What’s the Point of College?

 

Too many people are going to college. In response, colleges have trivialized their curricula, introducing vacuous and pointless programs like Gender Studies, Popular Culture, and Journalism. No one needs to major in these things, and the world isn’t made a better place because these majors exist.

The reality is that only a minority of us are really equipped to think deeply about abstract things. The rest of us would be better served, would be better providers and better people if we simply learned to do something of value and to do it well. Then college could do what college was originally intended to do: teach people complex ideas that require a depth of study and commitment beyond what most people are interested in pursuing.

Instead, college has dumbed itself down to provide something for everyone, while growing ever more expensive and ever less useful.

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    I don’t always drink Henry Racette’s opinions, but when I do, it is when he pours things which, like this, are absolutely correct.

    –The Most Correct Man in the World

    • #1
  2. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    So true! But if they only forgive that student debt, then ***KLAXON ALARMS*** the world will be better.

    • #2
  3. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    College is a quasi-adolescence and it only costs a mountain and a half of debt for five years of hanging out (or had work, depending on major). Oh, and also you get to think of yourself as a variety of elite. 

    Learning used to be only available to the nobility, but we kind of got over the nobility thing, so it was only for the rich, but we got to the point where we decided that it should also be available for the brilliant, but then we didn’t want to tell people that they weren’t brilliant enough and now it is available for pretty much anyone who is willing to adopt the debt, or who can convince the government to adopt the debt for them. 

    When a person racks up student loans for a crap degree and doesn’t ever pay them back, who is really being ripped off? Everyone who isn’t the student and doesn’t work for the college. 

    • #3
  4. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Ah, the Journalism degree. I’ve said this before, but: when I was going to College, I worked at the paper. It was a big, thick, daily paper with a 50K circulation. Our office was in the basement of the Journalism School building. The people who populated the Daily staff had many different majors, and not all were in J-school; sometimes it seems as if few of the paper’s large staff was in J-school, because that meant sitting in a room listening to a teacher instead of working for a paper and actually doing journalism. 

    To this day I meet J-school students who decline to work at the student paper. They end college with a degree, which tells you little. The student who worked at the paper ends his or her college years with a sheaf of clips, which tells you a lot.

    • #4
  5. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    TBA (View Comment):
    College is a quasi-adolescence and it only costs a mountain and a half of debt for five years of hanging out (or had work, depending on major). Oh, and also you get to think of yourself as a variety of elite. 

    The degrees that consist of five (or four) years of hard work tend to lead to jobs that enable repayment of the debt.

    • #5
  6. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Ah, the Journalism degree.

    You can’t make this stuff up:

    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/04/27/report-hunter-biden-to-guest-teach-tulane-university-class-on-fake-news-this-fall/

    https://dailycaller.com/2020/03/04/hunter-biden-ucla-law-school-connections/

    How about teaching firearms law?

    • #6
  7. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    Ah, the Journalism degree.

    Paraphrasing Howie Carr, journalism was much better when the average reporter was someone who learned to type in the Army.

    • #7
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    College diploma is as necessary as a high school diploma used to be. 

    That is reality. The employment market is a zero sum game. As a parents want their kids to have advantage over other people’s kids. 

    What most parents want is for other people’s kids to stay out of college. 

    Reality. I don’t have a solution. 

    • #8
  9. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos
    @Kephalithos

    TBA (View Comment): College is a quasi-adolescence and it only costs a mountain and a half of debt for five years of hanging out (or had work, depending on major). Oh, and also you get to think of yourself as a variety of elite.

    This is mostly true, but I’d like to bang one of my favorite drums:

    College was, until recent years, the only semi-functional social institution in which academically interested people between the ages of 18 and 21 could meet other academically interested people between the ages of 18 and 21. Forgo college, and you forgo oodles of debt, but you also forgo access to a pool of potential friends, colleagues, and dates. In a world as atomized as ours, “hanging out” is a real attraction, even if people refuse to admit it, and even if people trivialize it. Social networks are important.

    Consider my own situation: Literally every single one of my friends is someone I met in college. If it weren’t for college, I wouldn’t know a soul my age. Of course, I chose one of the few colleges still worth attending (Hillsdale), so I feel no regret about paying all that money. But the point is this: The university will only die the death it deserves when civil society can pick up the slack. Right now, civil society is corrupt and enfeebled, just like the universities themselves.

    • #9
  10. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Kephalithos (View Comment):
    Consider my own situation: Literally every single one of my friends is someone I met in college. If it weren’t for college, I wouldn’t know a soul my age.

    Oddly enough, none of my friends are those I met in college.  All my friends are those I’ve met on the job.

    • #10
  11. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    So true! But if they only forgive that student debt, then ***KLAXON ALARMS*** the world will be better.

    There’s a big difference between forgiving debt because of an incredible policy and societal failure that resulted in the accumulation of an insurmountable debt load and offering free college.

    These are not the same things.

    It is because of government (AND social pressure) involvement that cost and student debt have risen precipitously while quality has greatly diminished.

