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The Self-Defeat of Academia

These last few years have been tough for higher education. Enrollment is down year after year, state funding increases have stalled even as costs skyrocket, and most people don’t have much confidence overall in American colleges and universities.

The standard explanation within academia for these trends is that the relentless drumbeat of criticism of universities from right-wing media have combined with increasing anti-intellectualism in the US to erode public perceptions of the value of higher education. Attacks from conservative media have increased, focused in particular on the well-established liberal bias in higher ed, so the partisan divide in perceptions of universities is not surprising.

But right-wing attacks on the academy and its denizens are only part of the story. A closer look at the data shows that a sizeable number of liberals are dissatisfied with higher education. Besides, focusing only on partisan media places the responsibility for recent downward trends in enrolment, funding, and public opinion outside of academia. We – professors and administrators in higher education – need to accept our role in these trends. Only by confronting how we contribute to our deteriorating public image can we reverse it.

If the right-wing media attacks on universities amount to a public relations battle, then we are clearly on the losing side. We’re barely even putting up a fight. The reluctance to make the case for our value to society goes back to a very different time, when we could take public support for granted. But things have changed. There’s a lot more ambivalence now about whether higher education improves the lives of graduates and is beneficial to society as a whole.

So we need to play catch up. We academics need to do a much better job of actually contributing to society and telling people about our contributions. To be sure, not all of the trends in public support are within our control. Sweeping changes in the structure of the economy, the nature of political discourse, and the way people access and use information also have eroded the once-widespread belief that the American university system is an indispensable pillar of society. But we would be foolish to continue stubbornly laying the blame entirely at the feet of others.

We need to take our obligation to society more seriously. We need to make social impact the starting point of our work rather than something we say will happen later, be done by someone else, or magically happen on its own. More than that, we need to fundamentally shift how we think about ourselves in relation to the rest of the world. We have a tendency toward “academic exceptionalism,” as though our jobs were not work and our work need not address reality. We have forgotten that the privileges granted to us by society, in tenure and our intellectual freedoms and academic lifestyle, come in exchange for the value we are expectedly to produce. In part, the declines in public support and confidence are what happens when we don’t hold up our end of the bargain.

There are countless ways to update our approach to achieving and communicating social impact. I’ve identified three that are particularly urgent and ready for widespread implementation.

Research

We can start by improving both the quality and the content of our research. Some of the quality improvements are underway. For example, there is an exciting movement within the sciences to use more open and reproducible methods that facilitate transparency and data sharing. Other improvements that have yet to be made but are on the horizon are larger samples and ones that better represent the population, more precise statistical tools, and research approaches that will be easier to scale and adapt outside of academia.

In contrast, the content of the science has yet to face a parallel revolution. The liberal bias in social science research has already received quite a bit of attention. But far less ink has been spilled over the much larger problem of practicality. Academic research is famously, well, academic. The problem is beyond parody in some areas. In my field of social psychology, for example, we spent an unseemly amount time debating whether the smell of artificial fart spray alters people’s moral judgments. We are still debating whether forcing people to hold a pencil between their teeth makes them feel happy.

There are real scientific questions to be answered in cases like these, but that is part of the problem. We’re too easily drawn into prolonged battles over territory that has no strategic value. As the expression goes, academic fights are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

Part of the problem here is the incentive structure. We are rewarded for staking out and exploiting new intellectual territory no matter how obscure, and nothing prevents whole fields from splintering into a thousand warring tribes clashing over those faraway lands in the pages of speciality journals. Many successful tenure cases have been made because of these skirmishes.

We can address the niche-interest problem by making our research address topics of interest to people outside academia. We need to speak to the world, not just each other. That means choosing research projects that are informed by and speak to social issues and public health. As with research quality, there needs to be a shift in norms around research content. Some fields have already gotten there. The rest of us need to get on board with the idea that research is for society, not academia.

The usual retort is that so-called basic science has impact later in unexpected ways. That is true, but much less often than we realize and only because some other researchers took the trouble to apply those basic discoveries to practical applications. We can reject the false dichotomy of “basic versus applied” research and simply do both.

Undergraduate Education

For all the rigors of our research, it is ironic that we are willing to take it on blind faith that what we do in the classroom is effective. Even among professors who put concrete learning goals in their course syllabi, only a rare few bother to measure whether those goals are met. Student evaluations are not related to learning, and grades are not a good index of how much students learned because they depend on so many other factors. So we’re flying blind. Because we do not know whether our students learn the knowledge and skills we tried to teach them, we simply have no way to effectively improve our teaching to address weak spots. Many of us teach by trial and error with no clear standard for success.

The problem exists at the level of the university degree, too. University mission statements talk about highfalutin ideals like generating and applying knowledge, altering lives, and changing the world. You might think, then, that universities go to great lengths to track how well their students and alumni live up to those standards. But you’d be wrong. How do universities know they are succeeding in their missions? How do we know our graduates’ successes aren’t due to the selective admission of people who are bright, motivated, and capable to begin with? We don’t.

Perhaps we’re reluctant to seriously evaluate our teaching because we fear what we will find. Most faculty at research universities might generously be described as hobbiest educators. We teach a lot, but very few of us have formal training in it. Pedagogy is not a standard part of most doctoral programs, and most universities do not require faculty to get training in or use evidence-based teaching practices.

It is time to start taking our teaching mission much more seriously. We should restructure how we educate our doctoral students in pedagogy and develop doctoral programs in field-specific teaching. Some fields have this already (for example, you can get a degree in language education), but there are almost none in the sciences. If a doctoral student wants to go into teaching, say, at a liberal arts college, then that person’s graduate training should focus on teaching more than research. We need to let go of the fantasy that learning to become a good researcher will necessarily train someone to teach that research to others.

We need to elevate the status of adjunct faculty, who do the bulk of the teaching, to have co-equal status with tenured faculty within existing programs. The work of these full-time teachers needs to be funded and supported to the same degree as that of the full-time researchers. If teaching and research are both pillars of our mission, then that priority should be represented in how we hire personnel and assign them credit. We need tenure-track teaching as well as research positions.

And we need to actually evaluate whether our efforts in the classroom and in the degree programs are achieving their intended ends. That means clearly articulating what we are trying to do, measuring progress toward those goals, and adapting our practices in areas were we fall short.

Impact and Outreach

Attitudes toward engaging with the public about research range from ambivalence to hostility. On one end, many researchers want to reach lay audiences but are scared because they haven’t done it before and have no training. On the other, some feel that outreach is premature when scientific evidence is inconclusive (i.e., always). Yet these attitudes simply reveal that we have failed to train researchers adequately in science communication. They also reveal the ways we could improve.

The first change is obvious: just like teaching, science communication needs to become a core component of doctoral training programs in the sciences. We need to train researchers not only how to communicate but also how to evaluate whether that communication is effective. And, as with teaching, there is also an academic literature on this topic that we should be integrating into our training and practice. The job of a scientist must evolve to encompass directly communicating about research to broad lay audiences.

The second change is more ambitious. We need to reorient our whole approach to science communication. The current model is for communication to be serial and unidirectional: we (scientists) discover a fact, verify it, then announce it to the world in a (usually paywalled) peer-reviewed journal. Instead, communication should be fluid and bidirectional, and more focused on the scientific process rather than outcomes. When a reporter calls to ask about a study, tell her what the field knows and what it does not, what it is doing to bridge the gap, and explain why doing so is important. Ask her what information she needs to cover the topic in question. Accept the reality that, as a member of the media, she represents the patrons of our work.

Any changes we make must embrace the idea that science communication is part of our job. Knowledge production is useless without knowledge dissemination. For too long, we’ve tipped the scales of our training and practice toward the former to the neglect of the latter. It’s time to rebalance.

Inevitable decline?

The decline in public funding for research and education has been gradual, but at this point the long-term trend is unmistakable. We are nearing a tipping point where the old model for funding public education – a blend of state support, tuition, and donations – will become unsustainable. There are no indications the trends will stop, and even if they did hold where they are now we would still be facing a radically different world. One way or another, academia will experience major structural shifts in the coming decades.

We need to change the way we’re doing business. Many of my faculty colleagues won’t want to hear this message. We are quite comfortable in our ivory tower, thank you very much. There are enough alternative factors contributing to the decline that we can fool ourselves into thinking we have no part in it. Ignoring our role amounts to fiddling away while the tower slowly collapses around us. Instead, we can start making changes now so we can shape the new academic order.

 

Elliot Berkman is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon and Director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. He also manages Berkman Consultants, a research and consulting firm specializing in motivation and behavior change. He receives funding from the National Institutes of Health and is on Twitter as @Psychologician.

 

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121 Comments

  1. Wait, no a single word about the toxic elephant, i mean brontosaurus, in the room?

    • Michael Overlake says

      The elephant is that “higher education” is now “mediocristan.” The few institutions and departments, primarily in the hard sciences, are exceptions afloat in a sea of mediocrity.

      in 1940 US colleges trained a cognitive elite comprising the 5% of the national population whom, by age 25, were degreed. Today, some 30% are degreed by age 25, many whom graduate thoroughly uneducated.

      Not only are today’s students largely a mediocre lot but their instructors are as well. It’s a problem of numbers: there aren’t enough high IQ lecturers or researchers for the necessary slots.

      The stultifying intellectual and political conformity of the masses of professors and students is only a symptom of a mediocre population in need of simple verities and simple signs of peer approval to get along in a complex world.

      I lay the blame first on government funding. US federal loan guarantees began in 1965 and the college population growth chart skewed upward immediately. All that extra money made it possible to build more buildings, hire more staff and fill more seats. What it could not do was expand the cognitive elite.

      And the brightest? They spend as little time as possible there, of course. They get the bare minimum education or certification required and get the hell out. They don’t hang around and they don’t return. That’s what today’s brightest have been doing their entire lives when faced with mediocre classroom education, beginning in primary school.

