Paul Greenberg

It's all over but the post-mortems as the politicos and pundits do their endless thing after every election, analyzing and re-analyzing the entrails to explain the results and predict the future.

Who won, who lost? What does it all mean? Each party will try to put the best face it can on confused things. The real winner, as always, will be hubris. Much the same triumphant declarations that were made after the Millennium arrived two years ago with the presidential election may now be made by the opposite but equally over-excited party. The more things change ... the more they must be rehashed.

All that's really happened, as it regularly does in midterm elections, is that the political pendulum has swung back once again in an attempt to keep the ship of state from listing too far to one side.

Despite all the hoopla as the returns poured in, a far more important, and formative, election was held here in Arkansas weeks ago -- part of a disturbing national trend. It took place on Thursday, October 14, on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Last week's midterms may determine the country's course for the next a couple of years, but this vote could shape a couple of generations.

Because in this referendum, the faculty of the university's college of arts and sciences decided to hollow out its curriculum. By a 2-to-1 vote -- 75 to 37 -- the faculty agreed with the administration to cut the core requirements for undergraduate students from 66 credit hours to only 35, or just about in half.

Why? To assure that the university will grant more degrees. Never mind whether the degree will be worth as much in the future; what counts is the degree itself, the paper credential, the sheer number of college graduates in the state, not how well they're educated. A degree is a degree, right? Who'll know the difference?

What matters isn't the quality of the education a student may receive, but the number of diplomas granted. Because the more degrees per capita, the more economic development. The statistics and graphs and pie charts and PowerPoints all say so. The more degrees, the higher per capita income. Correlation is causation!

So let's churn out more degrees and the state will prosper. This theory is also known as ignorance is bliss. There are few things more frightening, as Goethe noted, than ignorance in action. Unless it is assuring that future generations will be more ignorant still.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.