Dennis Clayson: Education and shallow people


Thomas Sowell’s book “Dismantling America” came out over 12 years ago, and his warning about our school systems has been unheeded. As predicted, the rot has gotten worse.

Sowell asks a question, “Why do we put so much power into the hands of shallow people?” The school systems have been taken over by what Sowell refers to as “3rd raters” or, in general, “shallow people.” It’s not that these people are stupid. They just insist on making decisions and evaluations based on shallow thinking and logic. They consistently make feel-good and self-indulgent choices rather than wise ones.

Our school systems are massive examples of arbitrary power put into the hands of shallow people. These people are so enamored by the latest social movements that they insist on using our children as guinea pigs for the latest intellectual fads.

Statistically speaking, the best and brightest of higher education students rarely go into education and those who do are, on average, the first to drop out of teaching to pursue other occupations.

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At this point, a shallow person accuses a critic of defaming all teachers. There is a profound difference between an individual and a statistic. A person should not have to say there are wonderful teachers when criticizing educators. However, it is usually teachers who seem unable to grasp the distinction.

Many, perhaps most, people believe the problem with higher education to be the fault of the faculty. That is only partially true. Universities and colleges were, no more than fifty years ago, run and administered largely by the faculty. At the time, America also had one of the best university systems in the world. That is no longer true.

Universities and colleges have been taken over by a class of educational bureaucrats. Their greatest interest is in what some have called “the half-life of the resume.” In other words, “… what will get me the next better job?” Often that entails creating programs and policies that look good now, but will be disastrous in the future. It also means they will be overly susceptible to faddish notions and to the demands of people who, if not instantly obeyed, can create negative press.

I have seen university presidents create watered-down, almost laughable programs and degrees for people who clearly did not belong at a serious university. Why? Because it would increase enrollment and increased enrollment would be a nice recommendation for the next better job. That it made the degrees of those students less valuable wouldn’t be noticed until the administrative bureaucrat was hired elsewhere.

Bureaucrats breed bureaucrats and they have taken over education from top to bottom. They have also made it very expensive. In many states, property taxes have reached the point where a home owner is essentially renting from the government. Most people have forgotten that some state universities, which offered excellent world-class degrees, had no tuition at all. In 1964, college tuition cost a national average of $2,300 per year in today’s money. The same education now costs $10,700 per year. On top of that, in-state students are being subsidized by about $17,000 per year per student by taxpayers.

And for what? A degree in LGBT Studies at UC Berkeley, which would only cost you $44,000 if you were from Nevada.

A month into the nation’s largest strike involving higher education, the work stoppage by University of California academic workers at 10 campuses is causing stress for many students who are facing canceled classes, no one to answer their questions and uncertainty about how they will be graded as they wrap up the year. Some 48,000 student employees walked off the job on Nov. 14 to demand higher wages and better benefits. The employees, represented by the United Auto Workers Local 5810, say they were left with no other choice but to strike to demand increased wages necessary to keep up with the sky-high rents in cities like Berkeley, San Diego and Los Angeles. Last week, university officials agreed to a 29% pay hike for postdoctoral employees and academic researchers who make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 workers. The university system also agreed to provide more family leave time, childcare subsidies, and job security.

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