On January 29, Peter Sacks, whom I recently debated over the question of whether we’ve oversold college, posted a short essay on Minding the Campus. Evidently, it was prompted by critical comments Hans Bader and I made regarding Obama’s recent higher-ed pronouncements.
Today I posted a response.
Space was limited, so I could not address every point I’d have liked to. One that I had to leave out was Mr. Sacks’s contention that large numbers of American students are being denied “the dream of a college education.” The trouble with that, as his own 1996 book Generation X Goes to College and numerous other books and articles published since then show, many of the students who go to college don’t care in the least about education. They’re enrolled because they want the credential that (they’ve been told) is necessary for getting a “good job.” They want that credential with as little effort as possible and often rebel against professors who don’t play along. They search for the courses that are the easiest. Many graduate with little or no gain in cognitive ability. Increasing the number of young people who go to college would necessarily mean digging deeper into the barrel of high-school graduates and most of those students will be even more academically weak and disengaged. College isn’t what they want or need.