What Higher Education Went Wrong

“Education can either foster and improve culture, or it can certainly degrade it.” We are, without doubt, lowering our standards and abandoning the study subjects that transmit the essence of culture to others. This is a way of preparing the ground for the future barbarian nomads, who will camp in their mechanised caravans on.

T.S. T.S.

Both plumbers and proctologists clean our pipes. Plumbers are responsible for a later stage in waste-disposal. Plumbers make a decent living, while plumbers earn more than actuaries. This is where the similarities end between them. They are in completely different social spheres today. Plumbers are only allowed to enter in an emergency. Proctologists go to Hamptons house parties. Proctologists are considered the elite of the “educated”. Plumbers are plumbers. These are the men who wear denim overalls. Super Mario is the most famous plumber. Joe the Plumber, a working-class hero, made his name advocating for small businesses during an Obama campaign stop in 2008. The question is why? What is it that elevates plumbers and degrades proctologists? Is this a fair distinction? The more important question is: What does it say about us that we made the distinction?


A Debate in which we Were the Losers

Nearly 100 years ago, Walter Lippmann, a journalist and John Dewey had a lengthy debate in print about the topic of democracy’s suitability for the general public. Both agreed that much had changed since the Founding Fathers’ vision of gentlemen-farmers voting on the most important issues of the day. These issues were familiar to them because of their daily lives. Lippmann claimed that the nation’s industrialization and growth had made it “altogether too large, too complex and too fleeting to direct acquaintance.” Democracy no longer requires citizens to make informed decisions about their futures. We were now stumbling in the darkness of a pseudo-environment in which “everything” is “on the plane of assertions and propaganda” and “believe whatever suits [our] prepositions.” Lippmann’s solution was to have policymakers receive their marching orders from apolitical specialists who would make “unseen fact” understandable to the politicos.

Dewey responded to Lippmann’s suggestion by saying that “[n]o government in which the masses don’t have the opportunity to inform the experts about their needs can be anything other than an oligarchy managed by the few.” Democracy was based on the “assumption responsibility” of the demos. Lippmann’s “omnicompetence,” was not necessary:

The intellectual potential of the social intelligence that flows by word of mouth in the local community is limitless. Emerson said that we lie in the laps of immense intelligence. That intelligence is not active and communications are inarticulate, weak and broken until it has the local community as its medium.

Dewey’s vision for America in which vibrant local communities function as natural networks within which local colors–the reality of the ground–can filter down and through expert knowledge is slowly being lost. The field is dominated by multinational corporations and centralized government. We are more likely to get our news from global social-media conglomerates and feed it into them than neighbors and friends we trust. At the same time, we have self-administered a mega-dose of Lippmann’s prescription of government-by-experts, and Dewey’s prediction that keeping the experts non-partisan would be impossible and that it was a recipe for oligarchy has come to pass.


To avoid being distracted by Covid politics, I won’t go into detail about the most recent problem. Nor will I address the difficult question of whether or not it was wise to let ourselves be governed for a few more years by Big Pharma shill Anthony “ La Science, C’est Moi” Fauci. As Alasdair McIntyre stated in After Virtue the larger point is that private preferences are promoted under the cover of… expert findings. We have been depowered at every level. Big Pharma, the AMA’s health-licensing program, and the insurance industry have taken control of the decision-making process about life and death. First, do not harm has been abandoned by most doctors who have given up healing to make way for pill-pushing. This includes pushing us into the grips of the opiate crisis. Other licensing and accreditation programs in education, legal industry, and accounting create artificial monopolies that enrich certain professional organizations and educational institutions.

Nearly every walk of life has a dividing line drawn in the sand. The ivory towers are used to fortify those with education, skills, and credentials against those who do not. Contrary to Hillary Clinton’s basket deplorables, Mitt Romney’s 47%” or Obama’s people who ” get angry and clingto guns or religion“, Trump declared that “he loves[d] the poor educated” which was a bigger slap on the face of all the establishment interests committed to this line than any of Bernie Sanders “billionaire” rhetoric. This was the point made by Christopher Lasch, a left-populist in Revolt of the Elites.

[New Republic editor Mickey] Kans says that the greatest threat to democracy in today’s time is not the misallocation of wealth but the destruction or abandonment of public institutions where citizens can meet as equals. Kaus sees the ‘routine acceptance’ of professionals as a separate class as a worrying development. Their’smug contempt’ for the demographically less fortunate is also a problem. “Creative” work is viewed as abstract mental operations that are performed in an office. This may be aided by computers. It does not include the production of food, shelter, or other necessities.

The Rise of Big Ed

However, it wasn’t always so. Throughout much of the nineteenth-century, college was seen as a luxury and a source of tangible economic benefits, but it wasn’t always so. With the advent of the Gilded Age and the Civil War, the number of university students grew. Another surge was caused by the popularity of collegiate athletics, as well as all the hallmarks of college social debauchery of the 1920s. In the same period, law schools and medical schools started requiring students to have a college or an associate’s degree before they could start their professional training. Between 1920 and World War II, college enrollment grew from 5 percent to 15% of high school graduates.