      Absent the brightest, mediocre colleges remain free to perpetuate mediocracy. Mediocre
      professors and researchers stay behind, comfortable in their mediocre departments, writing mediocre papers that no one reads and making mediocre political pronouncements that entertain the masses.

      I think it can only grow worse, given the vast rivers of cash support these institutions enjoy.

      • @ Michael Overlake

        “And the brightest? They spend as little time as possible there, of course. They get the bare minimum education or certification required and get the hell out. They don’t hang around and they don’t return. That’s what today’s brightest have been doing their entire lives when faced with mediocre classroom education, beginning in primary school.”

        Evidence? Sounds like made up from you.

        “Absent the brightest, mediocre colleges remain free to perpetuate mediocracy. Mediocre
        professors and researchers stay behind”

        As does this.

        • Miguel Nuria says

          Just because evidence is anecdotal does not stop it being true. In UK in the 70s-80s there were many people who’d have loved to pursue an academic career for the interest alone but because they are bright enough they can earn at least 2-3 times more in commerce and generally put their families first. Now that academia has lost much of its rigor and credibility the gap is larger – 4-5 times or more. This suggests a vicious circle with the egg-heads racing to the bottom, so when the trend reverses i expect we’ll see a lot less of them.

          • @ Miguel Nuria

            ” Now that academia has lost much of its rigor and credibility ”

            Says who? This isn’t just about being anecdotal. I do not accept that at all. You cannot make such a sweeping statements and offer up nothing as evidence. And try to brush past with this:

            “Just because evidence is anecdotal does not stop it being true”

      • Peter from Oz says

        ”The stultifying intellectual and political conformity of the masses of professors and students is only a symptom of a mediocre population in need of simple verities and simple signs of peer approval to get along in a complex world.”

        Spot on.

      • Peter from Oz says

        ”I lay the blame first on government funding. US federal loan guarantees began in 1965 and the college population growth chart skewed upward immediately. All that extra money made it possible to build more buildings, hire more staff and fill more seats. What it could not do was expand the cognitive elite.”
        Kingsley Amis looked at the same thing in Britain and made the famous and apt comment: more means less.

      • Rosenmops says

        The 5% being educated in 1940 wasn’t necessarily the brightest 5% of the population. Some of that 5% would have been mediocre rich kids. And there were no doubt some very bright students who could not afford university. Things became more fair after WW2, and when student loans were introduced.

        However I do agree there are now lots of students at university who would be better off in trade school.

      • ata777 says

        I think it would be extremely useful for colleges to have “skin in the game” with regard to the student loan crisis–as in underwriting 20% of student loan defaults, 100% of which are currently underwritten by taxpayers. Then, if they wish to be citadels of leftist indoctrination, driven by the overwhelming expansion of diversity bureaucracies and loan guarantees that drive up tuition costs, all well and good. Let them turn out as many “grievance” majors as they wish. And when those students can’t meet their loan payments because they haven’t learned any worthwhile skills, most of the problem will be solved “in house,” as it were.

    • Martin28 says

      You may mean leftist bias, but I think the elephant in the living room is postmodernism, which is the rot that has spread through the academy since the 1970s.

      • yandoodan says

        @Martin28 Funny you should mention the 1970s. This article discusses the issues we were discussing in my graduate school, forty years ago. Postmodernism is now the orthodoxy and the dogma in my old department, and in Prof. Berkman’s department too, I bet. If I was cynical I’d suspect that this article is deliberately crafted to distract us from widespread postmodernist abuses. Good thing I’m not cynical!

        • The Hero's Journey says

          I’m not so sure the author is trying to distract us from Postmodernism @yandoodan. My guess is his Psych dept hasn’t been infested. Probably fairly rigorous, which does tend to keep them at bay.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if he has *skirted* the subject though. No sense in getting on the bad side of a whinging entitled religious lynch mob, and he probably is expecting some business card action from this article. Resume building at least. (Check the lowbar.)

          If his department *was* infested, my guess is he’d be writing both sides… but with a pseudonym.

          • yandoodan says

            @The Hero’s Journey. I like your call-out to Joseph Campbell. It made me realize that many, many intelligent people’s contact with Postmodernism is a Hero’s Journey, a descent into the Underworld. Maybe Jordan Peterson is the Mentor.

    • Phil Rooney says

      $$$$$$$. Too much admin, government guaranteed money, a destroyed price discovery mechanism as a result. Indentured debt servitude foisted on a generation to secure and enrich the bottom 99% of mediocre self rightous post-modernist aging hippy boomer cranks with PhD’s, who claim moral superiority while screwing their generational children by lying to them about being able to be anything they want to be even if they don’t have the requesit IQ (while feeling morally superior about it), all in order to get them to go to college so they can get that up front government guaranteed money in the form of that indentured debt servitude, and continue to wank their way through life doing useless mastabatory research and squabbling over nothing. While the other 1% of the best academics do 99% of the meaningful research. Maybe it’s all necessary, but the successes of the early university system before it got corrupted by government intervention in the form of guaranteed money for political purposes lead me to believe it’s not.

      • Phil Rooney says

        In other words @elliotberkman. That was a bunch of intellectual wanking (good ideas nevertheless), ignoring the root cause of all the problems you identified. If we want to attack the root, we need to get rid of the government guarantee, and ensure that the universities and their financiers face the consequences of failure (banks will quickly learn not to lend to garbage institutions who can’t teach and admit unqualified students that don’t generate successful graduates). Rather quickly everyone will get really good at ensuring they hire the right staff, train them properly, admit the right students, teach them properly, evaluate their work, and finally conduct useful research which would justify intelligent government funding or lead to commercial viable private sector businesses and the accompanied private sector funding, because if they don’t make those adjustments, they fail. We don’t live in a risk free world, and we sure as hell made a mistake trying to create one in the academy. How can the place so critical for the forward progress of the real world not mirror it in terms of the risk landscape which guides the allocation of resources, both human and financial?

  2. Justin Nodwell says

    That’s a whole lot of rhetoric over nothing – a few good questions are posed but they are answered in a very narrow and willfully ignorant manner.

    There are many problems however the biggest of them is that we have flooded the universities with students who do not benefit from university education. It has become expected that kids go, even if they don’t want to and regardless of whether it’s going to help them on their way to careers etc. In fact, universities are funded on the basis of numbers of students admitted and not on their impact – so, unsurprisingly, many university programs have become sausage factories.

    But universities most definitely do care about their impact – for example, please see:

    http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/about/Pages/10,000-PhDs-Project.aspx

    • Bill says

      Clarifying from my point of view — your point about we’ve flooded the universities. Not only have we flooded them with students who should not be there (and don’t need to be — we’ve eliminated vocational education) but then we’ve also manufactured degree fields with NO economic value solely to create areas where these very students have a chance to demonstrate success (even if it is only meeting some rubric grading standard and getting a piece of paper they will never earn enough to pay off).

      Today’s undergrad degree is yesteryear’s high school diploma. It no longer provides the “value” it did in the past because it is commoditized. Very similar to the problem discussed by Carr in Does IT Matter many years ago which pointed out that while IT was a differentiator initially, it is now ubiquitous so it no longer differentiates.

      • Justin Nodwell says

        “Economic value: is not what university degrees, historically, are about and it was certainly not what they were for in the golden days you refer to above. They are about learning how to think. You might be interested to know that the job prospects are the same for humanities, social sciences and science graduates. That is, they are excellent.

      • Justin Nodwell says

        Though I think I mixed you up with someone else…nevertheless, point is worth making…

  3. It is time to turn to globalization for higher education. There are many universities in Asia especially (China, Taiwan, S. Korea) which now offer internationally accredited programs in English and scholarship to international students. I was a guinea pig to one of those early PhD international programs in Taiwan but I received scholarship and got a doctorate from an AACSB accredited program. I’m sure there is room for more and there are great benefits to having an international experience. For those interested in studying abroad at good universities throughout Asia you can start here: http://tafs.mofa.gov.tw/SchDetailed.aspx?loc=en&ItemId=15

      • Bill says

        For every one good international university, there are 1000 degree mills. Just like for every 1 good offshore resource, you get 1000 with a made up resume and no experience at all.

        • I think there is a big difference among getting a degree from a university abroad and offshoring or outsourcing higher education. I’m simply implying if it can be done at home it can be done somewhere else, just like everything else these days.

        • I recruited for decades with a large international independent oilco. I never hired a graduate from even a ‘prestigious’ US engineering university because they could not complete with British, European and in later years with Chinese and Indian engineering graduates in the technical basics, nor in hunger for a job (American graduates seemed to feel an entitlement to employment). I don’t speculate “why” that was. But it was real. I live in California, and its public schools consistently rank academically in the bottom 25% nationally. Our US colleges and universities are one thing. Across the nation the feeders into our higher education institutions are turning-out millions upon millions of young people that cannot do the basic 3-Rs. I attribute that to state and federal government bureaucracies run by political hacks who are not in the game for the sake of education, and to militant, politicized certified and classified unionism.

      • Justin Nodwell says

        agreed – that is not the answer to anything.

      • If you want an education but can’t afford it would you rather not get one? It works for a lot of people, doesn’t have to work for you or everyone! Many Americans get their degrees offshore.. What’s wrong with that?

    • Rosenmops says

      China needs to fix its massive corruption problems that runs all through its society including its universities.

      • couldn’t agree more, but be honest and tell me US doesn’t have them. besides, if one university in china offered you the same quality of education or better than a city college in USA along with a scholarship while in the US many can’t even afford a city college, what would you do? besides, I never studied in China so I have no idea what is like. Don’t confuse Taiwan with China like most of the world does!

  4. Peter from Oz says

    Could the fact that American universities are wasting so much money on administrators, especially diversicrats, have something to do with the decline in quality of colleges?
    The left made the long march through the institutions, but in doing so made them far less desirable and respected than they were under the old regime.

