Education

Higher Learning at an All-Time Low

September 03, 2015

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Higher Learning at an All-Time Low

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is nipping at Hillary Clinton’s two-inch heels in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination based largely upon his higher-education plan. With student debt now outpacing credit-card debt, the socialist senator wants to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition-free. Hillary herself has a more moderate plan: Provide $350 billion to lower tuition and help reduce interest rates for those with student loans.

Republicans have also caught the higher-ed reform bug. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush—Mao’s idea of a tolerable conservative—is embracing free community college for all. His Floridian rival, Sen. Marco Rubio, wants income-based refinancing of loan payments (*snore*). Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is infatuated with treating colleges like business—cutting the humanities and eliminating teacher tenure.

While Walker’s plan would deemphasize the importance of literature and drama on the human soul, it’s benign compared with his colleagues’ plans. Encouraging more young adults to attend college is a wrongheaded idea. Should higher education become cheaper and more accessible, you can wave goodbye to adulthood-cum-18 and say hello to a permanent liberal majority.

“Instead of sitting around tending to fragile egos, students should go out and experience how the real world operates.”

“Free” community college might sound like a good idea compared with the astronomical cost of normal university, but there are negative repercussions to heaping another entitlement onto an already spoiled generation. First of all, most community college is already cost-free. So little to nothing is accomplished in waiving the price entirely. Additionally, young adults shouldn’t be given something that is supposed to cultivate personal responsibility—it sends the wrong message. Things are valued more when work is put into them.

At a more general level, American universities have become far too lax regarding admissions. Many of the students I attended university with were spoiled, listless, and just going through the motions to graduate in between keggers. They weren’t challenging themselves to think more broadly about the world. For many it was a struggle to make it to class Friday morning after getting sloshed. Should the government really be picking up the tab for what amounts to a four-year Oktoberfest?

If you still aren’t convinced that college does more harm than good, consider the damage done to mental health. According to a recent survey by the American College Health Association, 54 percent of college students say they have felt overwhelming anxiety within the past year. In a recent Atlantic cover story, psychologist Jonathan Haidt and constitutional lawyer Greg Lukianoff detail how college administrators and professors are combating increased anxiety by suppressing unpleasant or controversial thoughts from the greater student body. Students are no longer engaging with ideas that are contrary to their own. Instead, they are shunning anything that is uncomfortable. This includes harassing professors, forcing speaker cancellations, and vandalizing the property of those who refuse to give in to political correctness. With this amount of thought policing on campus, it’s no wonder students are more anxious than ever.

It only gets worse when it comes to sex. At Columbia University, attendees are now forced to enroll in what’s called the “Sexual Respect and Community Citizenship Initiative.” This programming requires students to do such things as watch videos on rape culture, attend film screenings on oppressive patriarchy, and sit through workshops featuring sexual-assault survivors. These activities aren’t voluntary; they are necessary in order to graduate.

Thanks to the closed-mindedness fostered in university, most college students are, to borrow Walker Percy’s description, “a shaky dogmatic lot.” Their beliefs are set in stone, and it’s near impossible to challenge them. “At heart, they’re totalitarians: they want either total dogmatic freedom or total dogmatic unfreedom, and the one thing that makes them unhappy is something in between,” Percy wrote. Just think: Are these really the type of upstanding adults we want American universities producing?


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