The reason I write posts like this is not to trash college but to challenge the conventional mindset that college must be purchased regardless of any cost benefit analysis. I write to give you a different perspective and I write to ask these questions,
- Is it possible that the current post-secondary educational system is causing social damage to our nation and our world?
- Is it time to reinvent the entire concept of post-secondary education?
At the macro level most statistics point to a favorable economic outcome for college graduates. But at the micro level, there is little evidence college graduation will produce individual economic advancement. Many students leave college buried in debt without meaningful employment.
Money Magazine asks, “Is College Still Worth the Price?” Tuition is rising twice as fast as inflation while salaries for graduates are falling.
In general, college appears to be a good economic investment, but it may be a poor investment for you.
Charles Murray is one of the few who are saying this. In The Wall Street Journal he writes “For Most People, College is a Waste of Time.” From the beginning he makes a point which is difficult to counter:
Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:
First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “BA.”
You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that’s the system we have in place.
Is it also possible that the current system is injuring our moral foundation and our society as a whole?
I hope I don’t offend anyone with this analogy, but I believe it is entirely accurate. In fact, it isn’t just an analogy; these institutions (education and racism) were closely related through much of their history. Simply removing the racial laws and regulation has not solved the problem, because the institutions were designed to forcibly segregate and assign artificial value to groupings of human beings with the purpose of creating a manageable orderly society. They are still functioning as designed. At the top end we have the Ivy League, at the bottom the prison system.
When Mr. Murray says, “stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal” he is referring to what I call intellectual apartheid, a system which segregates vast swaths of our society, not by true ability or potential, but by their ability to perform for the bureaucrats who manage institutions designed to create artificial scarcity. Our current educational system was developed when scientific racism was the norm. It was a time when the elite believed (and some still do) in the scientific management of people and social interactions.
The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity – Nelson Mandela
The greatest damage is done when the oppressed begin to believe they are inferior and when the oppressor believes they are superior. These beliefs are then reflected in our actions and persist for generations after the damaging institutions are removed.