Victor Davis Hanson

American reality has been turned upside down in just 20 years.

Americans no longer count on their news to be filtered and shaped by the Associated Press or the New York Times. Nor do millions have it read to them in the evening by CBS, ABC or NBC anchorpersons -- not with the Internet, cable news and talk radio. Matt Drudge's website, "The Drudge Report," reaches far more Americans than does CBS anchor star Katie Couric.

The old notion that America's most successful citizens are turned out by prestigious four-year universities -- the more private and Ivy League, the better -- overseen by disinterested professors is also nearing an end. Private for-profit trade schools and online colleges are certifying millions in particular skills.

Meanwhile, the high jobless rate among recent college graduates, who are burdened by thousands of dollars in student loans, is starting to resemble the Freddie Mac- and Fannie Mae-spawned financial bubble of 2008, in which millions of indebted and unemployed borrowers could not pay back exorbitant federally insured home loans. The notion that parents are going to keep borrowing $200,000 to certify their children with high-prestige BA degrees that don't necessarily lead to good jobs seems about as wise as buying a sprawling house that one can't afford. James Cameron, Bill Gates, Sean Hannity, Tom Hanks, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Tiger Woods and Mark Zuckerberg all made a good living without earning BAs.

A therapeutic college curricula and hyphenated "studies" courses have not made graduates better-read or more skilled in math and science. For many employers, the rigor of the new BA is scarcely equivalent to that of the old high school diploma. The global warming/climate change/climate chaos "crisis" has reminded Americans that careerist university Ph.Ds can be just as likely to fudge evidence and distort research as political lobbyists. The old blanket respect for academia and academics is eroding.

After the Greek financial fraud and collapse, the European Union identity crisis, and insolvency in California, there will be no more new defined-benefit retirement programs. A shrinking and debt-ridden youth cohort cannot and will not continue to subsidize an expanding and more affluent retired generation. Soon, 65 will be the new 50. We are going to see lots more seniors working well into their 70s.

Few believe that Detroit's problem is too few unionized autoworkers, or that the SEIU has resulted in far better public service and efficiency from government employees. A government conspiracy or an ignorant public does not explain why union membership has now fallen to 12 percent of the American workforce.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.