    Older generations benefitted from far more solid elementary education, more solid college education, lower costs, AND college debt forgiveness. Millenials had none of these.

    • #11
  12. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):
    College is a quasi-adolescence and it only costs a mountain and a half of debt for five years of hanging out (or had work, depending on major). Oh, and also you get to think of yourself as a variety of elite.

    The degrees that consist of five (or four) years of hard work tend to lead to jobs that enable repayment of the debt.

    As wages stay stable and debt climbs, not necessarily.

    • #12
  13. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment): College is a quasi-adolescence and it only costs a mountain and a half of debt for five years of hanging out (or had work, depending on major). Oh, and also you get to think of yourself as a variety of elite.

    This is mostly true, but I’d like to bang one of my favorite drums:

    College was, until recent years, the only semi-functional social institution in which academically interested people between the ages of 18 and 21 could meet other academically interested people between the ages of 18 and 21. Forgo college, and you forgo oodles of debt, but you also forgo access to a pool of potential friends, colleagues, and dates. In a world as atomized as ours, “hanging out” is a real attraction, even if people refuse to admit it, and even if people trivialize it. Social networks are important.

    Consider my own situation: Literally every single one of my friends is someone I met in college. If it weren’t for college, I wouldn’t know a soul my age. Of course, I chose one of the few colleges still worth attending (Hillsdale), so I feel no regret about paying all that money. But the point is this: The university will only die the death it deserves when civil society can pick up the slack. Right now, civil society is corrupt and enfeebled, just like the universities themselves.

    Thing is, if you are a traditionally minded male, finding a wife in a college is not ideal. I should not have gone to college. I wanted the MRS degree and to be a sahm. Being at college nearly guaranteed I’d not be a SAHM for anyone more average and not as neurotic.

    I took on debt to pursue a degree that got me a job where I found a husband and then I used all my maternity leave paychecks to pay off my student debt and never went back. Am I a fraud? But how does our insulated culture open the world again? Dance halls? That used to be a thing. It was prior to and during the 20s. What happened?

    • #13
  14. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Stina (View Comment):
    Older generations benefitted from far more solid elementary education, more solid college education, lower costs, AND college debt forgiveness. Millenials had none of these.

    Somehow I missed out on the college debt forgiveness.

    • #14
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Henry Racette: Instead, college has dumbed itself down to provide something for everyone, while growing ever more expensive and ever less useful.

    I’ve thought for a long time that we needed to be thinking of higher education in two paths: one for a job or career and another one for intellectual enlightenment.

    And the second path is something we can and should do all our lives. We should be lifelong students.

    We need to establish both paths for students so that they can see both. That will prevent “tracking” kids into one or the other, either while they are in high school (and middle school too) or upon graduation. I appreciate the direction our country went in deciding not to track kids into vocational education too young. It’s not right for us to interfere with someone’s self-determination. We just don’t know how kids are going to turn out as adults. But the price we paid to pursue that truly noble goal was that we have ignored many kids who, because of divorce laws and foster care, must have a job option when they graduate from high school. Those students need high school counseling and resources that address jobs, housing, and healthcare.

    Community colleges, evening classes at local high schools, and extension schools at universities make lifelong learning possible and affordable.

    If we divided higher education into those two paths, the best way to finance it would become clear on both sides of the desk: the counselor’s and the student’s.

    We can do more in our high schools than we are doing in terms of helping people avoid homelessness and painful debt. High school counselors need sensitivity training so they can learn to ask the right questions so they can help students prepare for life after high school.

    • #15
  16. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos
    @Kephalithos

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Thing is, if you are a traditionally minded male, finding a wife in a college is not ideal.

    Heh. Finding a wife outside college is impossible.

    • #16
  17. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    Older generations benefitted from far more solid elementary education, more solid college education, lower costs, AND college debt forgiveness. Millenials had none of these.

    Somehow I missed out on the college debt forgiveness.

    Bankruptcy could clear out student loans. Peace corps also could lead to debt forgiveness.

    • #17
  18. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Thing is, if you are a traditionally minded male, finding a wife in a college is not ideal.

    Heh. Finding a wife outside college is impossible.

    Yes. Because of how we organized society into age brackets and destroyed community centers and churches became more insular in social gatherings.

    Still, our current social system guarantees a new household will have double the debt and require double the income to survive it.

    • #18
  19. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos
    @Kephalithos

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Thing is, if you are a traditionally minded male, finding a wife in a college is not ideal.

    Heh. Finding a wife outside college is impossible.

    Yes. Because of how we organized society into age brackets and destroyed community centers and churches became more insular in social gatherings.

    Still, our current social system guarantees a new household will have double the debt and require double the income to survive it.

    Preach!

    • #19
  20. John Racette Coolidge
    John Racette
    @JohnRacette

    When I went to college, I majored in chasing girls and minored in Dungeons & Dragons. The two fields were entirely ill-matched, a fact which, along with my father’s unwillingness to shell out for me to goof off with my friends for a third year, eventually led to a schism between what I believed was going to be my life’s work and being able to afford its pursuit, so I had to leave the program.

