American Colleges in Crisis

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

Today, the college kids who choose liberal arts programs are the ones whose personalities are most likely to change by graduation.

In fact, freshmen majoring in almost anything other than STEM (science/technology/engineering/math), health care or business could change by Christmas break – and not in a good way.

Classical liberal arts curricula once produced educated, literate, socially-adjusted, well-rounded graduates who could seamlessly assume and move up from entry-level jobs in a wide variety of businesses.

But higher education has changed. Many/most liberal arts programs have substituted left-liberal indoctrination for intellectual integrity, scholarship and academic rigor. Many liberal arts graduates are unprepared for jobs – and real life.

Today, college liberal arts programs turn out too many angry, smugly-sanctimonious, condescending, social-justice-obsessed, non-introspective, self-entitled, humorless, easily-triggered grievance-mongers, malcontents, and scolds who careen from one “existential” triviality to the next, don’t fit in anywhere outside the “academic” cocoons that hatch them, and are dim-witted enough to be “highly-offended” by almost anything other than their own lousy behavior.

Worse, despite soaring college costs, many young people receive substandard educations.

More than ten years ago, the Spellings Commission reported, “the quality of student learning at U.S. colleges and universities is inadequate and, in some cases, declining.”

In 2003, the Department of Education’s Assessment of Adult Literacy found that only 31 percent of college graduates scored at “the proficient level” of reading, 53 percent scored at the “intermediate level” and 14 percent scored at the “basic level.” Three percent of graduates scored “below basic” literacy.

In 2008, 57 percent of graduates failed an Intercollegiate Studies Institute civic literacy exam. And a 2013 Gallup poll found that only 11 percent of business leaders believed college graduates were prepared for the workforce.

Since then, things have only gotten worse.

Grade inflation is epidemic in liberal arts. A 2017 Gallup survey revealed that only 42 percent of college alumni “strongly agreed” that college challenged them academically.

Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, wrote: “One of the painful signs of years of dumbed down education is how many people are incapable of making a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans – anything except reason.”

COVID-19-related restrictions and the exorbitant costs of higher education have inspired quite a few young people to question whether they should attend college at all. The most fundamental question, of course, is whether college is a good investment. For many, it definitely is not.

While STEM graduates can generally expect career earnings in excess of $3 million, statistically, most liberal arts graduates, especially from “studies” departments, will realize lower lifetime earnings, some as low as one-tenth to one-third that of STEM majors. Plumbers and electricians do far better than most liberal arts graduates without investing tens of thousands of dollars to learn genuinely useful, in-demand trades.

Evidence that liberal arts degrees no longer assure employers of graduates’ potential emerged during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street (OWS) takeovers in which many of the unruly, unkempt squatters held them.

In addition to their families’ expenditures, jobless occupiers cumulatively owed $millions in student loans. Their degree work completed, many returned to their childhood rooms unfulfilled, angry – determined to “force” change by any means.

Disaffected graduates imagined they could find jobs, prosper, live the American Dream. They thought they did their part. They got degrees. But the dream eluded them.

Frustrated, they lashed out at “the system.” Disaffected graduates holding Bachelor of Arts degrees in “Art History,” “Public Engagement,” “Theater Arts,” “Leisure Studies,” “Recreation,” and “Gender Studies,” among a litany of other soft, noncommercial liberal arts majors, joined OWS.

Determined to make their courses in “Women and Politics,” “Feminist Theory,” “Pop Culture,” “How to Watch Television,” “Getting Dressed,” “Puppeteering,” “The Politics of Protest” and that always-fun “Freedom of Expression Seminar” pay off (Yes, those are all offered somewhere – and they aren’t cheap), degreed protesters demanded their “entitlements.”

What the angry OWS youngsters proved, although clearly not to themselves or each other, was that employers considered their BAs, MAs, and PhDs virtually worthless – and their attitudes toxic.

Many college kids today are insulated from life’s realities, because they live in bubbles where unreality is actually encouraged, even rewarded. The real world will do neither.

So, parents, kids, invest your money – and your time – wisely.