Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Too Much Higher Education

Too much of anything is just as much a misallocation of resources as it is too little, and that applies to higher education just as it applies to everything else. A recent study from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity titled "From Wall Street to Wal-Mart," by Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, Matthew Denhart, Christopher Matgouranis and Jonathan Robe, explains that college education for many is a waste of time and money. More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree.

An essay by Vedder that complements the CCAP study reports that there are "one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees." The study says Vedder -- distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of CCAP -- "was startled a year ago when the person he hired to cut down a tree had a master's degree in history, the fellow who fixed his furnace was a mathematics graduate, and, more recently, a TSA airport inspector (whose job it was to ensure that we took our shoes off while going through security) was a recent college graduate."

The nation's college problem is far deeper than the fact that people simply are overqualified for particular jobs. Citing the research of AEI scholar Charles Murray's book "Real Education" (2008), Vedder says: "The number going to college exceeds the number capable of mastering higher levels of intellectual inquiry. This leads colleges to alter their mission, watering down the intellectual content of what they do."

In other words, colleges dumb down courses so that the students they admit can pass them. Murray argues that only a modest proportion of our population has the cognitive skills, work discipline, drive, maturity and integrity to master truly higher education. He says that educated people should be able to read and understand classic works, such as John Locke's "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" or William Shakespeare's "King Lear." These works are "insightful in many ways," he says, but a person of average intelligence "typically lacks both the motivation and ability to do so." Mastering complex forms of mathematics is challenging but necessary to develop rigorous thinking and is critical in some areas of science and engineering.

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (2011), report on their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at 24 institutions. Forty-five percent of these students demonstrated no significant improvement in a range of skills -- including critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing -- during their first two years of college.

According to an August 2006 issue brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education, student "lack of preparation is also apparent in multiple subject areas; of college freshmen taking remedial courses, 35 percent were enrolled in math, 23 percent in writing, and 20 percent in reading." Declining college admissions standards have contributed to the deterioration of the academic quality of our secondary schools. Colleges show high schools that they do not have to teach much in order for youngsters to be admitted.

According to Education Next, an August Harvard University study titled "Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?" found that only 32 percent of U.S. students achieved proficiency in math, compared with "75 percent of students in Shanghai, 58 percent in Korea, and 56 percent in Finland. Countries in which a majority -- or near majority -- of students performed at or above the proficiency level in math include Switzerland, Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands." Results from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment international test show that U.S. students rank 32nd among industrialized nations in proficiency in math and 17th in reading.

Much of American education is in shambles. Part of a solution is for colleges to refuse to admit students who are unprepared to do real college work. That would help to reveal the shoddy education provided at the primary and secondary school levels. Here I'm whistlin' "Dixie," because college administrators are more interested in numbers of students, which equal more money.


College May Be Dangerous for Men

College is a dangerous place for men. They are not only a minority, but they are victimized by discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-male rules.

In another striking proof that the Obama administration is totally manipulated by feminists, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights sent out a 19-page "DCL" (Dear Colleague Letter) to colleges and universities that should make men fear attending college at all. The letter adopts the feminist theory that in all sexual controversies or accusations, the man is guilty unless he proves himself innocent.

This DCL carries the force of law, since it purports to be an additional implementation of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bans sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal assistance. But the DCL was never legislated by Congress, and it was not even launched as a regulation that requires posting for comment in the Federal Register.

The DCL is just a federal order, issued by a feminist bureaucrat named Russlynn Ali, which colleges and universities must obey under threat of losing their funding. Colleges have dutifully fallen in line by spelling it out in their fall orientations under the rubric of making campuses friendly to women and requiring sensitivity about offensive words and ideas.

The most unconstitutional part of Ali's impertinent DCL is that it orders colleges to reject use of the criminal justice standard of proof. The DCL rules that an accused man doesn't have to be judged guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," or even the intermediate standard of "clear and convincing" proof.

Instead, Ms. Ali instructs colleges that they must judge an accused man based on "a preponderance of the evidence" standard. That means the campus disciplinary board (which may include feminist faculty from the Women's Studies Department) only has to believe that the female accuser is 51 percent likely to be truthful and accurate.

Furthermore, the DCL "strongly discourages" colleges from permitting an accused man "to question or cross-examine the accuser" during the hearing. And appeals must be available to both parties, which subjects the guy to double jeopardy.

