The Decline and Fall of the American University
It is difficult to know where to begin when describing the decline and fall of the American university, much like how Edward Gibbon probably felt when describing the same for the Western Roman Empire. There are so many points of failure, that is difficult to know which crack caused the bridge to collapse – but collapse it has.
Prior to 1970 (more on that year later), a college degree meant little to one’s earnings capacity. In fact, earning more money would have been considered a peculiar reason for attending college – why not just go to work? A high school diploma back then actually meant something, and could set you up for a comfortable income – enough to raise a wife and children on – for the rest of your life.
Nowadays though (as I too was told), the conventional wisdom is that college is the only way to get a decent job and keep oneself off the street. For the very bright, college is the place for them to go, since after all, “college is where the smart people go.” A college degree from a respected institution is one of the ultimate arbiters in American society that judges who shall rise and whom shall fall.
“But unpropaganda, what you’re talking about doesn’t sound much like a decline.”
It is true that the university system still wields monstrous power over our country, and consumes vastly more money than it has any right to. But this is only because the university has mutated from academies dedicated to the pursuit of truth into corporate headhunters, bawdy houses, jobs programs for unemployable Marxist dinosaurs, barracks for political foot soldiers, and Bolshevist indoctrination centers.
Life Before the Rise of Academia: Aptitude Testing
As I discussed in the previous section, prior to about 1971, a college degree was not required for entry into the workforce or entry into the middle class. The reason for this was that the colleges faced manifold competition from employers themselves, in the form of aptitude tests. Instead of blowing 4 years at college, you could walk into a workplace, take a test which might take about an hour, and your score would very quickly clue the company into how qualified you were for the job.
The motivation for widespread employment screening trickled down from the military’s experiences with large-scale intelligence testing during the First and Second World Wars.
The military has used intelligence testing for selection, classification, and job assignment purposes since 1917, and has gone through several revisions of its testing procedures, from the WW1-era Alpha and Beta Tests, to the WW2-era Army General Classification Test (nowadays, the military uses the ASVAB and AFQT for testing recruits). To quote Bill McMorris from his article:
“The armed services were forced to process hundreds of thousands of recruits during the war, and in order to filter and assign soldiers, the government developed aptitude tests. Businesses witnessed the U.S. defeat the two most efficient peoples known to man, thought there must be something to this whole testing thing, and followed suit. The chief hiring metric in the postwar era was not whether someone had a degree, but whether he had the aptitude that would enable him to succeed. Every industry from blue-blooded high finance to immigrant-heavy manufacturing employed testing to determine who would rise through the ranks, regardless of lineage, heritage, or education. Testing enabled men who set out to be blue-collar workers to ascend based solely on their ability.”
Aptitude testing supercharged American industry, allowing personnel decisions to be made based on solid, quantitative evidence. Grumbling about the testing being unfair to minorities simply didn’t exist, since the Minority Grievance Industry didn’t exist before the 1960’s.
The Wind in Academia’s Sails: the Griggs vs. Duke Power Decision
If you Google the question “Why is college so expensive?” you will get endless articles justifying and excusing academia’s massive increases in cost of attendance, or lots of bellyaching over the matter. Very few however, will actually discuss the real reason for the huge cost increases since 1978.
In 1970, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. Duke Power Company required a high school diploma (and minimum performance on aptitude tests) to get the better-paying jobs in the company. Blacks were often relegated to the company’s labor department, while most of the higher-paying position were held by whites. Even though whites and blacks were subjected to the same standards for employment qualification, because the blacks failed to meet the standard in proportion to their population percentage (“disparate impact“), the court ruled the standards themselves were racist and illegal. To be completely clear: it does not matter how sensible the standard is, or necessary it is to continue the organization’s mission – “Black Dysfunction Uber Alles” is the rule.
