any broad view
      of humanity scarcely worth mentioning. One generation of the world
      to-day represents a greater volume of intellectual life than any five
      centuries ever did before.

      "There is still another point I should mention in stating the grounds
      on which nothing less than the universality of the best education could
      now be tolerated," continued Dr. Leete, "and that is, the interest of
      the coming generation in having educated parents. To put the matter in
      a nutshell, there are three main grounds on which our educational
      system rests: first, the right of every man to the completest education
      the nation can give him on his own account, as necessary to his
      enjoyment of himself; second, the right of his fellow-citizens to have
      him educated, as necessary to their enjoyment of his society; third,
      the right of the unborn to be guaranteed an intelligent and refined

      - Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

      Why would I want to live next to someone uneducated? Even if their lack of education is due to lack of money? I would want the entire population to be educated, which would move humanity positively forward.

      In a devolutionary culture, education is a privilege and a right.

      In an evolutionary culture, education is a necessity.

    2. I didn't say that only a few deserve to be educated and the remainder ignorant.

      When I graduated from high school over 40 years ago, going to university was rare. Many of my classmates found jobs for which little, if any, post-secondary education was required. (One, I believe, started bagging groceries in a local store. By the time I finished my degree, he was running an outlet of that chain in the same town where I had my first job.) Others went into the trades or attended tech college and, yes, there were jobs for them when they got their qualifications.

      Nowadays, employers over-emphasize educational credentials. It's come to the point that one can't get a job in a fast-food outlet without a bachelor's degree. I mean, really--does it take 4 years of university to serve burgers or fries?

    3. I totally understand you Quarter Wave Vertical. I think you and I want the same thing, which is for mankind(wombkind) to be a "Kind" man. Have you read Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy 1887? He wrote a world that I would love to see. He wrote a world where a janitor could hold a conversation with a particle physicist. A world without money and no bartering to get the necessities of life. A world without deception. What we have now is a culture of dishonesty and we should all know that it is virtually impossible to be honest in a dishonesty culture. We must come together to help our children. With your wisdom and understanding I know we can create a better world.

      "The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding"

      --The Kybalion.

    4. What you suggest is impossible. Society, and the educational system in particular, curries favour with the lowest common denominator and does so by taking the path of least resistance. How else can one explain reality TV shows or the popularity of certain celebrities famous for being famous?

      It doesn't take much to disarm any popular mass movement for change. It could be as simple as bringing onto the market a new electronic bauble to numb brains into submission.

    5. You exist...on a planet, in a solar system, in a galaxy, in a universe we essentially cannot explain. To say anything is impossible denies your very existence. Humanity should be ashamed of creating such a word, impossible. It should be deleted from dictionaries, as it is completely illogical for us to use such a word as we live and breathe, not truly knowing how we got here or why. Whether by creation, evolution, or some other method we have yet to know or understand, we are here. We, our existence, makes nothing impossible. As long as we exist and everything on this planet exists, man, animal, plant, rock, water, etc., as long as a galaxy exists, anything discussed, every idea and notion, is possible.

  2. http://emsnews.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/more-school-statistics-showing-how-race-and-culture-determines-success-universally/

    My comment to the above NY Daily News article:

    Now comes this puzzling part of the story which illustrates how bad students who can barely read or do math are kicked upstairs due to being black and put into colleges and universities even though they can barely do junior high work:

    Quote from the article:

    "It Takes a Village Academy in Brooklyn scored the highest A in the city. The school illustrates some of the complexities involved in the new college-readiness measure.

    The school did well at offering advanced classes to kids, and 90% of its graduates are enrolled in either college studies or a career program.

    At the same time, just 12% of its students graduate ready for college, according to the official stats — a number that founding Principal Marina Vinitskaya said does not reflect her school’s actual achievements. She pointed out that nearly a third of the students are still learning English.

    “These are kids who barely read in middle school, and they’re going to college,” Vinitskaya said. “It’s a huge improvement.” "

    My comment:

    90% of what they will study in ‘college’ will be courses that have no credit towards graduation as they retake all the classes they screwed up the previous 12 years! This is a gigantic scam. All these poor students will bear huge student loans for this and it is a total rip off and they will then never be allowed to shed these loans which will haunt them until they die! In poverty, I am guessing.

    Yes, Dr. Doom: NO ONE is listening to us.

    1. Part of this can be attributed to a "two strikes and you're out" policy in senior high school. When I received my diploma, one had to have all the credits in order to graduate and those credits weren't simply handed out.

      Moving ahead just over 15 years to when I started my teaching job, I was appalled at the lack of preparation many of my students had, most of whom were fresh out of high school. I spoke about this with my department head at the time and he told me that, at least in the local area, the policy was that students were allowed to fail Grade 12 once, but then graduate anyway the following year.

      I was flabbergasted at that. But it certainly explained a few things. That misguided policy removed any requirement for the students to not only do anything, but to do it to at least a minimum standard. Why should they? They could do poorly and yet be rewarded with their diploma the following year.

      No wonder much of what I had to teach material that I was required to know in junior high in order that my students were ready to be taught the actual course material.

    2. It all began with affirmative promotions for minorities. They didn't have to work for a reward. I had to work very hard to get a scholarship to a university when I was 16 years old.

      When my very smart daughter was in high school, her black friends would boast to her that they didn't have to do anything to go to a prestigious university, they were offered scholarships all over the place.

      This made them all very lazy at school. Why strive when the fruit literally falls into your lap? In turn, this made them poor students at the university level having no hard work hard study habits.

    3. I had 2 strikes against me here in Canada. First, I wasn't born here and English wasn't my first language. Second, I was a working-class kid and both of my parents were tradesmen. I'm sure that the hard time I was given in elementary school was a major factor in ensuring that I could qualify for university. I was determined to prove to my detractors that I was at least as good, if not better, than them.

      I must have done something right as I now have 2 master's degrees and a Ph. D.

  3. Look backward to Upton Sinclair's book Brass Check. "A brass check was a token purchased by a customer in a brothel and given to the woman of his choice. Sinclair saw the moneyed interests of his day holding brass checks with which to purchase politicians, journalists and their editors, and other thought leaders of the day."

    I do not think Upton Sinclair would be surprised at the "fecundity" of the corporate johns of his day to spawn a new generation of media prostitutes. These media prostitutes generally do not care about children or education unless it involves screwing them literally and figuratively.

  4. I certainly appreciate all the suggestions, but I find none of these answers personally satisfying as to the media silence on the immense fraud going on in higher education.

    Sinclair moves up the agenda list all the same.

    1. Remember the saying: "If it bleeds, it leads."

      Education, on the whole, isn't spectacular, interesting, or scandalous. It merits media attention if it becomes part of an electoral platform or a teacher or professor is caught doing something improper with a student. (There are times, however, when the institution itself produces a news item to show that something besides babysitting masses of young adults occurs on campus.)

      But, like in politics and business, anything financially improper at such institutions is avoided like the plague, sort of along the lines of: "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies." The institution behaves like everything's above board and reporters give the issue a wide berth--everybody's happy.

      However, it wouldn't do any good to report it, even if someone does find out something. The "customers" of such establishments are motivated by pure self-interest and couldn't care less what's going on there. All they want is that they, or their family members attending there, get their pieces of paper at the end of 3 or 4 years.