If Latinos are underrepresented at the University of California, Berkeley, is it because of the stubborn institutional prejudices that also somehow have been trumped by Asian-Americans enrolling at three times their numbers in the state's general population? Are women so oppressed by men that they graduate from college in higher numbers than their chauvinist male counterparts?
Consider also the calcified assumptions about college education. The expanding 1960s campus was touted as the future gateway to a smarter, fairer, richer and more ethical America. Is that dream still valid?
Today, the college-educated owe a collective $1 trillion in unpaid student loans. Millions of recent graduates cannot find jobs that offer much chance of paying off their crushing student debts.
College itself has become a sort of five- to six-year lifestyle choice. Debt, joblessness or occasional part-time employment and coursework eat up a youth's 20s -- in a way that military service or vocational training does not.
In reaction, private diploma mills are springing up everywhere. But there are no "diversity czars" at DeVry University. There is no time or money for the luxury of classes such as "Gender Oppression" at Phoenix University. Students do not have rock-climbing walls or have Michael Moore address them at Heald College.
The private-sector campus makes other assumptions. One is that the hallowed liberal arts general-education requirement has been corrupted and no longer ensures an employer that his college-graduate hire is any more broadly educated or liberally minded than those who paid far less tuition for job-training courses at for-profit alternative campuses.
Scan the government grandees caught up in the current administration's ballooning IRS, Associated Press and Benghazi scandals. In each case, a blue-chip Ivy League degree was no guarantee that our best and brightest technocrats would prove transparent or act honorably. What difference did it make that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice had degrees from prestigious universities when they misled the American people or Congress?
The now-aging idealists of the 1960s long ago promised us that a uniformly degreed citizenry -- shepherded by Ivy League-branded technocrats -- would make America better by sorting us out by differences in age, gender, education and race.
It is now past time to end that ossified dream before it becomes our collective nightmare.