“The Little Professors,” Student Loan Debt and Gigantic Socialist Government

Have you ever wondered why so much of academia are in favor of giant, activist government? I would say that a lot of it has to do with their egos and bank accounts.

Giant government spends a lot of money on grants and other activities that provide money and power to academia. Since these professors are considered to be experts in their fields, many in government, especially on the Democrat side, turn to them for advice. This provides them with a boost for their egos and most importantly, money and influence.

The trouble with working in the “dreaded private sector” is that they expect concrete results from their investments. When you work for the government, accountability is much lower and you can skate along with failures and second-rate results. Yet, even when you are a loser, you have the ears of the most powerful people in the country. That provides a real ego boost for a loser.

More important to colleges and universities is the money they collect from students that is funded by student debt. Kids fresh out of high school don’t know the value of a dollar these days. Many of them want to go to these boutique schools with famous reputations without thinking about what it will cost. They choose majors that give them little chance of getting job in their chosen fields once they graduate. They think that borrowing is funded by “Monopoly money” until it comes time to pay. Then the stuff hits the fan.

“The little professors” benefit form this system because student debt increases their salaries and job security. Therefore, it’s no surprise that “the little professors” are big advocates for canceling the student, which is now up to 1.7 trillion dollars. They have been the beneficiaries of the student debt program, and wiping it out and starting over will insure that they will continue to collect their salaries and have job security through tenure.

Less you think that I am a “deplorable” who has never darkened the halls of a college or university, I have a BS in accounting and an MBA. I have about 190 college credits under my belt. I got those degrees from two state universities that didn’t charge tuitions that were outrageously high for their time. There is no way that I could have afforded that. I learned from really some very inspiring professors, but I also ran into some clunkers who deserved a kick in the butt because they were lazy and unprepared for the classes they taught.

Teaching in college should be like everything else. Results should be rewarded, and sloth should be penalized.

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The whole model of education beyond high school is screwed up. We took a system that had worked pretty well back when 5% of young people went to university, and just expanded it. It’s not fit for purpose now.

I sense a chicken and egg problem here. Yeah, it’s a much larger percentage of people attending University now, but you can also hardly get a job without a University degree now. Virtually everything that isn’t manual labor requires a degree. That’s not even to say good jobs follow a degree anymore. I’m currently finishing up a Master’s and I had to fight hard in negotiations for my current job to get salaried @ $19/hour. To be fair, I knew going in that working in science doesn’t pay well.

The point is, it’s partially an issue with the education system, but the role of the private sector in demanding and devaluing a degree can’t be ignored either.

How many people flunk out of college now? When I started in 1967, it was 40% or so. Some were too immature to be there. Some didn’t have brains. Some didn’t want to be there but were pushed to do it.

Some took the wrong major. I almost did that because my parents and aunt pushed me to take engineering because that was “where the money is.” Maybe for some, but not for me. I had neither the interest nor the talent. I did quite well financially, thank you.

I bet very few people flunk out now. They pay tuition and go further and further into debt learning very little. Believe it or not, John Silber, who was president of Boston University and unsuccessful candidate for Massachusetts governor, said there were teachers in the Massachusetts school system who could not read. How can you graduate from college if you are illiterate?

All you are is a college “cash cow.” The colleges waste salaries and space for people who don’t belong there.

Oh, and there are many carpenters, plumbers and others in the trades who are making a good, reliable living. Too many college educated people look down on them. I am not one of them.

40% dropout is actually what the current rate is, and it’s gone up massively in the last 20 years. It’s tough to find data going back to the 60’s on dropout rates, but I found at few sources suggesting the rate of dropout was around 20% in the 60’s.

I’m genuinely confused, what are you accusing me of here?

It’s a great option, but not everyone is suited to that kind of labor. If you can’t handle it, your options are a degree or working terrible jobs forever.

I am not accusing you of anything, @Gene. I am referring to people who are taking up space in college who are not doing the work. John Silber was the president of Boston College. He was analyzing why the public education system was failing. He claimed that part of the problem was that some teachers had degrees, but could not perform the most basic educational skills. How did they graduate from college if they can’t read?

My apologies, I re-read your original message and I realize I misinterpreted the college “cash cow” comment.

This is absolutely right. A degree (in a non-technical subject) is like a Certificate of Good Behavior.
A fellow has written a whole book about this: Bryan Caplan, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money [ https://www.amazon.com/Case-against-Education-System-Waste/dp/0691174652/ ]

The publisher’s blurb: Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

Despite being immensely popular–and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society’s top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers.

Romantic notions about education being “good for the soul” must yield to careful research and common sense― The Case against Education points the way.