    • I chuckled as this notion: “We need to make social impact the starting point of our work”
      No, the starting point is teaching useful information to the next generation. If you think education is social impact rather than imparting wisdom, knowledge and critical thinking skills, you are the problem.

      • Peter from Oz says

        david of k

        I agree. What’s wrong with a little learning?
        I’m reminded of the story of Dustin Hoffman and Larry Olivier on the set of Marathon Man Hoffman, upon being asked by his co-star how a previous scene had gone, one in which Hoffmann’s character had supposedly stayed up for three days, Hoffmann admitted that he too had not slept for 72 hours to achieve emotional verisimilitude. “My dear boy,” replied Olivier smoothly, “why don’t you just try acting?”
        Too many people seem to miss the point in life, don’t they?

      • I like your definition better, although I think social impact and teaching useful information isn’t that different. Wisdom, knowledge and critical thinking are a positive social contributions.

        I presume the author’s emphasis on academia’s social impact comes from the opposing tendency for it to be increasingly isolated in theoretical ivory towers, using up millions of dollars but having little to show for it. In this context, it’s not harmful to call them to account and wonder if that money is well spent.

        Some fields of academia, especially the arts and humanities, seem to take questions of usefulness as an insult. I think it depends on what ‘usefulness’ means – it doesn’t necessarily have to take on a quantitative yardstick. Fields such as art history and literature may not be directly economically useful – they’re not inventing anything – but what their students learn and know are culturally important and that too can be a contribution.

  5. ga gamba says

    You’d be better off sacking a lot of the administrators. Look around. Whilst tenured positions have stagnated the growth of admin has exploded. Once you have built some momentum winning those fights then prune the studies departments. And for God’s sake, stop awarding advanced degrees for autoethnographies.

    • Truthseeker says

      ga gamba has it exactly right. Get rid of the administrators and stop funding communist ideology using the future earnings of your students. Elliot Burkman, stop your whining and take responsibility for the mess that the universities have created for themselves. The only diversity that matters is diversity of thought. The only equality that matters is the equality of opportunity. The only inclusivity that matters is the inclusivity of temperament. Teach students how to think, not what to think. Stand up to zealotry and take those who are sacrificing future income to learn actual skills into very unsafe intellectual spaces. Don’t blame others for your lack of intellectual courage.

      Elliot, in short, do your job.

    • TRUE. University admin is cancer. A proper audit will prove it. The amount of waste and harmful interference with objective learning is gigantic. Cut, cut, cut. After that, cut the cult programs (Critical X Studies), etc., etc.

      • But what to do about striking marching whining students who demand more administration to deal with “diversity?”

        What universities need are strict codes of conduct. They need to send a message by expelling these kids. The problem is, today they’re considered clients, and the customer is always right.

        • Concerned Citizen says

          “What universities need are strict codes of conduct. They need to send a message by expelling these kids. The problem is, today they’re considered clients, and the customer is always right.”

          Spot on.

        • Knollan says

          Better to somehow show them that this is not the way. Marching and whining are freedoms of speech but as soon as they interfere with other students ability to go to class and learn: there needs to be consequences.

        • True enough, but the leftists actually have a point when they complain that colleges are being ran like businesses. Students will say they’re taking out huge loans and their needs aren’t being met.

          There are a number of things that can be done, for example, private schools can refuse all government money. Hillsdale and other such institutions don’t accept government loans so they don’t have to meet any mandate whatsoever, diversity quotas or otherwise.

          The university bureaucracy or sludgocracy is so vast and deep that short of a cataclysmic event (great depression 2, war with China, Civil war 2…. you get the pic) nothing will stop it from rolling on and collecting more debris along the way.

          Likely what will happen is the same thing that has always happened in the US… disruption. As we speak there are numerous movements going on seeking alternative replacements for college. They’re not necessarily underground but are not well known in the mainstream and some are collecting a little steam.
          Also, when you have books come out like Bryan Caplan’s “The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money” https://www.amazon.com/Case-against-Education-System-Waste/dp/0691174652
          more of these alt-education ideas will start creating momentum. That’s one thing the US still excels at is disrupting huge markets and creating alternatives (for better usually, sometimes worse). It’s already happened with charter schools, no matter how much or loudly teacher unions yell, nothing will stop them from spreading everywhere.

          Besides, the only thing holding the university system together is consent. It’s not mandated by government that anyone hold a degree for anything. There is only medical boards, law boards ect… Of course everyone obviously wants a highly skilled surgeon and things like that but for a lot of other skills and specialties conventional degrees are not necessary, they’re just signifiers to employers. That’s one of the things the disrupters are focusing on. Anyway, read Caplans book, look into the University disrupters and know that Big Collages days are numbered, they will go the way of the railroads, taxi’s, public education, ect….

        • Diploma mills are a dime a dozen… well, not exactly, they may cost a fortune in some cases.. the problem is, they’re everywhere! How do you suggest we close some of them down? OK, I was generous, a lot of them need to close!

      • estepheavfm,
        I agree completely. Far to many administrators. They do far more harm than good. Sometimes it seems as if the lunatics are running the asylum.

    • They are part of the administrative state, the part that says we must have equal outcomes from a diverse population that has distinct interests, skills, needs, wants and ability to think and work diligently. The more you regulate, control and fund education, the less free and less educated people become. Social sciences are hardly science, because if they were, they’d be able to analyze what happened to Germany, Vietnam, Korea when split between free capitalists and communists, as a single culture was forced into two camps, with the Marxists losing terribly on all counts, yet somehow there’s a pretense that the winner and losers were not representative of the reality between these schools of thought.

    • Justin Nodwell says

      That’s a common misconception – there may be more admin than necessary but it’s not the cause of the financial problems. At least in North America, the funding of public universities has been cut by 60-75 % since the 1980s.

      • Peter from Oz says

        ”At least in North America, the funding of public universities has been cut by 60-75 % since the 1980s.”
        And yet many more people attend college today than in the 80s.

      • ga gamba says

        You wrote: the funding of public universities has been cut by 60-75 % since the 1980s.

        The federal government also supports higher education through the tax code. For example, in 1990 this amounted to about $2 billion. In 2013, it provided $31 billion in tax credits, deductions, exemptions, and exclusions to offset costs, essentially equal to the $31 billion it spent for Pell Grants. Because these expenditures allow taxpayers to reduce their income taxes, they reduce federal revenue and are similar to direct government spending. Does your “cut in funding” include or exclude these tax credits?

        I’m also a bit curious of the source of the claimed decline. Moody’s, who rates the states’ bonds and therefore examines the books, says state funding of tertiary education has fallen from 14 to 12 per from the 1980s to 2015, which is a decrease of about 14.25%. Obviously this an average of 50 states; some have cut much more and others less. Iowa’s spending on tertiary education is was 26% of the budget in 2015, Washington’s was 14%, and Missouri’s was only 5%.

        If you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find an interactive map of each state’s budget to include tertiary education, www(dot)cnbc(dot)com/2015/06/16/why-college-costs-are-so-high-and-rising.html

        … since the 1980s.

        I think it’s important to look at what what was happening to tertiary education prior to the 1980s.

        Professor of law Paul F. Campos at the University of Colorado writes:

        As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in 2015 dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.

        And what followed the boomers? A much smaller population of the next generation. I think this chart shows well what happened. In 1965 there were about 4m students in public schools of higher learning. By 1980 the number increased to 9.5m – a 138% increase. Remember: “By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years.” In 1960 477,000 degrees were awarded; in 1980 it was 1.75 million – in increase of 267%. During this era many existing schools had to invest in facilities and hire faculty, and this was a period with an easier path to tenure with its accompanying good salaries and benefits; many teachers’ (normal) colleges grew into full-blown universities; California created the community college system beginning in 1960 which required significant investment in land and facilities and many other states followed. Look at public enrollment through the 1980s; it increased 9.6%. From 1981 to 2018 it increased 53%. With new technologies, schools are able to accommodate more students in cost-effective ways, such as online learning. In 2017, about 15% of all students attend exclusively online.

        Campos adds: An analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 – a 221 percent increase.

        Is that 221% increase his misconception too?

        According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

        As allocation of public funds to tertiary institutions decreased, why would senior administrators, who I presume to be of above-average intelligence, significantly increase the the number of administrators? Did the legislatures forget to tell uni presidents their budgets were being cut?

        Forbes reports: “Between 1993 and 2007, total university expenses rose 35% [which is lower than inflation of 43% for the same period]. But administration expenses rose a whopping 61% and instruction expenses rose 39%. While enrollment rose between 1993 and 2007 by 14.5%, administrators employed per 100 students rose nearly 40% and spending on administration per student rose by 66%.

        I think unis were able to control instruction expense by increasing the number of adjuncts employed.

        Inside Higher Ed reported: Public four-year colleges are using the savings in instructional costs from relying on adjuncts to increase spending on other areas — namely maintenance, administrative and student-services staff. And this study (pdf) details the growth of adjuncts, a.k.a. contingent faculty.

        • Farris says

          Beware when those who drink from the public trough claim their budgets have been cut. Here is the typical meaning by way of example. The budget for higher education is projected to grow by 3% per annum. In a subsequent year the budget only grows by 2%. Causing the recipients to exclaim their budget has been slashed by 33%. Bureaucrat math.

  6. Jack B Nimble says

    ‘…….. Enrollment is down year after year, state funding increases have stalled even as costs skyrocket, and most people don’t have much confidence overall in American colleges and universities…..’

    There is a lot of info packed into this sentence, and some of it is misleading. For example, over the past decade, state funding for my former university and other public campuses declined by a cumulative 53%, unadjusted for inflation. That is not a misprint–funding in my state for public higher ed never rebounded after the national economy started to recover in 2009-2010. You have to look at the state-by-state figures to get the real picture. How did public campuses in my state cope with a 53% cut? Staff cuts (and faculty flight), tuition hikes, deferred maintenance, etc. That’s what dominated hallway discussions at my former institution, not politics.

