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    The best that has been thought and written

    BTW, if you’re interested in reading about problems in higher education, rather than just in rock-throwing at perceived elites, Joanne Jacobs and Erin O’Connor both post frequently about them. Jacobs’s blog is one of the first I ever began to read nine or ten years ago, after Virginia Postrel linked to her several times. O’Connor is a former professor in the English Department at Penn (I’d been graduated by the time she was hired) who left for other work and writes a lot about how well our colleges and universities are doing at nurturing the life of the mind. One of her most recent posts is particularly interesting. Citing a Time interview about university accountability, she writes:

    I take [interviewee Kevin] Carey’s point that right now you see too many colleges and universities admitting people they know aren’t ready—and not taking responsibility for their atrocious attrition rates. There is a betrayal of youth happening there—false promises attached to a lot of money and also to a vital period in someone’s life. At the same time, I think fewer people should be going to college, that college should be harder, and that means people are going to flunk out. We need to take on reforms that have that in mind—and that means, among other things, valuing vocational training much more, taking the trades seriously as viable career plans, and making the high school diploma mean something.

    The phenomenon O’Connor notes—the idea that everyone must Go to College in the first place—is, to my knowledge, as common in the heartland as on the coasts. Strengthening the non-academic tracks of the educational system might or might not drain away some of the prestige (in the ambivalent original sense) that accrues to private colleges, but it would probably make students and their parents less likely to waste obscene amounts of money on four years in which they’re not really learning anything they’re going to use.

    Added on 11 January: Greg Lukianoff of FIRE has a column on Reason.com about the persistence of campus speech codes that worth reading:

    For many, the topic of political correctness feels oddly dated, like a debate over the best Nirvana album. There is a popular perception that P.C. was a battle fought and won in the 1990s. Campus P.C. was a hot new thing in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but by now the media have come to accept it as a more or less harmless, if unfortunate, byproduct of higher education.

    But it is not harmless. With so many examples of censorship and administrative bullying, a generation of students is getting four years of dangerously wrongheaded lessons about both their own rights and the importance of respecting the rights of others. Diligently applying the lessons they are taught, students are increasingly turning on each other, and trying to silence fellow students who offend them. With schools bulldozing free speech in brazen defiance of legal precedent, and with authoritarian restrictions surrounding students from kindergarten through graduate school, how can we expect them to learn anything else?

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