Sunday, September 21, 2008

Indoctrinating College Students

Pick up the mission statement of almost any college or university, and you will find claims and ambitions that will lead you to think that it is the job of an institution of higher learning to cure every ill the world has ever known: not only illiteracy and cultural ignorance, which are at least in the ball-park, but poverty, war, racism, gender bias, bad character, discrimination, intolerance, environmental pollution, rampant capitalism, American imperialism, and the hegemony of Wal-Mart; and of course the list could be much longer.

College and university teachers can (legitimately) do two things: 1) introduce students to bodies of knowledge and traditions of inquiry that had not previously been part of their experience; and 2) equip those same students with the analytical skills — of argument, statistical modeling, laboratory procedure — that will enable them to move confidently within those traditions and to engage in independent research after a course is over.

Ideally the free market would take of this. However, unfortunately, universities have become highly subsidized entities where upper middle class welfare kings and queens milk the public trough for every penny they can get and attempt to indoctrinate the young into the political ideology that is dedicated to keeping the money flowing. Not all professors have fallen into this trap, but unfortunately, far too many have.

Republicans need to wake up to this and drastically alter the way colleges and universities are funded. It is not like the system works very well for the tax payer as currently designed. The only real winners in the current system are the schools and the lenders.

Students really are not served to well by the system. Those who get financial aid from the government generally fall into a trap of a lifetime of debt which can only be broken by defaulting on the loan. Those who are not fortunate enough to get financial aid are punished by the system, because more students means higher tuition rates.

The big losers in this system are the American tax payers who have to bail out those students who default on their loans.