Young people spend their time in college getting high, getting drunk, and getting off. So why shouldn’t they major in it? This seems to be the philosophy of Yale University, where a doctoral candidate is leading a course titled “Dance Music and Nightlife Culture in New York City.” The class includes DJ speakers, trips to chic clubs Le Bain and the Boom Boom Room, and a seminar on “Looks, Doors and Guest Lists: Getting Past the Velvet Rope.” The teacher, Madison Moore, says he’s worried “about whether people will think this is serious. But it’s not just about getting drunk. It’s about the history of it, the Harlem cabarets, understanding race, gender, sex, Prohibition and the law.” For just the bargain basement price of $53,070per annum, you can attend Yale and partake in such glorious and insightful learning.
With a $200,000+ degree in Clubbing, no wonder so many college students are joining Occupy Wall Street, where they are calling for jobs commensurate with their educational achievements. The problem is this: they already have jobs commensurate with their educational achievements. They are sitting in a park doing nothing for no pay. Sounds fair when all you know how to do is bat your eyelashes at bouncers.
It used to be that attending college was for those who wanted white collar jobs, who wanted higher training in English, math, or science. It was for people who wanted to be professors and engineers, lawyers and doctors. And there was no stigma attached to not going to college – there was nothing wrong with being a plumber or a hairdresser or a welder. In fact, often you could make better money doing those things than being a desk jockey or a paper-pusher.
Many of our best presidents didn’t go to college. Many of those who did went to Podunk colleges and got degrees in non-prestigious areas of learning. Today, anyone who doesn’t attend college is seen as a redneck or an idiot.
The greatest facilitator of the “everyone to college” mindset was the worst president of the twentieth century, Lyndon Baines Johnson (yes, he was worse than Jimmy Carter). Johnson signed into law the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was designed to build tons of new colleges and get more and more Americans into college. Why? Well, said Johnson, “It clearly signals this Nation’s determination to give all of our youth the education they deserve, and as long as we have a government, that government is going to take its stand to battle the ancient enemies of mankind, illiteracy and poverty and disease, and in that battle each of you are soldiers who wear the badge of honor.”
It’s now 46 years later, and we’re no closer to defeating illiteracy, poverty, or disease. As it turns out, most people are literate long before they get to higher education – according to UNESCO, over 95% of adults were already literate in the US by 1940. Average life expectancy in 1965 was just over 70; today, it’s about 78. In the 45 years between 1920 and 1965, the life expectancy jumped from 54 to 70, or about twice as much. So we haven’t quite defeated that disease thing. As for poverty? Today, more Americans are dependent on government than ever before in our history. Millions are on food stamps. In 1965, the poverty rate was 17%; today, it’s almost 15%. So much for education as cure-all.
Part of that is undoubtedly because many of the people going to college are there for the partying. It’s the “best time of your life!” College used to be training for an avocation that significantly helped society; now it’s better training for government dependency. No wonder the government employment rolls grow – more and more students are being taught not only about the glories of Big Government, but that they can attain wonderful jobs with little actual knowledge.
When I was at Harvard Law, the joke around the school was that the last two years of the program were an enormous scam. The first year taught us the basics of law – civil procedure, property, criminal law, etc. – but the last two years had us taking classes in legalism in Shakespeare and sexual tension in employment law. We all recognized that the real purpose of the last two years was to put us all another $100,000 in debt, so that by the time we graduated, we’d need to sign our souls away to a big law firm just to climb the ladder back to financial solvency.
The difference between Harvard Law and colleges across the country is that when you finish Harvard Law, you can get a job. A college degree in theater arts today guarantees you nothing. In fact, it puts you in significant debt with no chance of relief in sight. College degrees are the new subprime mortgages – the interest accrues and accrues, and there’s little chance that you’ll be able to pay it off if you were a dance major. No wonder the federal government wants to nationalize college loans – that way we can bail out all the bad college student borrowers the same way we have the subprime borrowers.
Here’s the bottom line: unless you’re going to college to learn a skill or a trade that will help you in life, skip it and get a job. Those poor saps sitting in the cold in Zuccotti Park waving around their puppetry diplomas from Wesleyan are the best evidence that college isn’t for everybody.
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