The G.I. Bill of 1944 was the real spike in graph. Bill, which made college education an affordable option for returning veterans. University education is no longer reserved for the elite. Prior to World War II, the majority of major state universities had enrollments between 3000 and 6000. However, in the decade following the war, many increased their size by 10 times. The Cold War and particularly the shock to the system after the Soviets beat America to space in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, led President Eisenhower, to initiate a new education push and to pass education-funding legislation like the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), of 1958. Americans had to understand that higher education was the key to success in a technologically complex world.

In the years that followed, college enrollment offered a way to avoid the Vietnam draft which made it easier for the message to go down. The federal government was forced to help once more after the 1973 draft, when many Americans were unhappy with the image of American universities due to their involvement in the 1960s counterculture. In the 1970s, financial aid was introduced. At first, it was in the form of Pell Grants. Later, loans with low interest were offered. These programs helped increase university enrollment while also allowing for skyrocketing tuition prices ( research strongly suggests the tuition rises have been driven by more generous loans), with the final cost shifting to a combination taxpayers and enrollees.

Universities were a lucrative business opportunity due to their large enrollments and high tuitions. With its prominent system of standardized testing and administrative bloat, the era of Big Ed was here. A 2018 article in the Atlantic HTML3_ on the rising cost of education in America explains that the OECD data shows that the “U.S. Colleges spend more money on non-teaching staff that on teachers. This is a huge difference from other countries.

Credential Inflation Drives a Wage Premium

Big Ed and government were pushing college upon us, often in close cooperation. It is clear that we were being pushed to college by government and Big Ed alike. This was especially true for where 36 percent of college students don’t graduate. where a quarter of college graduates are in psychology, visual arts or religion. on average had a 23 percent wage advantage over high school graduation in 1980, but that number was down to 77 by 2019.

However, the more interesting and important question is whether the massive wage premium is being driven by a 77 per cent advantage in skills transferable to work. Many factors point to no. Only 46 per cent of college graduates actually work in their chosen field, with 29 per cent working in another field and 16 percent in the workforce. those who have graduated college and those who did not, especially if it isn’t tied to any significant difference in skills or knowledge? This question is not only rhetorical but also empirical. Robert Nisbet, a prominent Berkeley socioologist, had written in the 1950s about “the growing popular conception that university education is a means less than of illumination but as an avenue for social status and intellectual certainty.” This is despite the fact that the question is rhetorical, but it also has empirical implications. Adam Garfinkle wrote that these “simplely educated” minions “contribute scantily-supported opinions about things that they don’t understand, validating an old saw that a little knowledge can be dangerous.” PredictWise, a polling and analytics company, used to study partisan prejudice. It found that high education was strongly associated with political intolerance towards those with different views.

The 2019 “More in Common” project also found that the more educated someone is, the worse they perceive Republicans . This means that Democrats’ perception of Republicans actually worsens with each degree they get. This is because Democrats who do not have a high school diploma are three-times more accurate than those who have a postgraduate degree. Monocultural groupthink: “Highly educated Democrats tend to believe that most of their friends share their political beliefs.” This is because more people are more connected to the media and are more likely to be (especially when they’re consuming more “in-depth” coverage). We found more in common: “We discovered that the greater the Perception Gap, the more people consume news.”

Why is American higher education so disastrous? The system of higher education in America aims at two completely different goals simultaneously, and it is confusingly not achieving either of them well. It’s supposed to help us prepare for the labor market, equipping us with practical skills and making us Renaissance people who are more aware of the world around us. The most popular college major is “business”, a nonsense major that does not educate anyone or prepare them for the specifics of the workplace. Christopher Lasch noted that college students receive little writing training (unless “Commercial English” is an acceptable substitute), rarely read a book, are not exposed to literature, history, and philosophy.

As I mentioned above, the goal of workplace preparation can be accomplished much more efficiently and directly by technical and professional schools, which are more common in Europe for aspiring professionals. The brain trust at Google, one of the nation’s elite employers, has recently figured this out and taken it to a whole other level, as the company has opened up a no-college-degree-required free Coursera course to teach the exact skills necessary in its workplace, which then doubles as a means for Google to assess its aspiring engineers based on their coursework.

The other purpose of American universities is to make us more knowledgeable individuals. Unfortunately, the ideal program to accomplish that goal is almost non-existent in today’s universities. It is a program like the one at St. John’s College that offers no choose-your-own-adventure-style majors and courses to wide-eyed kids who typically have not the faintest clue of what is or is not worth learning. St. John’s has a single “great book” curriculum. This allows students to go through four years of education with the best, most important, and canonical texts of the West. It also creates a close-knit academic community that is able to participate in intense discussions about the texts. Although they do not become engineers, accountants or nurses immediately after completing this program, students emerge with a greater understanding of themselves and the history that shaped them.

