Category: Education

Digging The Great Courses

Greatly enjoying The Great Courses Plus subscription. This time of the year brings long hours in the garden. I love it, but it starts to be a bit much after awhile, with my mind subtly shifting from “We must cultivate our garden,” and all the artistic and spiritual metaphors it evokes, to “Damn, this is a grinding waste of time.”

Podcasts help, but they’re like blogs: a decent source of information, but with emphasis on entertainment and production rather than reliability and accuracy.

Enter the Great Courses Plus. Curated, edited, taught by experts in their fields. The fare isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’s still awfully good. Ten years ago, I would’ve given their fare a “9.5” These days, I give it an “8.” In the old days, it was rare to get a bad course. These days, you have a much better chance, but with the “Plus,” you don’t have to buy the lecture to find out that it sucks. If the lecturer grates, delete it. If the presentation is confusing, switch to something else.


Interesting: I’ve long railed against female sportscasters doing men’s sports. Their voices simply don’t “fit” the game. Women aren’t on the field playing, so there is something incongruous about listening to them announce the game.

(Aside: I really dislike the “urban” accent of many black athletes, but in the context of announcing a game? It … Read the rest

The Chicken Heart that Sucks Out Our Souls

Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash

The great Stoic Epictetus pointed out that education is the means to freedom.

Unfortunately, education today frequently becomes the means of slavery.

Everyone knows that the cost of higher education keeps escalating. Even the excellent tax advantages of educational IRAs and 529 plans haven’t made it easier to pay for college because education inflation outstrips the plans’ benefits.

A handful of families can afford to pay for their children’s education, but most cannot. So what do those families do?

The children get student loans.

The result? The loans often hound the children into their forties, forcing them to work intensely to pay the principal and interest. Does a man with a snootful of office life and savage commutes dream of what so many great men, from Epictetus to Russell Kirk, lauded: a leisure tinged with slight poverty, a small amount of money but a large assortment of books, a meager stock portfolio but a blooming garden, a mediocre car but lots of time with his children?

Tough.… Read the rest

Friday

BYCU

I hung out at Central Michigan University quite a bit when I went to school at Alma College in the 1980s. These days, I only get back there when I go to Soaring Eagle, Michigan’s first indian casino and one of the few in the lower peninsula that allow my 18-year-old children to attend with me.

For some reason, CMU has been a “whipping boy” of one of my favorite writers, Joseph Epstein, who often refers to it when lamenting the “college is for everyone” culture we’ve lapsed into and, in general, the degradingly-laughable fall of college academics in general. Central isn’t a bad school by any means, but it is a degree factory, just like the vast majority of colleges these days. There’s no more shame in attending CMU than there is in attending any of the state universities that were established through land grants.

Here’s how Wikipedia explains how land grant colleges started: “The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering (though “without excluding … classical studies”), as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class. This mission was in contrast to the historic practice of higher education to focus on an abstract liberal arts curriculum.”

Such a mission obviously doesn’t apply just to land-grant colleges any more. Even my alma Read the rest

Monday

Student Loans

The student debt problem is getting more and more press . . . and more attention in Congress. The whole debate infuriates me. The federal government created this mess by throwing a ton of money at the higher education establishment, which caused tuition rates to rise astronomically over the past 25 years, so now students have to go deep in debt in order to afford it. Congress now wrings its hands and points accusing fingers at the private lenders and college admissions officers, even though the federal government put in the systemic conditions that created the situation.

You want to eliminate the student loan problem? Stop the federal government from guaranteeing the loans, stop the federal government from providing Pell grants and other forms of tuition assistance, stop the federal government from otherwise funding higher education. The price of tuition would drop through the floor, putting it in reach of everybody except the poor and near-poor.

I know, I know: That’s not fair to the poor. Well, tough. It is fair. It’s neutral, which makes it fair. And besides, there’d still be need-based private scholarships and part-time college course work while a person works a full-time job. So 20% of the population would have to struggle to get their family out of that lower 20%. That’s fine. It’d greatly lessen the burden on the middle 70%.