    Similarly, the national enrollment data upon closer inspection show that the decline in numbers is mostly due to declines at for-profit colleges [that’s a good thing!], private and religious affiliated colleges and 2-year public colleges. Four-year public universities, like the one Dr. Berkman teaches at, show a slight but consistent enrollment increase over the period 2014-2017.

    Bottom Line–right-wing attacks on universities, like attacks on labor unions, are nothing new. These attacks have been part of the right-wing playbook for the past 100 years or so. Dr. Berkman’s recommendations have merit, but they won’t cause the right wing to abandon their playbook.

    • You have no one to blame buy yourselves Jack. You turned the universities into left wing activist factories. It is any surprise that the right has decided to pull the lever to starve these partisan factory of tax funds? The universities have put themselves into a position where they echo one brand of politics when their funding is dependent on bi-partisan support. Reap. Sow.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @OptimusSpime

        It’s amusing how you mention activism and partisanship only on the left. The budget cuts I referred to were the work of an ideologically-driven former Republican governor who basically hated the public sector:

        Public hospitals — privatize them, fire state employees
        Public schools — voucherize them, also destroy teacher tenure
        Public parks and roads — neglect maintenance, partially close, fire employees
        Public agencies like Motor Vehicles & Corrections — partially privatize, raise fees
        Public colleges and universities — I’ve already told that story….

        Why the across-the-board budget cuts when the economy was improving after 2010? Well, the ideologically-driven governor wanted to give huge tax cuts to corporations, many of whom contributed to his political campaigns. How huge? Some corporations went from owing many millions of dollars in income taxes before 2010 to getting million-dollar tax refunds and credits after 2010. That is why the state budget cratered–it was nothing personal against universities or professors. The governor just needed to find state money to write huge government checks to the private sector.

        • Jack B Nimble, one of the most important points raised by this piece is the lack of teaching skills. In our household we all hold degrees and some postgraduate degrees. We also host foreign university students. One question I have asked of those in our household is how many of your lecturers are good and how many are inspirational. The former, usually a few, the latter usually not at all. There’s the nub of the problem.

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @Ian

            That’s a good point, but I don’t see any easy solutions, and cutting budgets won’t help. Here are 2 quick reasons why:

            Many departments–including my own–have had to turn to foreign applicants to fill some faculty vacancies [in my former dept, that’s roughly 1/3]. The salaries and benefits on offer are just not attractive to US-born top-tier academics, and of course many would-be PhDs in the US have gone off to Wall Street, etc. Foreign-born professors can be stellar teachers, of course, but often strong cultural and language barriers are problematic for undergraduate students.

            Also, budget cuts mean that research universities have put strong pressure on faculty, even those nearing retirement, to secure substantial outside funding. Grant writing and then grant administration take large amounts of time, which sometimes comes at the expense of lecture preparation, etc. Every academic has at least one story of a colleague who was turned down for tenure because they didn’t have enough grants and publications on their CV, even though they were great teachers.

            One solution might be to hire more adjunct faculty to teach 100% of the time, but that bumps up against another problem that Dr. Berkman identified–elevating the status of adjunct faculty takes more money, not less.

            Bottom Line — no one in academia has any real idea how to fix these problems. I certainly don’t.

          • @ Ian

            “One question I have asked of those in our household is how many of your lecturers are good and how many are inspirational. The former, usually a few, the latter usually not at all.”

            This is just weak. And you stretch the credulity with this:

            “In our household we all hold degrees and some postgraduate degrees. We also host foreign university students.”

          • This is part of the problem. A high IQ curious person does not need an instructor that can stand up there and entertain, or in your words be “inspirational.” Back in the day students would show up eager to learn, not eager to be indoctrinated by a charismatic leftist.

    • Burlats de Montaigne says

      Evergreen is not a victim of “right wing attacks”, Its troubles are entirely self inflicted but like all apologists for bat-shit crazy Marxist “progressivism”, everything is always someone else’s fault.

    • peanut gallery says

      This may surprise you, but not everyone critical of the state of higher education is Right Wing. Something to chew on.

    • Fallacy Alert Bot Meatbag Adjunct (aka The Hero's Journey) says

      “Bottom Line — right wing attacks on [pedophiles,] like attacks on [serial rapists,] are nothing new.”

      FALLACY ALERT BOT ALERT ALERT
      FALLACY ALERT BOT ALERT ALERT
      FALLACY ALERT BOT, ALERTING MEATBAGS TO FALLACIES
      YOU ARE WEL-COME HU-MON

      You don’t have to be a right-winger to see that the Social “Sciences,” loan programs & resultant administrator creep + climbing wall’itis have been an absolute fucking disaster….

      ,,.just like you don’t have to be a right-winger to dislike chomos and rapists. I am just a plain old social Liberal (we’re the guys for universal medicare AND free speech which includes hate speech, just so ya know) and I can’t stand chomos, rapists, college administrator fiefdom leeches, & professors who try to indoctrinate their students 8 suppress free discussion in their classes. All total trash.

      The latter 2 are just as evil, by the way. They’re not as evil case-by-case… but their evil SCALES. Every evil counts in large amounts.

      I bet the Social “Sciences” welcomed you, ’cause you CLEARLY have some skin in that sick game.

      Fear not though. Fallacy Alert Bot Meatbag Adjunct is here to help.

  7. Universities are now run for the benefit of the administrative staff and not for the benefit of the students or the academics. The only real change in output over the last few decades seems to be that the student activists are at the same time better groomed but far less intellectually resilient.

  8. andrewilliamson says

    Bryan Caplan makes a pretty persuasive case that public funding of higher education, from society’s perspective, is largely a waste. And from the individual’s perspective, almost all the value of higher education comes from senior year and earning the diploma, which is a market signal. The education itself – except in hard sciences, engineering, and a few other subjects – is rarely of any use in the person’s future job.Adding administration and upgrading facilities just makes colleges more like country clubs – which makes it increasingly hard to justify the price tag they’re asking for, unless the college’s name is widely known.

  9. Chris says

    Thank you, Elliott, for speaking out.

    This post seems to represent the pinnacle of plain-spoken self-criticism among the liberal left of the English speaking world. That is perhaps the most frightening aspect of it.

    This is more than the self-defeat of academia – it is the self defeat of the countries of the west by their academic communities. In all areas except, possibly, the hard science and engineering faculties, it appears that a political bias is denying and continues to deny tertiary education and employment to anyone who does not convincingly express commitment to left-liberal policies and politics.

    The author admits to the existence of a left wing bias as if that were an appropriate term to describe
    self reported left-liberal political affiliation among staff ans students of between 10:1 and 43:1. This betrays the existence of an exclusive political monoculture.

    The author describes many of the affected areas as sciences and bemoans right wing attacks, and losing a PR war for the lack of public confidence in the results of this enterprise. Most of what we are suffering is not science but the attempt to validate political dogma as science and the premature application of these ‘results’ to re-engineer our societies.

    This matters! When bad science is used to engineer a bridge or a plane or a medicine, people die. When false science is used to re-engineer societies, people hurt and kill each other.

    Sadly, the author’s three fixes: research, undergraduate education and impact and outreach, may do more harm than good. Probably they were meant well but:

    Little better science will result from the current staff with their religiously held beliefs.

    Better indoctrinating our next generation to accept current falsehoods is just plain wrong.

    Improving PR and marketing awareness to indoctrinate adults may just break the spell.

    It is hard to overstate the scope of the problem. This is not a flash in the pan. University administrations have been tolerating no-platforming for over two generations. For much of that time many of their graduates have been selected from the population, indoctrinated by staff and peer contact and examined, for political correctness as well as suitability for and expertise in their degree topic. These people now occupy middle and senior management positions in journalism, communications and media, law, jurisprudence, and all other branches of the state including, of course, education.

    A cynic like me might draw an analogy between academia and a parasite on the body politic: a parasite that does not just weaken it’s host, like head lice, but one that causes the host to self harm, like toxoplasmosis.

    I offer my apologies to, and sympathy with those offended by this comment, who have been swept up in this movement when they just wanted an education.

    • Maureen says

      I want to shout, “Bravo!” at so many of these comments, but especially this one. Thank you!

    • josh says

      @Chris “In all areas except, possibly, the hard science and engineering faculties, it appears that a political bias is denying and continues to deny tertiary education and employment to anyone who does not convincingly express commitment to left-liberal policies and politics.”

      This is simply nonsense. Where is your evidence that anyone has been denied an education based on political views? The vast majority of fields in college/university have no political content and they make faculty hires based on who they think will bring the most prestige to the department, and whose research areas align with the department’s goals. You think business departments are out there teaching Marx? Get a grip.

      So you’ve got a gripe with Women’s Studies majors? I’d probably agree with some of it, but let’s not pretend they are some overwhelming part of the academic scene. Many of the complaints on here sound like they come from people who never set foot on a campus.

    • @Chris
      Spot on. Also, the whole “Rightwing Attach” trope isn’t as convincing as it used to be when dissenters from the totalitarian progressive administrative state are jumping ship left and right. These are people that were firmly ensconced on the left, way to the left of the Clintonian faction. Michael Rectenwald was even a Communist Marxists (sigh, only an intellectual could be so stupid) after his big epiphany “aha” moment he was hunted down mercilessly. Now he has a tell-all book “Springtime for Snowflakes: ‘Social Justice’ and Its Postmodern Parentage” by Michael Rectenwald.
      There are numerous stories of these dissenters, we’re able to see the action in real time via social media where in the past it was mostly heresay. But make no mistake, the radicals of the universities have been around for a long, long time. They reproduce themselves each generation and the cycle moves on.
      Of course the “right” sees this as a problem, especially since it gets so much public funding via tax subsidies.