The solution is obvious: everyone is issued a PhD at birth.

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It’s been coming for some time now. The demand for skills is too high for colleges to answer, and much of what colleges equip you with, isn’t necessary, or outdated.

Absolutely true. I teach (online) on a Computer Science degree course, but the great majority of my students are not interested in, say, Formal Language Theory, or Discrete Mathematics, and do not need to know about these subjects in order to write code and design websites. There should be some people who understand these things, for sure, but most of my students will never use these subjects, and really just need that BSc to get a job, or get promoted.

Another good book on this subject is Charles Murray’s Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality [ https://www.amazon.com/Real-Education-Bringing-Americas-Schools/dp/0307405397/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=‘charles+murray’&qid=1614166499&s=books&sr=1-7 ]

The publishers’ blurb:

From the author of Coming Apart , and based on a series of controversial Wall Street Journal op-eds, this landmark manifesto gives voice to what everyone knows about talent, ability, and intelligence but no one wants to admit. With four truths as his framework, Charles Murray, the bestselling coauthor of The Bell Curve , sweeps away the hypocrisy, wishful thinking, and upside-down priorities that grip America’s educational establishment.

•Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn, but America’s educational system does its best to ignore this.

•Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Yet decades of policies have required schools to divert resources to unattainable goals.

•Too many people are going to college. Only a fraction of students struggling to get a degree can profit from education at the college level.

•America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. It is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country.

A quick summary of Murray’s beliefs: we ask too much of the bottom third, and too little of the top third. And much of what is called ‘a liberal education’ in college, should be taught in secondary school.

Maybe, as education is broken up into discrete chunks – a certificate for this, a certificate for that … earnable on-line – then the terrible, stupid, social pressure to treat all children alike will fade away.

As it is, if your child doesn’t “go to college”, your friends will look down on you, even if he or she goes out and gets a skill, or starts a business, that allows them to make twice as much as someone with a degree in Grievance Studies from a mediocre college.

Which reminds me of a joke:

A brain surgeon’s central heating fails on Saturday evening, in a terrible cold snap and blizzard. He rings a plumber and asks him if he can fix it, now. The plumber says yes, and notes that, of course, a Saturday night call-out in driving snow won’t be cheap. The surgeon agrees, and the plumber arrives, and after an hour, the central heating is working again.

The plumber writes out his bill, the surgeon looks at it and goes pale, and, as he writes a check, says, “Whoa… I don’t make this much per hour, and I’m a brain surgeon.”

The plumber says, “Yes, I didn’t either, when I was a brain surgeon .”

I’ve started to think about education in terms of life skills.

Elementary education - basic functioning and social skills
High school - higher social skills
Undergraduate - basic critical thinking skills
Graduate - higher critical thinking and you actually start to get knowledge of how to understand your specific subject in depth

Your joke made me laugh, but it’s especially poignant to me as my job is mostly brain surgeon right now. Granted, mouse brain surgeon, but still. Doubly relevant and a bit depressing, I’ve accepted a job with a huge pay cut after my Master’s that will have me moving to primate brain surgeon. Maybe I should start learning plumbing…

I graduated with a bachelors degree in 2008. Biggest regret of my life. Complete waste of time and money. I’ll be in debt until past when I’m dead. Would have been nice if the faculty would have told me some truth…

‘Life skills’ are important, depending on what we mean by that. But we also need to instill ‘cultural literacy’. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know 1988, by E.D. Hirsch Jr. [https://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Literacy-Every-American-Needs/dp/0394758439/ ]
From the book’s back cover page:> In this forceful manifesto, Hirsch argues that children in the U.S. are being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. Includes 5,000 essential facts to know.

About the Author

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. is the author of several acclaimed books on education issues, including the bestseller Cultural Literacy . With his subsequent books The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit, The Making of Americans , and Why Knowledge Matters , Dr. Hirsch solidified his reputation as one of the most influential education reformers of our time. Dr. Hirsch is the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are two things that drive me mad about American politics. I blame one of them on the Left, the other on the Right.

(1) We should both be able to agree on what a good education is, even if we disagree on how to get it. And yet many on the Left believe that teaching children ‘facts’ is bad, even ‘racist’. I blame the Left for this, for being captives of ideology, and of the teachers unions. If we could agree on the content of a good education, we could quarrel over, and perhaps compromise with each other on, the means to get there.

(2) Foreign policy. In the past, my side was always reflexively patriotic, if not nationalist. So whenever the government decided to invade a country, you could count on us to turn out with our American flags and chants of ‘USA! USA!’. Liberals, not so much.