The more I think and read … Read the rest

Thursday

golf pantsPolitically Incorrect Speech Upheld

In case you missed, it a federal Court of Appeals court seems to have brought a dose of common sense to its First Amendment jurisprudence. A high school student wore a shirt that said, “Be happy, not gay.” She wore it the day after her school allowed a “Day of Silence,” which was held to draw attention to the harassment of gay students. The 7th Court of Appeals ruled that a school that “permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality.” Link. You know what would be wonderful? If schools would jettison the political slant altogether and focus on more boring things, like math and reading. But no, the self-righteous don’t deem things like “Days of Silence” as political, but rather as fundamental human rights instruction and no more out of line than teaching about the Civil Rights movement or instructing kids to respect their elders. * * * * * * * The Solution. It’s all very frustrating, but as I’ve pointed out before, we can get rid of most of such controversies in one fell stroke: eliminate the monopoly of public education. If people have a choice of schools, they can choose the school that fits their attitude and disposition, instead of turning every public school building into an ideological war zone. You ever wonder why these fights flare … Read the rest

Wednesday

students-loans2

Crushing the Youth

This article about the “college tuition bubble” is interesting, but its content doesn’t support its assertion. The assertion: College tuition is in a bubble that is about to get pricked. The content then gives eight reasons why college tuition is outrageously priced, but only one of the reasons explicitly supports the idea that the bubble is about to get pricked:

According to Bloomberg, publicly traded higher education companies derive three-fourths of their revenue from federal funds, up from just 48 percent in 2001 and approaching the 90 percent limit set by federal law. The fact that colleges are almost completely relying on borrowed money to finance tuition, up to the legal limit, means we’ve almost hit the breaking point. If not for the easy student loan money sloshing around, many colleges would go belly up tomorrow.

Of course, grossly-rising prices generally tend to get resistance from market forces. At some point, people just figure the price isn’t worth it. If that happens, a pop or deflationary puncture could develop: if people stop going to college, colleges will have to lower prices to attract students. Even better, if people stop going to college, the trend could catch on, leading more to a sudden pop than a slow leak. Or people could start demanding lower-priced alternatives, which could lead to cheaper online options (which are available, but the education establishment blocks them with protectionist … Read the rest

Wednesday

cardinalnewmanFinally, I Post a Small Tribute to the Cardinal

The puzzling Roger Scruton recently penned a borderline-beautiful tribute to Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University. Check it out. Excerpt:

The university is a society in which the student absorbs the graces and accomplishments of a higher form of life. In the university, according to Newman, the pursuit of truth and the active discussion of its meaning are integrated into a wider culture, in which the ideal of the gentleman is acknowledged as the standard. The gentleman does not merely know things; he is receptive to the tone, the meaning, the lived reality of what he knows. Thus, for Newman, “the general principles of any study you may learn by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it live in us, you must catch all these from those in whom it lives already.” The university of Newman’s day was a place in which men (and it was then an institution for men only) lived for scholarship, and arranged their lives around the sacrifice that scholarship requires. It was not simply a repository of knowledge. It was a place where work and leisure occurred side by side, shaping each other, and each playing its part in producing the well-formed and graceful personality.

Another great quote from the same article:

Under a president whose knowledge of

Read the rest

Nine Days with Kuehnelt-Leddihn

Menace of the HerdThe Reading Illiterate

“A reading-writing education as such has benefited nobody, has elated nobody spiritually or culturally. There is no need to go to the other extreme and to believe that the knowledge of the three R’s is basically destructive, but nothing is more stupid or unrealistic than to judge the level of other countries by the number of illiterates.”

And, as a corollary, nothing is more stupid or unrealistic than to judge the level of our country by the number of literates.

It reminds me of a Dear Abby column I saw earlier this year. A mother wrote, saying that she couldn’t get her children to read, until she came up with this novel approach: she turned off the volume on the TV and turned on close-captioning. The result: The children had to read in order to watch TV! Dear Abby was elated with the advice and passed it onto her readers.

Such idiocy could pass for intelligence only in a culture of mass education. The three R’s are valued as ends in themselves, instead of means to greater things. Reading for the sake of reading is about as healthy as eating for the sake of eating. Eating of any sort is good as opposed to starving, and reading of any sort (even the close-captioned reading) is better than no reading, but a diet of potato chips and ice cream doesn’t benefit a person’s … Read the rest