      Ask yourself this, why would a people want to fund an ideology that, if followed through, would see their way of life ended (sometimes, by any means possible)? This is where the intersection of the Culture War and policy meet.
      If all of the cultural studies are so useful and vital to the body politic than they should have no problem securing private funding, then they can just open up think tanks like so many on the right has done. The traditionalists might have been pushed out of the university by way if the Cultural Revolution in the late 60’s but (being industrious and all) they just went outside of it and founded their own institutions. That is why there are so many conservative think tanks (haha, the bain of the academic left). Believe it or not, there is a conservative intellegentsia, they are not “know nothings”, they are holding the torch of the classics, the history and importance of constitutional governance, liberty, freedom ect… (The Federalist Society is but one example).

      Instead of jumping through all the hurdles and obstacles the the “new/old/new left” put up along the way, they literally just walked around it.
      That is the problem with leftist progressives, they are true believers in the state and cannot stand private interprise, so they infiltrate every part of the public sector that they can. The right likes privatization, so instead of trying to fight the left for academia, they’ve been working on disrupting it. As long as the constitution and first amendment is intact then they are free to disrupt the system as much as possible.

  10. Somewoman says

    The cost of universities is outrageous and indefensible. No humanities class requires in-classroom instruction and most social science classes do not either. These courses can be taken online while conferring all the same benefits. I paid a total of 200K for my undergrad and graduate degrees, and today those degrees would cost even more- maybe $275K. But this is absurd. Today I could get the same information by taking online classes, which allow for group video lectures where everyone can participate and ask questions just like in a classroom.

    I am now enrolled in a second graduate program online from a top 20 university in Europe. It will cost me a total of 20K. Why isn’t this option being promoted for undergraduate degrees? I can do my online degree while working full time and not moving anywhere. And I know for a fact that I am learning at least as much as I did in my in-person degree programs. Public policy should either strongly incentivize or require major colleges and universities in the US to offer affordable online degree options so that middle class families can save money and have more options in education. IF universities receive publicly funded grant money, this should be a requirement. Just like we have Title IX to mandate gender equity, we should have ‘Title something else’ to mandate cost reducing initiatives.

    • Paul Ellis says

      Your proposal endangers the whole ecosystem of ivory towers from which the hoi polloi are lectured du haut en bas, its supporting administrative network, and the long march project. That’s a lot of comfortable middle-class tenures and state-supported grifters at risk. Turkeys rarely vote for Christmas.

      In my day, one attended higher education as much for the experience of university life as for the educational benefit. Nowadays, it looks mostly as if that life is best given a miss. Universities appear to be evolving into mental illness factories.

      • Somewoman says

        I think there needs to be a national conversation around how the average high school costs 12K per year per student while the average US university charges 46K per year per student in total. High school gives 7 hours of in-class instruction per day, includes lab sciences, art classes and music classes. They provide books and other resources and administer all of this. Not only do they provide it, but they organize it so that these resources get to each class on time.

        Universities provide max 4 hours of instruction per day per student (and that’s being generous- who here took even four hours of classes per day averaged over 5 days a week?). Universities don’t have to provide books and other resources as students have to buy these themselves. How is it that high school can educate twice as much as universities for 1/4 the cost?

        We know the answer- bloated administration salaries, way way too much administration, paying students to do totally useless busywork and calling it ‘work study’ and charging all sorts of crap fees- activities fee, registration fees etc. If they want to do this fine, but government funded student loans should stipulate that no government funding (loans or otherwise) can be used to pay for this nonsense. I bet that nonsense would stop pretty soon if these were the stipulations.

    • @ Somewoman

      “No humanities class requires in-classroom instruction and most social science classes do not either. These courses can be taken online while conferring all the same benefits.”

      No they cannot. Lectures – possibly. Tutorials – no. There are many benefits to classroom teaching with a teacher.

      • Somewoman says

        You’re quite mistaken. Small group classes and one on one sessions are even more effective online because people can all see each other’s faces on the video screens. They can raise their hand and the teacher can call on them just like in a class. One on one meetings with professors are easy to schedule as well because you can do them from anywhere.

        I am having better success with my current advisor than my in person advisor simply because he is more proactive and better. The medium of class doesn’t have any affect on an adult student who is paying for classes and attending of their own choice.

        Why do you claim that tutorials are not effective online? Based on what reasoning?

        • @ Somewoman

          “…are even more effective online because people can all see each other’s faces on the video screens.”

          Do you have any data to prove your point? Let us be honest. I have only my opinion based on my own experiences and feelings. And I hate such a distant method of interacting [not learning!].

          But I can make sound arguments for human-to-human interaction. Furthermore from purely logistical p.o.v it makes sense to have the learners gathered at one place to share many resources.

          ” They can raise their hand and the teacher can call on them just like in a class.”

          Why not just go to class! And physically you can do a lot more…

          • Somewoman says

            @reqdingnomad

            There is this study which showed that online learning is as effective as traditional teaching methods: http://news.mit.edu/2014/study-shows-online-courses-effective-0924

            There are any number of reasons why I prefer not to go to class. One is that it requires physically going somewhere and then going back home. Another is that it limits me to the schools that are near to me. Another is that it tends to incur all sorts of non educational costs which online learning does not. For example, I don’t need to pay for a student ID or library pass but I can access the digital content in the university library. Not to mention all the students activities fees and so forth that aren’t useful to me.

            With online learning, I could stay at work late if I need to and still make it to a 7 pm class. Saves the transit cost and budget. And the lectures are recorded so I can go back and replay them if I missed anything. I have dyslexia and take notes slowly so that really helps me.

            These days psychiatrists are seeing patients over Skype and so on. It’s time to move to digital classrooms in general for higher education. It doesn’t work for secondary education because those young students need to be minded by adults, but college students don’t need all day monitoring so they should be able to learn from wherever they want to.

          • So to my reply earlier from “my experience” is weak but you comment “I have only my opinion based on my own experiences and feelings.” is OK. Hmm.

          • @ ian

            On the contrary – my personal experience clearly isn’t enough – hence on reason I have asked the other person if they have evidence for their position.

            Building a complete theory on personal experience is nonsense. Although recently this nonsense has caught on. Check out personal ethnography.

          • Fallacy Alert Bot Meatbag Adjunct (aka The Hero's Journey) says

            @Reading Nomad, I keep trying to read your posts, and I read well so I only sound the words out when I’m writing.
            Therefore imagine my surprise when I was unable to read your posts due to words somehow screamed voiceless from the void right straight into my brain-pan:

            WARNING
            WARNING
            LIFESTYLE THREAT DETECTED
            LIFESTYLE THREAT DETECTED
            INTRUDER DETECTED ON EPISTEMIC FRONTIER
            INTRUDER DETECTED ON EPISTEMIC FRONTIER
            DISPATCHING AVAILABLE RHETORIC
            DISPATCHING AVAILABLE RHETORIC

            I really have to apologize. I’m sure you’re posts are very salient & well-reasoned, but this phenomenon mutes you entirely.

    • I’ve been reading about the ‘flip’ in post-secondary education since my kids were born a decade ago. This is the model where lectures are replaced by videos or texts that students view away from the classroom, and the university campus is where they gather in small groups for tutorials and collaborative work. Of course, this would put many professors out of work. Which is probably why it won’t be in place in time for my kids to reap the benefits (and reduced costs).

      It’s curious that our institutes are higher education have proven the most stubbornly resistant to technological change and the revolution in communications and learning. Narrow self-interest can be a powerful obstacle to broadly beneficial change.

      • @Rob
        True that! It seems the Resistance is resistant! But their days are numbered, disruption is coming. Like all others, it’ll start slow and then gain momentum and speed and then, full steam ahead. The house of cards comes falling down. Resistance is understandable, no one wants to lose a cushy well paid secured job, just ask Taxi drivers, book store owners, retail owners, manufacturing laborers, you get the picture.
        Also, if bipartisanship weren’t a problem then the fallout from the Yale / Christakis’, Evergreen / Weinstein & Canada’s Lindsey Shepard wouldn’t have made such an impact. Those are just a few of the NUMEROUS accounts over the years of this kind of ideological extremism.

        Disruption is coming soon to a campus near you! There is no way to stop it. If I were an academic, I would start looking into translating abstract academis into something useful for the private sector.

    • Peace0Mind says

      Oh, dear Sir/Ma’am…if ‘higher’ education was to be gained online than how would the ‘bright’, young minds of today get their deserved college experience full of endless, stupid drunken frat parties, footballs/basketball games, Adderall-enabled cramming, social anxiety and bonding!? College is a largely joke and spending 200K on a 4-year undergraduate degree is, well, utterly senseless!

  11. I’m saying more often and with far less tongue in cheek; Responsible, caring, loving parents should not allow their children to attend university.

  12. Pizza Pete says

    As someone in academic medicine where ultra competitive grant funding and high academic productivity are required, I frequently have through the looking glass moments with tenured social science faculty. There’s something about the combination of lack of productivity, intellectual mediocrity, and high grade weirdness that continues to be disorienting no matter how often you encounter it. Read something kooky in a newspaper editorial by an associate professor at a leading university, look up their CV, and find that they are lightly published in low impact journals with few citations. There are several entire social science fields that do little more than serve up warmed over Foucault. That many academic brands have been degraded is not surprising. 15 years ago if you read something doltish by an Ivy League professor it might give you pause. You might even give said professor the benefit of the doubt. Now, probabilistically, it is safe to assume that the author is in fact a dolt or is playing one out of fear or careerism. The atrociously expensive administrative costs are the icing on the cake. Hopefully in the near future educational models will be available that offer kids and their parents lower costs and better quality. For the professoriate, I’d love to see the herd culled with salaries based on high impact publications or better highly competitive, peer-based grant funding. There’s nothing that says we can’t keep the crown jewels of our universities including basic science research and top professional schools intact while making major structural changes to undergraduate education and the social sciences.

