Re: Yglesias on Endowments
No, I most certainly do not think that Yglesias is right in asserting that the nation needs to put more effort (more money, I suppose) into trying to get the marginal students to do better.
Yglesias has probably never attempted to teach your typical college student — the one who is little interested in academic pursuits, whose main concern is the social life of the campus, and who expects college to be a continuation of K-12 with low expectations and easy grades. I have. On rare occasions, I would encounter a kid who was just bored with schooling but “woke up” in college, but overwhelmingly my experience was that these students just want to go through the motions. They aren’t motivated to read, to ponder, to work at improving themselves. In fact, many resent it when professors have the nerve to criticize their efforts.
People like Yglesias who think that the U.S. is missing out on a great amount of productive potential supposedly trapped in those students who don’t make it into or through college should read Generation X Goes to College. That book is an accurate portrait of the life of a professor at a non-selective institution.