Overnight, it became virtually impossible for employers to use aptitude tests (proxy IQ tests) to screen out idiotic applicants without fear of being dragged to court for some kind of racial discrimination lawsuit. However, the twist is that the courts have “OK’ed” the requirement of a college degree for job positions, no matter how irrelevant a college degree would be to the job. Employers, still needing a way to screen out the stupids, decided that requiring a college degree for their position would be a suitable means of employment testing.
This brings us to our conclusion regarding the court ruling. The whole reason academia is so bloated, well-funded, and powerful is because of the Griggs vs. Duke Power decision, which granted them monopoly power over employment screening and testing. IQ testing for jobs would eliminate the need for everyone to get a college degree, save young people a fortune in college tuition and loans, and allow them to get into the workforce immediately. If companies could IQ test, the demand for a college degree would plummet overnight, and billions upon billions of dollars that would formerly be directed to the charlatans in academia would be put toward increasing economic productivity.
A common retort is that college teaches useful skills and gives the young person a chance to mature. The unfortunate truth is that employers are often disinterested in the curriculum at the university, and are far more interested in the school’s selection criteria. As discussed in the article in The Economist:
“A recent study of recruitment by professional-services firms found that they took graduates from the most prestigious universities not because of what the candidates might have learned but because of those institutions’ tough selection procedures. In short, students could be paying vast sums merely to go through a very elaborate sorting mechanism.”
This fact only further support the point that highly-intelligent people do not need college, and that employer-based intelligence testing would greatly accelerate life for them. The big, prestigious colleges do not provide good educational value; their name recognition simply attracts applicants that had high IQ’s to begin with.
Communist Infiltration of Academia
A further mutation of the university is the infiltration by the radical left into high positions, e.g. tenured professorships and administrative positions. For whatever reason, very wealthy people continue to donate heavily to universities and shower these criminals with wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. Imagine if you will, the following scenario:
A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, who bombed several black churches in the South during the 1960’s, or a convicted abortion clinic bomber, are given tenure at a major university. Out of their own mouths, on video camera, they have not expressed the least bit of remorse for their actions, and believe “we should have done more.” They have published books recounting their experiences of their years “on the run” from law enforcement. During their “radical years,” they accepted large sums of money from hostile foreign governments to be used with the intent of overthrowing the U.S. government and instituting a new, totalitarian regime. They calculated, with their own hands, that about 25 million Americans would have to be exterminated to make their dream a reality. They are up-front that their entire purpose in getting a professorship was to influence a new generation of young radicals to follow in their footsteps, and continue using violent actions to bust up the black churches and civic organizations, bomb abortion clinics, assassinate abortion doctors, and overthrow the U.S. government.
Seem unthinkable, outrageous, and impossible? Well, that pretty much describes Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn. The only deviations are that neither was a Klansman or an abortion clinic bomber – they were communists. While both no longer teach, they were employed for some time by the University of Illinois – Chicago and Northwestern University as professors. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, they participated in numerous bombings (which, by a miracle, never killed anyone except for Ayers’s none-too-bright girlfriend) against government buildings, police stations, and landmarks. Most of the 1970’s were spent on the run from the FBI. It was only through legal technicalities that they were able to escape prosecution and live as free people.
The Corporatization of the University and Political Control
Despite employing Marxist dinosaurs as professors, the American universities behave in some respects like arch-capitalists. Unable to screen out bad employees, employers quickly discovered that they could screen out idiots by simply requiring a college degree for any and every position. This caused the demand for college degrees to skyrocket, and the universities were holding all the cards with their de facto monopoly power over employment intelligence screening. This is the real reason the price of a college education has skyrocketed since 1970. The colleges are simply milking their monopoly for all it’s worth, and corporations are happy to shove off the cost of employee training onto the citizenry. The purpose of the colleges is not to incubate new ideas or challenge existing norms. The purpose of the college is to indoctrinate impressionable young minds into leftist orthodoxy, and groom them for a life of wage-slavery and political obedience on the corporate plantation.