    • Paul Ellis says

      Personally I’d like to see the herd culled by ability to teach, and teach something useful, like method and technique. I’m not terribly interested in research output, but I’d really like my offspring to be properly taught while at university, otherwise what’s the point? Without proper teaching, for a student, attendance at university simply becomes a very expensive way of gaining paper credentials.

      And no, I wasn’t properly taught, either; I’m largely self-taught. With a couple of notable exceptions the only decent HE teaching I received was from visiting lecturers who actually practiced their disciplines. The full-time staff were idle, mediocre, and poor communicators who spent most of their time undermining and belittling the students. Their work was mostly crap. And this was in the 1970’s. God knows what it’s like now.

      • “I’m not terribly interested in research output, but I’d really like my offspring to be properly taught while at university, otherwise what’s the point?”

        Agreed. The fixed link between research and teaching has to go. Some professors should conduct research, some should teach. If that means a bunch of professors who spend most of their time researching arcane and marginal subjects have to lose their positions, then so be it. If it means professors with a high aptitude for teaching and inspiring get to keep their jobs, then even better.

  13. Greg says

    If by “right-wing attacks on the academy” you mean “totally necessary, rational and justified criticism of the INSANITY that modern academia has descended into” then, I by all means agree. The way students are indoctrinated into believing that we live in an incredibly racist society and how becoming a victim is incentivized has come from within the academic establishment.

  14. I left academia 19 years ago for greener pastures. Even then there was grumbling among the older faculty that administrators were gradually taking over and neutering the faculty. Those voices have grown louder as Diversity And Inclusion frameworks are limiting who faculty can bring aboard. The result is a watering-down of intellectual life on campus. And it shows by the low quality of graduates coming out with degrees (save for STEM).

    This is one reason why the public has lost faith in universities. It’s clear that something’s very effed up.

  15. NickG says

    Didn’t make it through this one.

    The sooner some clever group disintermediates the utterly toxified by post modernist tosh present system, and replaces it with a different, more vocational, far cheaper model, the better.

    The technology is there; accreditation is pretty much the only issue.

    I understand Jordan Peterson is on this one.

  16. Oxley says

    Former academic public information/science writer officer here. Every university has a communications office containing at least one overeducated writer (top tier schools have a stable) specializing in science communication so scientists can focus on what they do best rather than writing press releases, answering the phone, updating social media, etc. Saavy researchers make use of these communications machines to great effect, knowing full well that they can control their message and demand total accuracy, at least in house. No doubt PR accounts for a healthy chunk of academic bloat, but it is dwarfed by the supernovae of fundraising/development, tech transfer, and diversity initiatives.

    People are catching on that the astonishing indirect costs/overhead associated with science grants are essentially being used to fund both bloat and the silly joke that is social sciences, where tiny anecdotal studies reflecting researcher bias are presented as gospel. Every time you read about a $10 million grant to fund Alzheimer’s research just know that a whopping tax is attached, somewhere between 50-90%. Money brought in by biomedical research winds up (very) indirectly funneled to places like the gender studies department where a tenured professor and zir teaching assistants use it to stake out new publishable territory, like documenting unjust societal bias against minor-attracted persons. Academic biomedical research done off campus has a 30% rate that covers the stuff it should, like facilities, materials, and maybe a single admin, rather than safe-space furnishings, counseling for adults traumatized by democratic elections, diversity training for maintenance staff, and, yes, unnecessary press releases. https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/research/faculty/indirect_costs

    I am encouraging my overachieving kids to get an associate’s degree out of the way online, while they are in high school, rather than doing an IB or AP courses. If they see a need for further education, they should head overseas. I’ve returned to school myself and the only good thing about the recurring assignments to document my privilege and the everlasting horribleness of straight white people is that the material is recyclable. I am at the age where I can just ignore the noise, but I feel an obligation to guide my kids away from the indoctrination.

  17. josh says

    I think the article makes some fair arguments about better teaching and incentives, but, predictably, many of the comments devolve into rants about liberal indoctrination. In reality most US college degrees are in health, business, marketing and education. The idea that most kids go to college to sit through classes about white privilege or capitalist critiques is a fiction. There are certainly dumb papers that get written and questionable faculty hires, but by and large people are learning the same kind of things they always have in college. Yes, we should push back against the heckler’s veto and hysteria over controversial speakers, but that is more a function of young people getting into political activism for the first time, not classes in Marxism. As usual, a little perspective would go a long way.

    It’s true a bachelor’s degree isn’t what it once was, but neither is a high-school diploma. That’s hardly an argument that it isn’t worthwhile, it’s a sign that more accreditation is sought by employers. The debate over how to deal with that has very little to do with the culture wars.

    • Sean says

      Colleges used to be about educating people and getting exposed to different points of views. Many colleges now don’t present opposing views but only the left wing (not liberal) view. Look at the violence used to stop non-approved speakers at universities like Berkley.

      You may be right about most degrees being in health, business, marketing and education but each of these subjects can be taught with a strong left wing bias.

      I agree that there is some exaggeration about the extent of the problem as colleges like Evergreen and Missouri have hogged the limelight but there are many colleges following no too far behind.

      When you look at colleges like Evergreen, the much publicized problem were outside the class room where white people were banned from campus. There is much left wing indoctrination on colleges outside the classes themselves.

      “Yes, we should push back against the heckler’s veto and hysteria over controversial speakers,…” but you don’t.

      A well known speech about the Nazis:
      “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a socialist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a trade unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

      Only now switch the socialists for liberals and conservatives; and include white people with the Jews.

      • josh says

        Sean, not only am I right about where most degrees are, I haven’t seen any evidence they are taught with a left-wing bias. Mostly they have nothing to do with politics and culture wars.

        About Evergreen, let’s get the facts straight: white people were *not* banned from campus. Now I agree that the whole “day of absence” concept was dubious, that students were way out of line in going after Weinstein and Heying, and that the administration handled it terribly. But this is a small, very liberal college. I want everyone on all sides to get a sense of proportion.

        You say I don’t push back against this stuff but you’re completely off base. I’ve argued with people on the liberal side too. However, I don’t see the point in just adding to another echo chamber, which Quillette is unfortunately becoming. Just as it’s hyperbolic to say that Trump is one step away from Nazism, it’s quite a leap from people deplatforming controversial speakers to “First they came for…”

        As you say, this is mostly about campus culture outside the classroom, which makes it not indoctrination. Kids go to college and get politically active for the first time, just as they are also trying out drinking, partying, getting into obscure art, etc. This is also the time when right-wing groups get active. I want this stuff to be criticized intelligently and appropriately, and that means correctly identifying the nature and size of the problem. Yes, there is dumb and overblown rhetoric coming out of some “X studies” fields, and yes there is a worrisome attitude from some leftist activists that doesn’t respect the importance of free speech. However, that doesn’t equate to universities being re-education camps and the solution is not an anti-intellectual burn-it-all-down attitude.

        • Sean says

          ‘deplatforming controversial speakers’? Is that what you term setting off fire alarms, sounding whistles, breaking windows and physically trying to stop people from both giving speeches and from attending those speeches? Who decides if someone is controversial and if their speech needs to be shut down?
          You sound like an apologist for the shocking behavior of far left extremists on campus. You keep using the term liberals. Liberals range from slightly left of center to moderately left. The behavior at Evergreen and Berkeley is not that of liberals. Liberals believe in freedom of speech.They value debate.
          The events I mentioned at Evergreen were outside of classes but there is still much indoctrination in the classes. Is it possible to get a degree without taking any humanity classes that discuss white privilege?
          Extremism (left and right) doesn’t take over at once but starts in a small way and if it takes hold, grows and spreads.
          I and most people here do not suggest burning books and universities. That is a straw man argument.

    • I went to a Liberal Arts school. Everyone was required to take a set of Humanities core class, even if your major was health, business, marketing or education.

      Guess what these Humanities classes were about? White privilege and Capitalist critiques. That doesnt include the various Lit or whatever electives that were also about White privilege and Capitalist critiques. Really, my only classes that were not about White privilege and Capitalist critiques were the classes of my major.

  18. Could we please clean up the universities by firing socialist and Marxist professors? Then let’s fire anyone associated genders studies and feminism. Anybody associated with diversity and equity should be fired too. The leaders in all the departments who get things wrong should be fired. Start with the economics department. Next would be the international relations department. Then the journalism department. There’s the English department and sociology department. Basically, any department where the truth is fuzzy has gotten it wrong. Then all the top administrators who got us into this mess should be fired.

  19. The author’s suggestions are all well and good – but I don’t think the article particularly addresses the more elemental issues.. I believe it was Tocqueville who pointed out that the role of a university in a democracy is the place where the great philosophic questions remain open. Unlike a theocracy or a more traditional aristocratic society, a democracy is perpetually adapting and changing.

    When the university ceases to serve this function what follows is more or less indoctrination, more or less propaganda. This is what Alan Bloom called “the closing of the American mind”. This is of course precisely what has happened Academia now is a kind of “atheocracy” run by a new class of priests and mullahs..

  20. Higher education is ripe for disruption. However, to date, attempts to disrupt it (Coursera, Udacity, edX and the like) have not done particularly well.

    Perhaps Quillette should start an University with Jordan Peterson as VC? I’d go for an online Cert /Dip/ BA / MA in Western Civilization as a starter course. There’s some Ramsey Centre money around for that… hint… hint…

    • Matthew Lawliss says

      interesting to say the least. it’s worth the shot

    • Stephen Phillips says

      Im already doing mine informally. Just soaking up the lectures and making up for what I missed at Uni.

