Why College?

by John Derbyshire

Two appendices to Michael Barone’s column on NRO this morning:

1.  Statistics blogger Half Sigma has analyzed the GSS (General Social Survey) numbers to see how much a college degree is worth.

2.  Here’s an early precursor of Peter Thiel, the guy who’s paying kids to drop out of college:

A good many parents write to me inquiring what college they should choose for Dick or Jane. Their children, some parents confide, didn’t do at all well in high school, fell in with bad companions, and have no particular intellectual interests. Where should they enroll? Who will polish these rough diamonds?

I suggest to such correspondents that for their children, almost anything might be preferable to college … Emancipate Dick and Jane. Let them go to work somewhere; apprentice them, if possible, to some decent trade or profession; or if a little money is available, let them travel abroad … Let them release their energies. But don’t labor under the illusion that four more years of confinement to classrooms — after twelve or thirteen years of compulsory classroom attendance already — will turn them into little plaster saints. Most of them want out, and most of them are right.

                    Russell Kirk, “Why College?” (National Review, January 19, 1973)

In that same article Kirk wrote: “Probably most Americans have become painfully aware, at last, that the notion of riches-by-diploma is a fallacy promulgated by empire-building educationists. The sad rosters of unemployed recent graduates have exploded this delusion.”

Not such a fallacy nowadays, on the GSS numbers. I do keep seeing news stories about unemployed graduates, though, so perhaps we’re headed back towards 1973.