My daughter, who attends a well-respected university on the East Coast, sent me a quote from a source she was required to use in order to analyze the difference between American hip-hop and African hip-hop. The author wrote "This current volume methodologically and intellectually transcends such a limiting analysis of the import and outcome of identity and music making to look at how youth mobilize hip hop in order to produce not only new avenues for identity formation but also establish new parameters for critiquing the advent of neoliberal market fundamentalism and share social and cultural interpretations within a boarder regional polity.”
If anyone can explain the meaning of that statement, dinner is on me. My daughter griped “I just can't get over this sentence. I can't even understand it. Hasn't this man ever heard of a comma?” And yet millions of Americans shell out exorbitant fees for stuff like this so that their adult children can obtain that “golden ticket” called a college degree. The question is not only if it’s worth it, but whether the left has, in effect, established a system that not only indoctrinates young Americans, but soaks them financially as well – and, incidentally, provides the ordained an exceedingly opulent lifestyle.
For more insight on this issue, I turned to Naomi Schaefer Riley, one of the most knowledgeable individuals on the subject of college education in today’s America. Ms. Riley, a former Wall Street Journal staffer and the child of a current and a former college professor, recently wrote The Faculty Lounges (and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For), in which she attempts to assess the current status of college education. Her concise, thoughtful, and cutting analysis clearly defines the issues at hand.
When asked what caused the rapid increase in the cost of education, Ms. Riley told me that it’s much like the health care system – third party payers. As federal aid has poured into the college system, tuition has soared. Unfortunately, the money hasn’t gone into the classroom, but has principally been spent on administrative growth. To be fair, universities are burdened with some of the same costly expenses that the rest of us suffer, and now must retain huge legal departments to deal with a plethora of issues and lawsuits, but that’s just a small portion of the bloat. An ever-increasing number of transient instructors now support the system while a major portion of the faculty spends its time doing research – much of which produces, at best, minor benefits. Ms. Riley observed that last year, 100 books were written by university professors on Shakespeare (who’s been dead for 400 years). Do we really need this? Does this really serve the purpose of the huge fees being paid by the customers?
Ms. Riley clearly articulates what the problem with college education is today. No one is in charge. There may be a president of the university, but he doesn’t control the individual departments, who independently determine who gets hired, who obtains permanent status (tenure), and if, when, where, and how much they interact with the customers (students). The professors are responsible neither to the CEO nor the customer, and, predictably, live in disdain for both. Can you imagine any tenured professor personally committed to addressing the needs and desires of their students simply because each of them paid $3,000 - $4,000 to take their class? And if you need proof that tenured professors have no respect for the CEO, just look at how they helped throw out Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, for a comment that was insufficiently in line with their far-left dogma. College presidents end up doing three things: raising funds for new buildings, making sure the alumni are appeased, and hiring ever more administrators (over whom the President actually has some control).
This is a perfect socialist model: they create a product that doesn’t have to be responsible to customers, and the inmates run the asylum – and yet, they have America duped into accepting this scheme. When I asked Ms. Riley how they’re able to get away with this, she identified two reasons: first, there really is no alternative; and, second, in general, people feel good about universities. The Occupy Wall Street movement is demanding relief from student loans and blaming bankers, but you never see them excoriating their professors or the University for providing a useless degree, having thoroughly soaked the students (and their parents).
One solution proposed by Ms. Riley is to terminate the tenure system and get the professors back in the classroom, but that’s just the beginning. Americans need to grasp the magnitude of the problem and stop giving universities a blank check. When governmental leaders tell Americans about the importance of a college degree, they should also consider the outrageous cost being foisted upon their constituents. Why should the cost of college be increasing, as it is today, at four times or more than the rate of inflation?
We created this problem, principally by allowing these people to run roughshod over us. Alumni pour money into schools, demanding little accountability. Students protest everything from bad nachos to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but don’t demand classes taught by credentialed adults instead of 23-year-old graduate students with no office and no office hours. Parents proudly boast that their kid goes to Highfalutin U, but never question the tuition bill. And, of course, President Obama and the Democrats go after private, for-profit schools while letting the “non-profit” universities get away with anything.
We’ve all played a part in creating this travesty. Now we must start to reverse it because serious ramifications are facing our country.