Well, that’s changed. Experience keeps a dear school, etc.
Now … we ought to be able to agree on a foreign policy that will take account of the fact that the Cold War is over, and that, as Robespierre said, people do not love missionaries with bayonets.

But … mention Tulsi Gabbard – one of yours who has gone out on a limb on this issue – and you immediately get people pointing out that she’s a Leftwinger. Well … yes, that’s the point!

We have something important in common, for God’s sake! If we could unite with Joseph Stalin to achieve a foreign policy aim, so to speak, we ought to be able to consider an alliance with this lady.

If we were smart, we would hide our white sheets and hoods and swastikas and see how we could work together to get Uncle Sam out of the kick-the-tarbaby business.

Instead, smarting from the ‘Russian puppet’ and ‘Moscow Mitch’ nonsense, my side is retaliating with ‘Beijing Joe’ and attacking him for pointing out that for the Chinese people national unity is the no-compromise issue, which we have to keep in mind when discussing what the Chinese government are doing to the Muslim Uighyrs (which is, incidentally, exactly what more than a few people on the Right would do to them, if not worse, in they were in the same position as the Chinese government. These Uighyrs should thank Allah that they’re just being forced to learn a trade, rather than being subjected to Enhanced Interrogration.)

George Soros [conservatives make the sign of the cross here] and the surviving Koch brother [liberals make the sign of the cross here] have been able to unite in the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft [ https://quincyinst.org/ ] .

Apparently, they both hired consultants to do a cost-benefit analysis of profit-making opportunities in the wake of all-out global thermonuclear war, and the conclusion both sets of consultants reached, after extensive Fast Fourier Transform analysis, was that such opportunties would be limited.

Plus, it would cause a major crash of the stock market, if we can call becoming a glazed-over heap of radioactive sand a ‘crash’, and so would definitely be bad for business , unless you were into primitive barter, my box of ammo for your potassium iodide tablets.)

But man loves conflict, so it’s an uphill fight.

By the way, you do realize, don’t you, that your research, involving as it does animal sacrifice – and even if you thereby discover the cure for cancer – means that future generations of progressive children will anathematize you, just as they do Jefferson-the-slaveholder today. Innocent little animals!

The point to people miss is that college is only the beginning of your learning cycle. What counts is what you do with those skills AFTER you leave college. College is not your life, unless you become a college professor.

In my case, I got and accounting to degree. I wanted to get a second major in economics, but the college refused to award that to me. I took 27 of the 30 credit hours that were required to get a degree in economics. I took the graduate record exams for economics and scored in the 90th percentile, but the money was not there to go to graduate school, and I was ready to get out into the world anyway.

I didn’t want to do CPA work because it’s boring and repetitive. I landed a job with a chemical company as a cost accountant. I learned a lot about the supply side of economics. Companies went crazy for MBAs at that time (which is silly), In the end I went back for the MBA and got it in about a year taking 20 to 24 credits a semester. I graduated with honors.

After that I worked for AT&T supporting witnesses who testified before the state regulatory agencies. It was interesting work, but the way AT&T was doing business was dying. They failed to see the future in cell phones among many other aspects of the telecommunications industry. The old AT&T really went bankrupt although a lot of people don’t realize that. The company that has that name today bought it from the bones of the old company that Alexander Graham Bell and Theodore Veil founded.

I worked in the insurance industry for while, but ultimately started my own business buying as selling coins. I’ve been a life-long history buff, and that knowledge, gained largely outside of school served me well. Now I’m retired.

Schooling gets you started. That’s it. You take from there.

On your point of good education, I have to disagree. Liberals have no problems with facts, we have a problem with the sanitized and patriotic history taught in schools. Not that patriotism is bad necessarily, but it enters propaganda when it is used to frame history.

As for the comment on animal research, I’m not worried about the future. I’m sure it’ll be painted in a bad light once we have better technologies to replace animal use, but I don’t believe it will ever be as hated as slavery. The literal enslavement of humans simply cannot be compared to the use of animals in research. The difference in motives (profits vs. development of our understanding of the natural world) is also likely to be taken into account. Plus there’s already people that view what I do as monstrous so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Where is this “sanitized history?” We know that many of the founding fathers were slaveholders. No one disputes that unless you are getting your history from Parson Weems (George Washington and the cherry tree guy.)

What I have pointed out you is that you can’t judge historical figures by your modern standards. You can judge them by what they did to improve the human condition. The rights people had under the constitution in 1787 are far different from what they are now. That’s called progress.

You plan to unleash to the government into fixing every wrong by dictatorship is seriously flawed because you seem to think that the progressive dictators are all-know, all-moral and never, ever out for themselves.

