Monthly Archives: August 2012

Debasement of Educational Currency

As everyone knows, the cost of a college education has increased to the point where years of student debt are presumed.  Long ago, before the Punic Wars, when I went to college in the eighties, my decision to go to the University of Maryland was based on practical considerations: I was paying for it myself, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I could get in-state tuition, and it was driving distance from home. I thought I’d pick English as my major; my depression-era father ordered me to pick again.

My college experience was not the oft romanticized “college experience” that people savor forever thereafter with school swag. Life consisted of classes, studying, working or commuting in my money-sucking Gremlin.  As an electrical engineering major I had to routinely take 18 credit hours a semester to meet the steeper graduation criteria which included CORE[1] courses— general education courses required to round you out. I rather enjoyed those, especially English.

Eventually I graduated, cum laude, with a well-paying job in hand and not a penny of student debt! As I recall, I was able to husband my money well enough to make short-term loans to two siblings for their tuition and even donated a thousand dollars to a charity during my senior year—and that was a lot of money back before the fall of mighty Carthage. That’s a lot of money now.

One would think that with the high cost of college and the Herculean effort required to graduate debt free, institutes of higher learning would husband their resources to make that goal achievable while maintaining educational value. But do they? As a seller’s market, why should the industry be efficient (or even relevant) when they have a commodity item, like gasoline, that everyone seems willing to pay for no matter the cost or octane?

The promise of any college diploma equating to economic leverage (or education and knowledge for that matter) is the emperor’s new clothes. Even as college was becoming the mantra that it is today, students with little business being matriculated in the first place were routinely graduated years later, barely able to articulate their thirst for beer in a well structured sentence.  In fact, my hard earned diploma has been debased so much by our soft academic standards, fruity admission criteria and nationwide campus debauchery, I proudly display it in the cardboard tube in which it was mailed. The economy of higher education is poised for the same astronomical inflation that accompanies the excessive printing of money, and soon a diploma will have as much value as the Zimbabwean Dollar.

To add insult to inflation, my own alma mater has, over the intervening centuries, augmented the CORE requirements to mandate a study area called Human Diversity Culture[2] by which all students must obtain certain “diversity” credits to graduate. As part of the program, one may soon partake, in all seriousness, a course in women’s studies entitled WMST 498C: Advanced Special Topics in Women’s Studies: Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj: Gender and Spectacular Consumption[3].

For a state university preparing students for the global workforce and adulthood, courses like this are superfluous, puerile and an insult– to students, to educators, to parents, to taxpayers and, dare I say it, to women, especially those in empowering tracks like engineering and computer science which are in extremely high demand for females at the moment.

This sort of disgracefulness abounds with salient low points. In 2007, the College of William and Mary hosted an on-campus Sex Worker’s Art Show shortly after removing an “offensive” cross from the centuries old Wren Chapel[4]. In 2011, a Northwestern University class provided extracurricular live demonstrations of sexual acts featuring an electric powered “device”. Countless colleges maintain tenured professors who would be fired in any other context, all in the name of academic freedom. And need I mention the adulterating effects of school athletics that give players and coaches a pass in the name of revenue.

Hamlet, lamenting the king’s customary drinking binges, puts it aptly:

This heavy-headed revel east and west makes us traduced and taxed of other nations; They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase soil our addition; and indeed it takes from our achievements[5].

I believe there are still students out there busting their chops for a debt free education, doing it the hard way, forfeiting the inane and expensive “college experience”, not occupying wall street, no time to build Apartheid shanties in the middle of campus or engage in fashionable activism du jour—individuals too busy getting a real education to be “well rounded” with a daily dose of diversity-compliance patois from Bourgeois U. , where the women’s studies program likely teaches that to husband, anything, is a dirty word.

[1] CORE is an abbreviation signifying core general education requirements in arts and science. As far as I know it’s not an acronym for anything.

[3] Diamondback Online March 7 2012 Who run the world

[5] Hamlet, Act I Scene 4