The punishment of a man convicted under these DCL rules will far exceed what the campus disciplinary committee may hand out. He will likely be expelled, barred from graduate or professional school and some government jobs, suffer irreparable damage to his reputation, and possibly be exposed to criminal prosecution.

The feminist apparatus is constantly grinding out phony statistics about sexual assault and harassment, accusations that men are naturally batterers, and that women never lie or make errors in sexual allegations. The feminists are unrepentant about the way they and the prosecutors (toadying to the feminists) accepted and publicized lies that destroyed the reputations of the Duke lacrosse men and of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Another monster that hangs over the heads of college students is the increasing evidence that college is a bad financial investment that will saddle students with debt they can never escape. Pro-college ads from organizations like How To E-D-U and KnowHow2Go are seductive: "College graduates can make a million dollars more in their lifetimes than those who don't go to college."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, 17 million college-educated Americans are now working jobs for which they are overqualified. The BLS reports that hundreds of thousands of college graduates are working as waiters, secretaries, receptionists, laborers or janitors, all respectable occupations but not jobs that will enable them to repay their five- or even six-digit college loans.

The current student loan debt, now $830 billion, is bigger than credit-card debt and growing at the rate of $90 billion a year. Only 40 percent of that debt is actively being repaid, and students are not permitted to escape that debt burden through bankruptcy, so we may be headed for a student-loan bubble like the housing bubble.

The one project that received an increased appropriation in the bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling was more money to subsidize students to go to college. Loaning taxpayers' money to students to go to college makes no sense and is hurtful even to the students who get the money.

If students were working a 48-hour-a-week night job, as I did when I worked my way through college, they wouldn't have time to get into the mischief referenced by the recent DCL or to attend drinking parties, and they wouldn't accumulate the indebtedness that will burden their lives for decades.

For encouragement, they can read Zac Bissonnette's helpful book, "Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching Off My Parents." Alternatively, students can get a job that doesn't require a college education.


British schools 'axing traditional science experiements', warn MPs

Children are being forced to study science “second hand” as schools dump traditional experiments in favour of teaching from textbooks, MPs warned today.

The Commons science select committee said that exaggerated fears over health and safety were occasionally used as a “convenient excuse” for avoiding practical work. In a report, it was claimed that this often disguised a lack of confidence among physics, chemistry and biology teachers.

MPs insisted that a decline in experiments and fieldwork was actually down to weak teacher training, a lack of lab technicians, the poor quality of science facilities and crowded timetables.

The conclusions came as a separate international study showed the amount of time children spend in conventional lessons during the school day had a direct bearing on their chances of securing decent grades in science.

Andrew Miller, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “This is worrying. “If the UK is to be confident of producing the next generation of scientists, then schools - encouraged by the government - must overcome the perceived and real barriers to providing high quality practicals, fieldwork and fieldtrips.”

MPs took evidence from dozens of organisations as part of a review of science experiments and fieldwork in English schools.

The study said high-quality science lessons were needed to enable students to study the subject at college and university. But it was claimed that pupils “cannot and should not do this exclusively second hand, through books without direct practical experience both in and out of the classroom”.

The study found “no credible evidence” to support the claim that health and safety rules got in the way of practical work in the subject. However, the committee was told that it “may be used as a convenient excuse” for avoiding serious science experimentation in some schools.

Teachers may cite health and safety when they are “unsure of their ability to carry out a field trip or believe that the volume and nature of paperwork will outweigh any benefits of taking on the trip”, MPs said.

The committee criticised the poor standard of teacher training, saying that there was “no requirement for student teachers to demonstrate their ability to lead and carry out a field trip” as part of their induction.

Today’s report acknowledged that the Government was attempting to address weaknesses by giving student teachers more on-the-job training in schools and bursaries of up to £20,000 to attract the brightest science and maths graduates into the profession.

But it said schools also needed “fit for purpose facilities” and the support of qualified and experienced technical staff.

MPs heard evidence that some schools were sacking technicians to save money and the design and standard of science labs was “poor”.

“High quality science facilities and qualified and experienced technical support are vital,” said the report. “A career structure for technical staff should be provided and the Government should ensure schools provide science facilities to match its aspirations for science education.”

The conclusions came as a major international report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that a focus on the basics helped boost standards in science.

The study – based on evidence from 37 nations – found that providing one additional science lesson a week was a cheaper and more effective way to raise achievement than extracurricular clubs, homework and visits to museums and galleries.


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