Our Dysfunctional Campuses Will Have to Change

Victor Davis Hanson has a brilliant essay here on how dysfunctional our colleges and universities have become.  Here are two excerpts:

 “I noticed about 1990 that some students in my classes at CSU were both clearly illiterate and yet beneficiaries of lots of federal cash, loans, and university support to ensure their graduation.  And when one had to flunk them, an entire apparatus was in place at the university to see that they in fact did not flunk.  Just as coaches steered jocks to the right courses, so too counselors did the same with those poorly prepared but on fat federal grants and loans.  By the millennium, faculty were conscious that the university was a sort of farm and the students the paying crop that had to be cultivated if it were to make it all the way to harvest and sale — and thus pay for the farmers’ livelihood.”

 Later Hanson explains why change is coming, however slowly:

“… what cannot go on will not go on — at least for most universities without the billion-dollar plus endowments.  The present reckoning is brought on not by introspection, self-critique, or concern for our increasingly poorly educated students, but by money, or rather the lack of it.  Higher education is desperately searching for…

…students with cash, loaned or not.  And it is, by needs, panicking and will ever so slowly start changing.  For-profit tech schools, online instruction, and the two-year junior college deliver a cheaper “product,” one not necessarily any longer an inferior one, given the nature of the contemporary university curriculum and values of the faculty.”

In passing, Hanson makes a small but telling point: faculty strongly protest the low pay at Walmart without seeming to notice the meager money offered to adjuncts and lecturers on campus: “When the full professor retired, his courses could be outsourced to itinerant part-time lecturers, for thousands less dollars per class in salary and benefits.  That the faculty hated Wal-Mart and yet treated its campus employees far worse than did the retailing bogeyman was assumed, but never acknowledged.”

John Leo

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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