  21. Farris says

    Swing and a miss! Time was the public look to colleges and universities to produce leaders. A degree meant the recipient was well read, well studied and well versed in useful fields of studies. Too many universities today allow young impressionable students to acquire practically a lifetime of debt in exchange for degrees in puppetry, navel gazing and sensitivity studies. Furthermore these former high school students are so coddled, they never have to hear a disagreeable or contrary opinion. Universities are producing graduates that are socially and functionally retarded when it comes to living in the real world. Daily there is some story about students vandalizing property they find offensive, or harassing faculty over opinions they dislike. Rather than show these temper tantrum throwing brats the door, universities time and time again accede to their demands. Grade inflation is rampant. These students require “safe spaces” and stress free environments. The inmates are running the asylum. Start teaching these kids the hard lessons of life, insist that they work and learn, even subjects they don’t particularly like. Quit trying to be their friend. Be their mentor, they already have friends. Mentor them in a way you would want your children mentored. In short quit taking their money and spoiling them. I hate to paint with such a broad brush. I know most collegians are studious and hard working but the bawling babies are devaluing everyone else’s degrees.

    • Matthew Lawliss says

      quite. we’ve made a new orthodoxy that cannot be questioned.

      https://feminists-against-feminism.tumblr.com/about

      Feminists against feminism?
      I am a liberal, meaning I believe in the universal right to self determination, meaning I view each individual as the highest authority over their own life, meaning everyone has the right to free thought, belief, speech, expression, assembly, association, research, publication, movement, travel, self defense, bodily autonomy, along with free participation in trade, politics, society, and personal pursuits. That means I believe in innate equal rights, and advocate nondiscrimination on the basis of those rights. Liberalism is a school of thought that follows from individualism. Individualism, as opposed to collectivism, is the view which posits the individual as the most important societal unit. In liberalism, this includes an emphasis on their individual agency, individual value, individual interest, independent thought, individual rights, and individual justice for all, which is all mostly true of other individualist philosophies in differing ways.

      I am not a collectivist and consequently do not subscribe to marxian theory, which includes feminist theory. However, I’ve been told a belief in the equal rights of women or “women’s rights” is feminism, even though a belief in equal rights literally called liberalism. How does one belief subscribe me to two philosophies? The dictionary is philosophically illiterate, it’s a dummy’s guide to language, not a philosophy manual or dogma. Yet people seem to have a lot of faith in the dictionary definition, despite the fact that feminism is actually entirely founded by feminist theory (predicated on conflict theory) and contradicts liberalism, individualism, and the dictionary definition of feminism, all of which we’ve established I fit the description of. So I cant be a feminist, seeing as thought I dont subscribe to their school of thought laid out by feminist theory, but I am a dictionary feminist by definition merely because I believe in equal rights. That makes no sense. If I’m a dictionary feminist against feminist theory, that makes me a feminist against feminism, a contradiction. It makes all people who believe in any form of equality -which necessarily requires they be against another kind- all feminists against feminism. So why define things this way? The dictionary definition seems to be the weakest link in this contradiction, the dictionary is simply not philosophically accurate. The dictionary describes how words are commonly used, not their most meaningful definition, and I find the dictionary definition of feminism to be an extreme case of a meaningless word/definition pair. So long as people keep using this non-sense argument that “feminism just means equality”, the dictionary will continue to be equally as wrong as the laymen on this point. I’m quite outspoken against marxian analysis and feminist theory’s assessment of things, its diagnosis of societal ills and subsequent prescriptions, let alone the things it has actually done as a movement(s). Social justice violates my egalitarian principles. I qualifiably believe in equality and am qualifiably not a feminist.

      Dictionary feminism is a huge blunder, because it arbitrarily makes a feminist of people who reject patriarchy theory, intersectional theory, critical race theory, queer theory, gender critical theory, post structuralism, post modernism, post colonialism, critical theory, neo-marxism, conflict theory, social justice, and collectivism vs individualism. Yet somehow I fit the definition, and therefor, people tell me I must necessarily be a feminist. So it’s like, okay sure, by your standard I’m a feminist, but your standard is wrong. Dictionary feminism is not feminism, feminist theory is feminism. I can play along, but calling myself a dictionary feminist makes me a contradiction. So if I am to play along with dictionary feminism, where I would be a dictionary feminist against feminist theory, then I must be a feminist against feminism. Or maybe just a liberal consequently and not a feminist.

      BTW, if you believe in equality, you’re a feminist against feminism too!

      Since believing in equality arbitrarily defines you as a feminist, and there are mutually exclusive sects of feminism that are against eachother, some of which don’t even believe in equality like you do, then if you believe in equality, you’re a FAF like me! And you don’t get to say otherwise or else you’re a racist Nazi Trump supporter who hates women (and kittens, and likes doody)! <3 Either you’re a FAF, or you don’t believe in equality, which means you a bigot! You don’t get to decide your own label or if it makes sense to you, I do! We’re on the right side of history, FAF is the TRUTH, the way, and the light. Join us in TRUTH or be lied about by us and slandered! Join us in respecting the radical notion that people are people or be dehumanized, demonized, and infantilized! Join us in spreading human rights or have your human rights violated by us! It’s not “hypocrisy”, it’s Social Justice! It’s ideology, and we’re teaching it as facts in university with your taxes. All your platforms are belong to FAF, give them up willingly, be compelled by your privilege-induced shame for how you were born, or else

    • Eric from Minnesota says

      It’s always about the money, isn’t it?

      The single greatest flaw in mankind.

      Power and money trumps all.

      I’m with you Farris…they should preach what they teach and get these students right-minded.

      Because end of the day…love without discipline? Isn’t.

  22. Mark says

    Remove funding from activist studies (e.g., gender studies, African studies, whiteness studies). Hungary got this one bang on when they recently removed gender studies from public universities.

    Start teaching methods other than critical theory.

    Ditch the administrators. Give more power to the heads of departments.

    Postmodernism? It’s gotta go. What rubbish.

    That should do it. Thank goodness I haven’t stepped foot in a university in over 10 years.

  23. Peter says

    “We should restructure how we educate our doctoral students in pedagogy and develop doctoral programs in field-specific teaching. Some fields have this already (for example, you can get a degree in language education), but there are almost none in the sciences.”

    This is dangerous advice and in practice would cause a questionable bloating of programs, faculty, and degrees . (But Education Departments and Schools will endorse it enthusiastically.) There is also danger that Schools of Education would get the idea of educating undergraduate teachers. In forty years of teaching I did not see that pedagogical theories helped. Substituting some of the subject specific competence in science with general pedagogical courses would be wrong. A short course on subject specific pedagogy is enough (even if I can guarantee that at least half of it would be filled with superfluous theory). I just looked at articles in such subject specific pedagogy in my area and found them of little help, except illustrating problems and failures.

    Instead, teachers in training should have supervised teaching experience, be corrected, assessed for progress and made to understand that bad or sloppy teaching will hinder or stop their career. They should receive help for any underlying problems. In the first years of their job an experienced teacher should supervise and mentor them.

    Some original research in science for the Ph.D. degree is a guarantee that the candidate is competent in science – a prerequisite for successful undergraduate teaching. With some effort one can always find fields that are not that difficult.

  24. Eric from Minnesota says

    The integrity and honor bestowed to an institution is directly proportional to that institution taking its responsibility to be an unbiased non-political organization seriously.

    Although we are in the midst of migrating from a Culture of Honor to a Culture of Dignity, the world requires order to the chaos that would result without this array of important institutions; including the Academy.

    The challenge for the Academy is that it’s honor and integrity has been earned by being an honorable and integral part of the growth of Western Civilization. The morality that those in the Academy draw from this honor is to be respected, until it’s not.

    Which is now. As Prof Haidt to carefully draws out in his book The Righteous Mind, liberals and progressives draw on their morality based on two fundamental principles; ending oppression and fairness.

    If the Leftist Professors don’t believe the Institution they are a part of has been fair or has been oppressive to the Intersectionality movement…then the Institution itself is no longer revered; but cursed as part of the problem.

    Honorable people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr earned their honor by working hard to establish a voice of reasoned moderation, even while calling for civil unrest (not violence).

    Dr. King would be doxxed in today’s Twitter fed hysteria…accused of not being virtuous enough in the fight for ending oppression or creating fairness in a world that has never been and never will be fair.

    The Left demands that any Institution that has respect or authority be torn down, burned to the ground, then doused with kerosene for the world to see. Leftists don’t care about the very institutions that have created the greatest decline in human suffering, hunger and poverty in world history. That’s not honorable to them, nor moral. What’s moral is that anyone in their midst who is treated as less than equal be protected. Any group marginalized for any belief…no matter how whacked out..be defended.

    The Crazy Train has left the station folks and we have 20% of the AltLeft already on board. Let’s make sure that the other 80% maintain their reason and stay focused on what’s important, which is freedom, liberty and creating an environment that invites every American to achieve their full potential no matter whether they pee standing up or sitting down; no matter which God they pray to; no matter what color of skin they have; and no matter what their W-2 says.

    That..in a nutshell..is American Exceptionalism. It doesn’t exist anywhere else…except in Scandinavian countries where 95% of the people look the same, speak the same language, and have the same values..in countries typically smaller than Seattle.

  25. peanut gallery says

    @Nomad Yeah, so much more! Like get in their face and take their lunch money! I do not understand why being physically present is a requirement. I know people learn differently, I’m very visual, but I don’t need to see the idea in person to go there. I’m not Nightcrawler. (comic-book reference) Perhaps it would be nice to be in person, but I think the convenience is going to be a big deal for a lot of people. Having to drive/walk to the class requires more of one’s time and effort than just logging in to the class.

  26. peanut gallery says

    In our desire to throw shade on post-modernism, we should not also desire to put it in the darkness. We should spotlight it, so that it can be mocked more openly. I don’t want to be as censorious and authoritarian as progressives.

