Once upon a time in the not so distant past, scholastic education in free societies was considered as a means of preparing men and women for roles as productive members of society and was structured accordingly.
Admission and advancement within the learning community — which was not limited to the halls of academia — for both student and teachers alike were predicated on the merit of the individuals.
Courses of study were focused on teaching students how to think rationally and the requisite fundamental knowledge of specific disciplines that, in turn, were applicable to vocations.
Historically speaking, the vast majority of individuals in free societies who attended college/trade school then entered into an apprenticeship, joined the military, gained on-the-job training or started their own business.
They held the expectation that knowledge gained would translate into economic advantages or other personal skills to the benefit of themselves and their families.
There existed a quantifiable cost-return benefit that was generally known at the outset.
College was certainly was not viewed as the “must attend” or “the only way to get ahead” for the majority of the populace, much less as the ideal place to “find one’s self” or as an extension of adolescence and deferment of “being an adult.”
Many of them end up unemployed or underemployed with worthless degrees — not to mention the trillions of dollars “redistributed” from taxpayers to academia’s Leftist apparatchiks.
It might help if we stop pretending that all degrees are worthy of the same respect, or respect at all.
A degree in fields such as gender studies (whether it be a bachelor’s or doctorate) is not worthy to be compared to undergraduate degrees or certifications in medicine, science, technology, engineering or math — or even to hands-on proficiency attained in skilled trades.
The current system, however, is weighted heavily toward required Leftist indoctrination/social engineering courses — not so cleverly disguised as “humanities” or “social science” — which serve no useful benefit for one’s chosen profession.
It wasn’t that long ago that a motivated student could attain entry into selective professions by gaining knowledge and passing requisite professional entrance exams without being forced to endure irrelevant and nonessential classes along the way.
Attorneys literally “read for the law,” medical professionals “practiced medicine” engineers “engineered.”
Unfortunately, in order to create barriers to entry, professional associations have colluded with the college scamwagon by mandating expensive professional graduate degrees that often bear little to no relation to how well a person can perform a given professional task.
In fact, there are numerous fields — both professional and trade skills — where practitioners formerly performed exceptionally with simply the benefit of knowledge and experience gained via an undergraduate degree or apprenticeship.
As is normally the case, as Leftist exercised greater control in academia, costs increased dramatically, professors spent much less time teaching, administration and overhead expenses skyrocketed, and the value of college education declined precipitously for most students.
In addition, a large%age of students sucked into the college trap — many of whom would have been far better off seeking non-collegiate career training — dropped out with no appreciable skills, but very real debt.
Although 70% of high school graduates enroll in college, 40% of those same students will fail to earn a four-year degree within six years of enrolling (bls.gov).
Of those who graduate, many find themselves unemployed or underemployed. The return on investment on 30% of liberal arts degrees is worse than investing in long-term Treasury bonds, i.e., less than the rate of inflation (economist.com).
Of course, if college is so valuable, then colleges should not mind being the guarantor for student loans from their own institutions. Instead, both students and taxpayers are again left holding the parchment bag.
Tragically, Leftist do not care about the personal and societal damage their policies inflict.
What matters to them is that their parasitic control of academia enables them to suck wealth from the populace even as they insidiously inject generation after generation with lies via indoctrination.
Compounding the negative consequences resulting from Leftist control of academia, taxpayers foot much of the bill via direct transfers, grants, government-subsidized loans, etc.
In fact, infusions from the government cash cow is a large reason why, based on Federal Reserve figures from January 1989 to January 2016, the cost to attend a university increased almost eight times faster than wages (forbes.com).
In order for the much-needed substantive reform of academia to occur, public perception of higher education must undergo a meeting with reality.
One key reality is: formal education is not necessarily a requisite to career success, much less personal success.
Even within fields requiring high degrees of technical knowledge and expertise, those with the ability and desire to learn can achieve great things sans the hurdles and hoops of academia.
In fact, not only did some of history’s greatest innovators not have a degree (George Westinghouse, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Michael Dell), a 2016 study by research firm Wealth-X revealed that nearly a third of billionaires do not have a bachelor’s degree (cnbc.com).
For those not on the independent billionaire track, however, completion of a college degree is still often the price of admission to many careers.
This is due less to the knowledge a degree represents and more to the litigious nature of our society.
In the Supreme Court’s 1971 Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. opinion — another in the long list of erroneous and egregious Supreme Court opinions — the court ruled that Duke’s use of objective mechanical aptitude and IQ tests in employment decisions was discriminatory.
In the decades since, in order to avoid being sued, employers substituted proof of formal education for proof of ability, regardless of the lack of benefit said degrees confer in relation to the actual job requirements.
The truth is that most of what is needed to effectively perform any given job is gained from the education of experience, not the college experience.
Even in fields like medicine and engineering, academics provide graduates with a basis for “understanding the vocabulary” and, hopefully, an occupational system for problem-solving than a “ready-to-go-to-work” skill set.
On-the-job training is still mandatory, and is usually continuing.
Unfortunately, most formal education is still designed for test prep. Degrees become a reflection on how well one can test.
Minimal, if any, consideration is given to what a person can do, much less how well they can perform in a given profession.
Both individuals and society as a whole would be much better served were the price of admission for any given occupation based solely on objective measures of merit — including ability, experience and personal attributes — sans the gauntlet of Leftist indoctrination and debt that most colleges now represent.
And worse, in place of merit, Leftists have substituted intolerance and discrimination under the guise of “diversity” and “inclusiveness.”
Although the recent college admissions scandals focused on parents’ pay-to-play, it conversely begs the question, “How about all of the qualified students rejected admission due to their skin pigmentation, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or parental income bracket not checking Leftists’ preferred ‘victim’ boxes?”
For those who still desire to immerse themselves in academic spigots spewing hatred of conservatives, Christians, Jews, freedom or anyone not of their “victim class,” the typical college degree should still be available, but they would have to attain same without the use of taxpayers’ money.
TO BE continued next week.
ARTHUR SMITH of Paris is a member of the local Volunteers for Freedom Tea Party. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.