You have complained about Diane Feinstein. Why do think that she’s still in the Senate? She’s there to take care of her interests, just like Nancy Pelosi is. People do not become angles when they get into government. They are still people with private interests that need to held accountable.

No, I’m not talking about ‘patriotic history’. I think teaching about the history of one’s own country is actually tricky. Because the naked ape (us) is such a nasty creature, we ought to shield young children from the worst aspects of not only ours, but all countries’ histories.
This inevitably means ‘sanitized history’ for a while: I don’t want to explain to an eight-year old about how some of our troops committed mass rapes on Okinawa, nor about the torture techniques Native Americans used on their victims, including children.

Then we should gradually make history teaching more and more realistic as children get older. The internet has accelerated their exposure to the nastier sides of human activity anyway, unfortunately.

Eventually, we should teach them that we, like all other members of our species, have a history that, by present-day standards (of the civilized countries, anyway), is deplorable. But what we don’t want to do is to teach them that we are the only guilty ones.

We’re just guilty of being better at it. But, in the long run, being better at it also has meant the undermining of the nasty bits … which is to say that human decency is loosely coupled to technical progress. (Loosely, of course. The Nazis proved that.) (Which is why Karl Marx approved of the effects of British imperialism in India, while deploring their brutal methods duing the Sepoy rebellion.)

It’s not patriotism that I, and Mr Hirsch, want to teach: it’s cultural knowledge. If you don’t know what “Noah’s Ark”, or Washington’s Cherry Tree were, who committed suicide by hemlock and why, what the Canterbury Tales were … and a few thousand other cultural referents – then you’re locked out of meaningful conversation.

No young person should graduate from high school, not knowing the story of the discovery of penicillin, of the storming of Omaha Beach, of the Underground Railroad and the Dred Scott decision.

And these things are not difficult to teach! Why some people on the Left hate this idea is beyond me. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would assume they have the same motivation as the people throughout history who did not want the masses to be able to read or get education, because it would threaten the power of those who could read and who did have an education. I don’t believe this, but I don’t have an alternative theory.

Please have a look at the Wiki entry on Mr Hirsch’s idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_literacy

Let me repeat: I don’t see how this is a Right/Left thing at all. Middle class children who have educated parents tend to learn a lot of this at home, but there are kids who will not learn it unless it’s taught at school. So it should be.

@Gene : No no no. Carry on with primate brain surgery, by which I think you mean reaearch into the neural system.

When I get a bright tutee, I tell them… they can either become bankers and earn huge amounts of money with which they can get a large home in the country, send all their children to private schools, go on wonderful holidays, own expensive cars, indulge their hobbies (and I’ve had tutees who go on to do a physics degree at Cambridge who then became bankers or the equivalent),

or … they can go into medical research — I recommend either genetics, or the study of the neural system — and earn enough for a modestly comfortable middle class life, but maybe also earn the gratitude of humanity… and with that and five dollars they’ll be able to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

It’s a cliche that the 20th Century was the Physics century but the 21st will be the Biology century. I’m strongly prejudiced towards Physics but I think it’s true. Once we understand how the meat computer up there really works, and once the people studying genes have advanced CRISPR to the point where we can choose, maybe even design, the genomes of our descendants … everything will change. We can’t even predict what such a world would look like.

Some people are concerned that this progress will yield a Brave New World dystopia, but I reassure them that we probably won’t get to that point, because we will all perish in a global nuclear war instead, so don’t worry.

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Getting one of those super high paying jobs on Wall Street is not as easy as you might think. When I was in MBA school at Rutgers, most any student there would have given a great deal to have had a chance to break in there, but the opportunities didn’t go to those who attended "Plebian schools.” You pretty much had to come from one of the “name schools” or the Ivy League to have a chance.

One of our classmates, who was not a particularly good student, was constantly going over to New York in his spare time to offer his services “pro bono” to one of the Wall Street investment houses. I never knew how that turned out for him.

Oh, by the way, the stamp hobby has been in doldrums for a long time. The prices have fallen like stone, even for the “blue chips” like the Zeppelin stamps.

The coin market has been down too, except for the “silk stocking” stuff that the mega rich like to buy. Things have gotten better since the pandemic because of speculation in gold and silver and more people are sitting at home on their computers with nothing to do other than bid in the big auctions. I’ve been “blown of the water” with my bids fairly frequently since this all started about a year ago.

It seems to me they have a problem with the facts when they carry things to the opposite extreme and pretty much paint America (and Christians) as being to blame for pretty much every ill in the world.