While our universities do not make us more productive or more enlightened, we still talk and promote college education as if it did both. We continue to promote the notion that education is a social good in the broadest sense. Even though the current state of our universities doesn’t support this claim, we believe it. As we’ve seen, higher education can lead to a new class of ignorant, intolerant, bigoted and wealthy snobs. Like most white-collar professionals who are educated, proctologists are generally profoundly ignorant about all matters beyond their scope. The plumber may not know as much about the human body and the human butt as the proctologist. This is his level of knowledge.

Higher education is not only making students richer, but it also creates castes. It creates its Brahmins, who are the highest priests of academia, and country parsons that staff schools. They are, ironically the least qualified and qualified and the most ideologically extreme professionals. The Kshatriyas are our aristocrats and professional-school graduates. They command respect and large salaries. The Vaishyas are our merchants, tradesmen and ordinary college graduates. The Shudras are the non-college educated workers and servants who can become deplorable Dalits if they allow their political leanings to take a right-populist direction.

Education of Partisans

In a rational world, the plumber and the proctologist would not be different types of technicians. One of them simply needs more information to do his job, and thus commands a slightly higher salary. They live in increasingly different worlds, not because they are from utterly different sociocultural strata but because their society has made them artificially divided. The college-educated as well as the non-college educated occupying increasingly distinct worlds means that the party that was once supportive of the labor movement and the workers has developed a deep contempt towards the working class, which in turn is overwhelmingly voted Republican today.

Their graduates became part of the same monoculture when universities were made monoculture . College-educated voters favored Democrats 13 points more than Republicans between 2000 and 2020. As we might expect, our college-educated elites have become more hostile to Republicans. Taking a dimmer view higher education, Republicans are likely to increase the partisan education gap. If President Biden’s “loan forgiveness”–another instance of Democratic elites’ unconcealed contempt for the working class, entailing a massive regressive tax transferring wealth from the disproportionately poorer non-college educated to the college-educated, including those earning up to $125,000–should survive legal challenges, the “educated” and less “educated” will become yet more polarized.

Elites are inevitable. Elites are inevitable. Healthy societies are those that have a healthy relationship between their regular people and the elites. This happens when the elites on one hand are an “image of the commoners” writ large. They represent the commoners’ needs and desires before kings or gods alike. On the other hand, they serve as paragons for virtue and transmit to the regular people “in their behavior and character,” according to Philip Rieff. The elites on the other hand should be respected and admired by the commoners as they hold them accountable and infuse elite culture daily with vitality and dynamism.

A big problem arises when so many people go to college and then think of themselves as “elites.” This creates social instability because those who are left behind become resentful and question the foundations of the culture they have come to love. While elite overproduction is not the only reason a healthy society is ill, it is one way to avoid it. The elites in a sick society are an unwelcome class. They differ from the rest of the population in their beliefs and values and treat the regular people with contempt. Instead of modeling virtue and manners and reverence for high-value cultural traditions, elites are narcissistic and lazy. They lead and promote depraved lifestyles and exhibit an unconscious but well-deserved self disgrace.

The College Fix: Toward RealEducation

How can we bring our sick society back into health? Although the process is long and tedious, I believe that it is crucial to acknowledge that our faulty and confused education system has led to this toxic divide. It is crucial that we separate real education and career preparation. Surveys report that “Almost all students believe access to a good-paying job is their primary reason for going to college.” They don’t want to study for the sake of it and aren’t pursuing one. Let’s reveal their true interests and actual achievements, for both them and everyone else.

Proctologists should not have to attend college to obtain their license. Plumbers do this because they know that it is more difficult than getting a job. Instead, they should be able go to a medical-training program. And the same is true for all those other professionals–lawyers, investment bankers, accountants, management consultants, marketing folks, programmers, and so on–who presently walk around thinking of themselves as “elite.”

Education is more than job training. T.S. It is, rather, as T.S. It tries to pass on its culture to them, including the standards it would expect them to live by.” This process, while ideally a lifelong one, is formally started in schools. A few universities are available to help those who want to continue their formal education beyond graduation.

Future universities must be closer to seminaries. They should be rigorous and demanding, less expensive than current universities, but with higher goals. There should be no majors or menus of courses, no mascots and no organized athletics. Universities are attractive to monastics who enjoy a monastic life and a community that is dedicated to studying “the best of what has been thought and spoken in the world.” Others may decide to stay for years or even for their entire lives. Some may find their way home and return to spread this holy knowledge around the world. These monkish scholars might, like the saints of our midst in the end, restore the vitality of education so that it’s no longer an expensive commodity that divides the haves and the have-nots, but instead a polestar that guides all of us, to whatever degree we are illuminated by its light.

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