  27. mgphd says

    The problem began in the Sixties, when I was a college student. We demanded a “say” in dress code, curriculum and evaluation of professors. Administration yielded. That was a mistake. Evaluations of faculty led to dismissal of ideologically “suspect” professors. Demands for curriculum change led to “studies” programs of various kinds. The end of single-sex schools began. Now, advocacy courses replace courses in basic studies. Conceiving of higher education as a requirement for a job (other than pre-professional courses of study) brought in many students who had no interest in academic work. Now many attend college who have limited basic literacy. College had become a commodity and student had become consumers. Terminal degrees were rare (MD, PhD). Now the doctorate is a joke in many areas outside of the sciences. Preparation for a trade and high valuation of such work should be encouraged. The decreased in attendance at college is a good thing. Eventually, higher education will return to being entirely for pre-professional training and a minority of individuals who are scholars.

  28. @josh
    “I want everyone on all sides to get a sense of proportion.”

    Ok, follow the link below please. This is the tip of the iceberg. Critical Race Theory spawned Critical Gender Theory spawned Critical Whiteness Studies. It has real world implications. If it just stayed tucked into the kooky world of academia there would be no issues, but that’s no the case is it?

    Where do you think Micro aggression theory came from? Along with the dubious and debunked “Implicit Bias tests”? These are leaking out into the real world. See Googles HR and Diversity Department. See all large corps Diversity & Inclusion Department. See Justin Trudeau’s Gender initiatives for his cabinet members. See the skewed, debunked gender pay gap myth that just won’t die!

    These have been percolating in the stagnate cauldron of academia since the 1970’s, with nary an outside impute. All well and fine and good for some laughs until it’s not.
    It is infecting every part of our culture. ALL OF IT! There are a few elementary schools in NYC that are implementing Critical Race studies into their pedagogy. What are the implications for the little white 5 year old when he is told how evil and horrible he is for being white?

    There is ZERO sound studies behind any of these educational theories that they’re trying to implement on the level of primary schools.
    They are attempting to use serious social engineering tactics without one bit of evidence, studies or proofs that any of it works. Much less is there evidence that any of it’s true. THESE ARE OUR CHILDREN!!!
    These Gender & Racial studies courses are no longer fun and games. If you think parents have abandon public education now, just wait until more of these theories start getting exposed. It will be a dessert, all that will be left are tumbleweeds. This is no joke, it should’ve been taken more seriously 30 years ago, it wasn’t so the backlash will be hideous. You need to study up more on the underlying theories, ideology and dogma that make up this tumor. It’s spreading and is toxic.

    https://medium.com/@george.mckeown1/a-deep-dive-into-social-justice-academia-it-is-racist-in-addition-to-being-terrible-15e15d9075e7

  29. Curt Morgan says

    American academia leaned Left when I was a student in the early ’70s. Now, it’s dreck has grown stagnant and oppressive.

  30. This article does absolutely nothing to address the sorest point of all- tuition. There is little reason to respect academia when it is appended to self-serving grotesquely overpaid administrations and institutional policies devoted to bilking students out of as much money as possible (including mandatory residential policies and credit-independent graduation time minimums at many institutions), and endowments that have became an end unto themselves (while still being quite incapable of coordinating facilities maintenance in a timely fashion, addressing student complaints, and getting someone to design a functional website or course registry service half the time…). Even aside from the interference with any sort of coherent scientific structure across the social sciences, wrought by both pervasive ideology-driven programs and the persistence of low standards of rigor, there is the basic problem that proper scientific inquiry in any field in academia (which comprises the great majority of basic research in most parts of the West) is chained to the cancer of institutional corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency in the United States (and elsewhere e.g. the highlight on Quilette concerning administrator-faculty ratios in Australian universities…).

    The solution is to either dismember the university system and partition out scientific and technical programs into specialized institutions, or to enact gunpoint legislation to e.g. make renewal of certification (as well as receipt of government funding from any source, whether it be FAFSA grants for students or grant funding for affiliated labs) for any institution contingent on remaining within certain sharp thresholds for %of salaries/expenses consumed by non-academic personnel and facilities as well as on absolute tuition costs; universities, private or public, can choose to mutilate themselves or die as their degrees lose formal standing and their best faculty get trivially poached by rivals or industry due to grant restrictions.

  31. Or framed more concisely- people would be less sore about all the ideology and bullshit if they weren’t paying an arm and a leg for themselves or their kids to diddle away their time there to, in many cases, either just to land a marginal entry level job or spend another 2-6 years in an expensive professional or time-devouring graduate program…. subsidizing the follies of a system is a lot harder of a pill to swallow if in doing so you’re tying a lead weight of debt to your back or exsanguinating your bank account.

  32. Andrew Osborn says

    The tertiary education sector is ripe for disruption.
    Already I can access all the content for a science degree online at a prestigious faculty and get everything but the certificate. I think it won’t be long before I can get that too.
    Your hallowed halls and ivory towers are too expensive to maintain. I don’t want to pay for frat parties, expensive accommodation and suffer the socialist indoctrination that seems to come with these places. In the university of the future I will have tutorials with my professor from home he will likely be in his study at home too.

  33. This is a prank, right? Tongue-in-cheek satire, yes?

    Academia – particularly humanities – has succumbed to idiocies such as critical theory and postmodernism, and actively censors dissenting views. It’s run by hordes of feckless administrators whose primary task is sucking ever more funding from taxpayers, while placating the occasional social justice goon squads. The crisis in academia is wholly a creation of leftist intellectual elites, not anti-intellectualism or a nefarious right-wing conspiracy.

    A solution would be to cut off all taxpayer subsidies to universities – if academics are convinced they have something of value to offer, let them them persuade donors and customers (students) to pay. Having to persuade others, rather than have govts seize funds on their behalf, might incentivize them to actually offer things of value.

  34. ccscientist says

    Here are some reasons people are increasingly unhappy with universities:
    Students are encouraged to major in topics with little payoff (“studies” programs) and are not given straight answers about their job prospects. There are therefore lots of young people with a degree and not much of a job–who are then resentful. Schools need to post honest data on job prospects for their degree program including salaries. If some majors are more for “enrichment” ok but let the students decide that.

    Students are encouraged to take on massive debt out of proportion to the value of the degree they get.

    Faculty make a name for themselves as publicity hungry activists, even joining in Antifa riots. They loudly take sides on public issues and trash Trump voters or men or whites, even calling for genocide. Leaders of thought?

    The best faculty get excused from teaching, which is then done by TAs who often don’t speak English well. Not a good public image. Many classes are taught by non-tenure-track part-time faculty who do not even have a Ph.D.

  35. The Hero's Journey says

    This is not health care. The market will suffice, though it will be painful.

    Everything is implicit in this advice I gave my nephew the other day:

    If you can’t get into
    Harvard
    Yale
    Stanford
    Oxford
    MIT
    or
    Princeton,

    don’t “go to college.”

    Those are the schools where the people you’ll meet & the status will pay for themselves. If you don’t fuck off too much & go there with that in mind.

    Fuck everywhere else. Fuck Duke Michigan Georgetown UVA Rice CalthisNthat UNC UT Vanderwhatever blahblahblah Public Ivy blahblahblah. Fuck the other ACTUAL Ivies.

    [LINE 30] barring the status factories do not “go to college” unless you have a SPECIFIC course of study that will automatically lead to a high paying job in a field with good prospects as a direct result of *attending* to college. Engineering, pretty much. Nursing. Architecture. Big data math. A few other hard STEMs. Maaaaybe comp sci.

    Nothing requiring more than 5 years college.

    Go to the cheapest college that gives you the degree you want & doesn’t have a total shit reputation. Someplace people have heard of but have no bad opinions of. Some 2nd tier state school no doubt. Pennstateish. Whateverstateyourfromish. Take out no loans if possible. Excel.

    Go to night school at a good community college for the first year or two to keep it even cheaper. Make sure you know the credits are relevant & will transfer.

    DO NOT DATE YOUR FELLOW STUDENTS. Not ever. Tell her to look you up after college if you really like her. Keep it cordial. Sleep with townies. MAYBE girls from other schools. Night school can help you here too. The girls aren’t as pretty or as frivolous.

    Barring Engineering or Nursing, etc, pick a trade you think you’ll like. Try working at it for the summer first if possible. Then go to a good trade school. (Computer programming counts as a trade here. Just go get certs.)

    If you like the trade, work at it some…. if it’s a kickass trade with long-term upside like high end machinist w CNC, programming, IT security, industrial electrician, factory automation maintenance/programming, etc just keep at it. And make sure you can always move, cause you can make a MINT in the trades if you can move. Or you can make 60 a year & take 2/5 the year to snowboard or whatever.

    Always keep to the highest training standards of your trade. Get all certifications. Look for where workers can be depricated by machines & make sure you are good as fuck at that.

    If the trade is not kickass but you like it, start night school at the local CC. Take accounting first. Business management & best practices. Prepare to own your own business in the trade. Make connections. Save money. Arrange capital. Learn how to spot talent. Learn how to spot a loser (hint: it’s never his fault.) if the trade IS kickass & you wanna work harder but make a shit-ton of money, do the same.

    If you don’t like the trade

    [GOTO LINE 30]

    =====

    If you are new to this way of thinking,
    well,
    you are probably a useless piece of shit academic

    Or worse, an administraitor.
    Misspelling oh-so-intended.

    And your time is gonna come, because y’all are fucking parasites.
    You are to academia as quants are to finance.
    Except a whole lot stupider.

  36. This article felt more like a piece of self-promotion for the author’s consulting business. He was extremely careful to omit anything that could rock the boat and lose him potential clients (and heaven forbid, standing in the university!), and instead plugged the tepid thesis that academics needs to stop being so academic and instead have more bold research. And that teaching needs to be ‘evaluated.’ (As a teacher, this raises my alarm bells; it’s a sounds-good buzz word that calls for state intervention with expensive tech evaluations that are not data based but cost billions and end up showing nothing.) In other words, it described a problem so that the solution was him.

    In fact, the article inadvertently revealed what is wrong with academia, dishonestly pretending to be bold and sweeping, but really narrowly gazing at a safe spot on the naval that no one will disagree with and indeed may pick you up some powerful allies.

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