College degrees also allow the universities and corporate America to exert tremendous political control through tacit threats, intimidation, and blackballing. The threat of blacklisting and debt enslavement are omnipresent in American society. The power elite no longer stand dissidents against the wall; they instead financially destroy them by getting them fired and blacklisted from their occupation. College isn’t really about education anymore; it’s more like a Mafiaesque protection racket combined with a medieval tradesman’s guild; “Nice degree you worked hard to get there. It would be a shame if a few phone calls made it worthless.”
An overturning of the Griggs decision would be one of the best results we could hope for out of the Trump administration. Instead of half-a-trillion dollars (or about 2.5% of GDP) going to the colleges every year, and young people having to waste 4 years on college, that money would be directed to genuine productive purposes.
Student Loans and the Decline of Business Formation
The amount of credit that is doled out to go to college could be better directed towards business formation, but it is not difficult to see how young people taking on crippling, six-figure levels of debt in their early 20’s might be a speed bump to getting funding. You can get $250,000 in loans to get a worthless degree that only turns you into a left-wing political foot soldier, but you will find it difficult to get even a fraction of that money to start a business.You’d think with all of the talk of “jobs,” that politicians would be tripping over one another to fund business formation. But instead they are just trying to make their buddies (college presidents) rich beyond the dreams of avarice.
- It funnels money to already-rich left-wing colleges.
- It enslaves people with debt, forcing them to work harder and be willing to suffer labor abuses due to an overwhelming need for money to pay off their loans.
- Instead of funding start-ups that create huge amounts of competition for established, favored, leftist-aligned corporations, it creates a huge reserve army of skilled labor that can be fired and replaced for any hint of disobedience or revealed political consciousness.
- It allows leftist charlatans and racketeers (aka “professors”) to propagandize the right side of the bell curve, while using the left side of the bell curve for street action and rioting.
It is humorous to me how the colleges can be so left-wing (which supposedly means labor solidarity), and yet they do everything they can to screw over the American worker and their own adjunct faculty members.
The Decline in Admissions Standards and Rigor
I knew a lot of people in college that shouldn’t have been there, but were sent there anyways simply because a college degree is needed to get anywhere in life these days. However, the problem is even more serious than I originally thought:
“Ninety percent of high-school seniors expect they will go on to college, with seven out of ten of those believing they’ll progress from there into a professional career.”“The … reality [is] that, while all parents want their kids to complete college, little more than half of those millions who haul their laptops to campus each fall actually end up with a bachelor’s degree.”
In short, the American university, to echo what Charles Murray has said, is flooding itself with idiots to keep up with demand.
The decline in academic rigor is palpable as well. In 1961, undergrads spent 25 hours a week hitting the books. That is now 13 hours a week, or less than 2 hours a day. From the book quoted in the article, one-third of students did not take any classes requiring “more than forty pages of reading a week.” Fifty percent of students did not take a course that required more than 20 pages of writing total for the whole semester.
The Death of the Western Educational Tradition
As quoted in the article:
“The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead published a rousing defense of college’s ability to, among other things, “expose individuals to the signal accomplishments of humankind.””
Peter Brimelow often repeats the old economist’s maxim, “Things that can’t go on forever – don’t.” College right now is a bubble whose bursting time is nigh, as it has the hallmarks of a speculative bubble:
- Frantic investment by low-information investors.
- Investing financed heavily by debt.
- Unquestionable faith in high future returns to due to (hypothetically) high past returns.
What will it look like though? I haven’t a clue. Perhaps young people, who do not feel comfortable incurring so much debt with little promise of a job at the end of it all, will simply give up on college. Perhaps entrepreneurship will see a Renaissance, as it offers far higher potential rewards than a university education. In any case, I can fully expect the federal government, eager to help their friends in academia out, authorizing yet another bailout for the ultra-rich and politically well-connected. Silicon Valley prince Peter Thiel has grown so disillusioned with college, that he has started giving out $100,000 investment seed grants to young people to develop their business plans instead of attending college.
I do know one thing though – no matter how wealthy I become, no matter how much I ever have left over to spare, I will never give one cent of it to academia. I’d get more utility out of that money using it as wallpaper or to fire a wood stove.