    To my delight, I soon discovered that I needed neither a student loan, nor a degree, to pursue either of those goals.

    So, I guess I’m in agreement with Bro on this one.

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Henry Racette: In response, colleges have trivialized their curricula, introducing vacuous and pointless programs like Gender Studies, Popular Culture, and Journalism.

    It’s even worse.  They take away Shakespeare for English majors and replace him with female and minority writers whose works would be judged as mediocre at best.  I’ll bet there are courses in Star Trek, Marvel Comics, and Harry Potter – wouldn’t surprise me . . .

    • #21
  22. John Racette Coolidge
    John Racette
    @JohnRacette

    Stad (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: In response, colleges have trivialized their curricula, introducing vacuous and pointless programs like Gender Studies, Popular Culture, and Journalism.

    It’s even worse. They take away Shakespeare for English majors and replace him with female and minority writers whose works would be judged as mediocre at best. I’ll bet there are courses in Star Trek, Marvel Comics, and Harry Potter – wouldn’t surprise me . . .

    Man, I spent every Thursday night at 10:00 in the rec room cramming for the Star Trek TOS final, but it never came!

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m still waiting for the day when technical schools are celebrated and make their mark. We’re going to need the folks who would benefit from that kind of education. College, especially now, will only spit out people with irrelevant degrees and little practical experiences.

    • #23
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Thing is, if you are a traditionally minded male, finding a wife in a college is not ideal.

    Heh. Finding a wife outside college is impossible.

    You’re not allowed to hit on co-workers anymore.

    Thus the growth in tinder and similar apps.

    • #24
  25. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Henry Racette:

    College.

    Too many people are going to college.

    You could have just stopped right there.

    Over the past several years my charities of choice have been the Salvation Army and the MACC fund.  Some months ago I decided to also add the MikeRoweWorks foundation, dedicated to scholarships for those attending Tech and Trade schools.

    • #25
  26. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    Unless I was going for a stem degree, I could not justifying paying a lot of money BA that leaves you less prepared for the job market when when you started

     

     

    • #26
  27. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Henry Racette: Instead, college has dumbed itself down to provide something for everyone, while growing ever more expensive and ever less useful.

    Amen.

    The student loan program made this happen.  Schools have no liability, only unrestrained income from loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  They promote the idea that a college degree will always provide each student with a high salary that can be easily paid off at some remote future date, which seems like forever to a young adult of 18.

    There is no force to encourage keeping costs down, and no reason for schools to discourage anyone from attending except to promote a perception of elitism, which is hardly real at most schools.

    But at the same time, what parent will want their child to be the only one that doesn’t have a degree?  The system is unstable, careening out of control.  

    • #27
  28. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    The whole purpose of the Biden effort to make college free and open to everyone is to keep kids busy so we can hire illegals to do real work kids should do to help them grow up  and keep our overstaffed under-equipped academic staffs well paid.

    • #28
  29. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Henry Racette: Instead, college has dumbed itself down to provide something for everyone, while growing ever more expensive and ever less useful.

    I’ve thought for a long time that we needed to be thinking of higher education in two paths: one for a job or career and two for intellectual enlightenment.

    And the second path is something we can and should do all our lives. We should be lifelong students.

    We need to establish both paths for students so that they can see both. That will prevent “tracking” kids into one or the other, either while they are in high school (and middle school too) or upon graduation. I appreciate the direction our country went in deciding not to track kids into vocational education too young. It’s not right for us to interfere with someone’s self-determination. We just don’t know how kids are going to turn out as adults. But the price we paid to pursue that truly noble goal was that we have ignored many kids who must have a job option when they graduate from high school.

    Community colleges, evening classes at local high schools, and extension schools at universities make that possible.

    If we divided the education path into those two paths, financing it would be become clear on both sides of the desk: the counselor’s and the student’s.

    The other change in our thinking needs to be that many of our high school students will become instantly homeless at the end of high school, because of divorce laws and foster care. Those students need high school counseling and resources that address jobs, housing, and healthcare.

    We can do more in our high schools than we are doing in terms of helping people avoid homelessness and painful debt. High school counselors need sensitivity training so they learn to ask the risk questions so they can help students prepare for life after high school.

    Racism is not a problem in this country, but “poorism” is. For a lot of reasons, too many public high schools just ignore the financially poorer students.

    This is almost exactly my opinion. You should be able to develop your human capital at a fair price any way you want after you get out of high school. I think the crux of it is the accreditation scam. You should also have two tracks where you don’t have to pay for that garbage but you can still get the same types of courses and others. Let the employers sort it out. 

    My perfect college would be have all my books picked out by the Mises guys, Mark Levin, Dennis Prager, and probably reason magazine. Take some technical business classes. That would be perfect. Three years. 

    • #29
  30. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    I went to college in the early 80s. I was absolutely blown away by all of the smart people that resented spending any resources on liberal arts classes. They thought it was stupid and they thought you were stupid if you didn’t think it was stupid. 

    Now it’s like they are completely avoiding what had merit about actual liberal arts. 

    It’s such a racket.

    • #30