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June 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

How do you lend credibility to an unexamined assumption? Attach a number to it:

Nothing is easier in politics than setting some arbitrary goal — preferably based on numbers — and go after it, in utter disregard of the costs or the repercussions. That is how we got into the housing boom and bust, by mindlessly pursuing ever-higher statistics of home ownership. The same political game can be played by making ever-higher miles per gallon the goal for automobiles, ever-more “open space,” ever-more — you name it.

The representatives of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities point to the fact that, in countries like Canada, Korea, and Japan, “more than 50 percent of young adults hold college degrees,” while only 41 percent do in the United States.

No reason is given why one of these numbers is better than another. Apparently the implicit assumption is that education is a “good thing” that it is always better to have more of. But, if that is the case, why 55 percent rather than 75 percent, 95 percent, or 100 percent?

Even food is not a “good thing” categorically, without limit. We can’t live without it but, beyond some point, it causes obesity and shortens our lives.

A certain amount of education is undoubtedly very beneficial for some people but, at some point, enough is enough, even for geniuses. For each individual, depending on that individual’s interests and dedication as well as ability, the time comes to leave the classroom and go out into the real world.

- Thomas Sowell

Posted by Cassandra at June 25, 2009 06:23 AM

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I finished my formal education a long time ago. But lately I find myself preoccupied with fantasies of pursuing a physician's assistant degree -- some kind of reaction to anxiety over the nationalization of the healthcare system, I think. I have a hard enough time asking a doctor for help without having to worry about his being a government official!

Anyway, though I doubt I'd ever really do it, at least the idea would be to acquire a degree that would confer certain skills and privileges on me that I have a practical use for. If there weren't any laws controlling who can write prescriptions, I'd just acquire the knowledge on my own via research and reading.

I always enjoy Thomas Sowell.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 12:27 PM

I love school.

I wanted very much to go to grad school. But having tutored many, many students who weren't really trying all that hard, I can't help but question the idea that college is for everyone.

It has always seemed to me that one ought to have a good reason for doing something - especially something as expensive as earning a degree.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 25, 2009 03:10 PM

Exactly. Not that I don't think it's a terrific thing for society if everyone who's truly interested in higher education has the best possible shot of acquiring one, so I've got no problem with scholarships, college endowments, and student loans for promising students. But if the focus is on upping the percentage of citizens holding B.A. to improve our stats, I think the result is more likely to be watered-down B.A.'s held by confused young graduates who can't figure out why the government still can't guarantee them a job. I'd rather see more happy plumbers with a solid sense that their own skills and experience give them a firm grasp on a decent independent living.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 03:55 PM

I think the result is more likely to be watered-down B.A.'s held by confused young graduates who can't figure out why the government still can't guarantee them a job.

I got my BA in English back when it actually *meant* I had achieved something. These days, receiving a BA in English just means that you have the recognized capability of composing a sentence at a fifth grade level without giving SpellCheck a conniption fit...

Posted by: BillT at June 25, 2009 04:47 PM

I think the result is more likely to be watered-down B.A.'s...

You mean like our high quality High School diplomas after we decided we were "failing too many students"?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 25, 2009 04:52 PM

Heinlein proposed legislation to award college diplomas to all citizens as a way of erasing invidious distinctions. Great way to get the stats up, too.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 25, 2009 10:40 PM

Personally, I never finished college...but attended enough classes to take (and pass) the tests required to acquire my FAA Airframe & Powerplant licenses, which has served me well in my career within the Military-Industrial Complex™.

Yet, there are a LOT of Liberal Arts degreed people out there, barely getting by.

IMO, it's not so much an education as what you can make of yourself, degree or no...

Posted by: camojack at June 26, 2009 12:36 AM

Correct, camo, with a few exceptions. Some career fields require an undergraduate degree merely to gain a position and a graduate one for further advancement.

One obvious one is the field of Education.

One not-so-obvious one is Army Commissioned Officer. You must have a Bachelor's degree (or be studying to obtain one within two years) in order to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. You must obtain a Master's in order to progress beyond Major.

Those requirements were instituted solely for bragging purposes -- the frequently-cited phrase, "We now have the best-educated Officers' Corps in history," was part of the Army's counteroffensive against the "uneducated draftee" meme the Left kept spouting in the decade after Vietnam.

The inanity inherent in the requirement is that a Master's in Physical Education carries as much promotional weight as one in Physics -- or Military History. The bigger chuckle is that a high score in the Physical Fitness Readiness Test outweighs a high score in educational achievement. I personally know two O-5s who can run like deer but can't -- individually or collectively -- out-think a red brick...

Posted by: BillT at June 26, 2009 01:48 AM

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/06/ our-view-on-higher-education-graduate-more-students.html#uslPageReturn

The comments are more interesting than the somewhat bland USA Today article.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 26, 2009 01:37 PM

My favorite number is the "college tuition at public schools" rank.

State ranked #35 jacks up its price, claiming it's "only 35th", so that its price is now #28.

This, of course, means that schools formerly 28-34 now look at where THEY stand.

And, in the meantime, state ranked #39 boosts its tuition so that it is only ranked #32, and state ranked #45 boosts it so it is only ranked #31 (which instantly drops former-39 down to now-33)

So now a whole host of states suddenly find that they are in the bottom 15 when before they were in the middle 20.

You'll note, of course, that, at no point whatsoever has ANY state said, "you know, we're ranked #10, we should try and lower our tuition until we're only #17"....

And so it goes, as the states ratched eeach other up until tuition costs 1980-v-2009 are 50%-100% greater than inflation.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at June 27, 2009 11:42 PM

My base pay, combat pay, and flight pay in RVN enabled me to contribute 50% of four years' college tuition costs for Sibs One and Two from what I saved.

I netted about $1,000 per month.

Over the next two years, I saved enough to do the same for Sibs Three and Four, *and* pay cash for a brand new Ford Maverick.

When I retired, my pay was $6,000 per month and, based on a comparison of the Then-vs.-Now tuition costs at the schools they actually attended, it would have taken my entire paycheck to do that 50% thang for each of them.

Do the math...

Posted by: BillT at June 28, 2009 04:37 AM