“I mean, I think huge swaths of the university are irrevocably corrupted: sociology, gone; anthropology, gone; history, big chunks of it are gone, the classics, literature, social work, political science in many places, and that doesn’t cover women’s studies, ethnic studies. They probably started lost, and it’s gotten far worse. I believe now, with the exception of the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) branch, that universities do more harm than good. I think they produce indentured servants in the United States because tuition fees have gone up so much and you can’t declare bankruptcy on your student loans. We’re teaching university students lies, and pandering to them, and I see that as counterproductive.”
I think that, over all, this assessment is likely to be true. The humanities and liberal arts have traditionally included logic and rhetoric education as staples of a good education. But most humanities degrees in the modern university require no logic courses. I’m not against a liberal arts education. In fact, there is a sense in which such an education is priceless, but with the diminished state of the humanities, many of the available degrees hardly qualify as liberal arts educations. And going into debt to achieve an education with no economic payoff is a bad decision. Education is necessarily vocational and while financial markets aren’t the sole determiners of value, the ability to eat, care for your children, and plan for the future are necessary considerations. When academics counsel people to be unconcerned about these areas of life, they are setting people up for emotional and economic ruin.
I’ve been accused of STEM idolatry before, but it was by a theologian who didn’t seem to understand things like ‘wisdom,’ ‘planning,’ or mathematics. The purpose of an education is human happiness and classical anthropology indicates that virtue is one of the key elements of happiness. The average college education seems to do little to supply virtue or the skills necessary to pursue virtue without being an ‘indentured servant.’
The current system is one in which universities end up existing, not to promote human happiness, but to maintain existence. Professors encourage students to obtain expensive doctoral degrees despite there being no jobs waiting on the other end of the dissertation defense. If you have more students, you can keep your job. If you have more students with terminal degrees, you have less jobs available for those people. And while happiness consists in more than having a paying job and owning property, it does not exclude them.
Anyway, I really think that a classical style education in the liberal arts for even very young children is a powerful solution to these problems. Especially if there is a way to do it that allows children to gain skills which they could use to afford college should they choose to attend. Graduating from high school with the ability to use logic, do research, discern dialectic from rhetoric, teach yourself math, and run a small business making a product or providing a service would do well to set people up for happiness and success.