The Corner

Education

A Satirical Novel Highlights the Rot in College Education

Sometimes a bit of satire and humor are more effective in getting people to see problems that are loads of serious reports and books. For that reason, we should welcome a recent novel entitled Original Prin. In today’s Martin Center piece, Anthony Hennen looks at it.

It was written by Randy Boyagoda, a Canadian English professor who is not some implacable foe of higher education. He is alert to its current lunacies, however, such as the faculty of a Catholic college that frets about the school as too Catholic-seeming.

Hennen writes:

A generation ago, colleges could keep up their rarified air of bastions of learning. But with the rising number of youths attending college and the mass of academics using social media, the mystique of college as a place dedicated to knowledge has given way to looking just like other revenue-focused human endeavors. Faculty, administrators, and college officials have a financial interest in higher ed, just as a businessman does in his job. Original Prin brings that reality to life.

That’s an important idea to plant.

Hennen’s only disappointment with the book is that it doesn’t more fully develop the deep trouble that religious colleges face. He writes:

The most interesting thread in Original Prin that’s left undeveloped, though, is the secularization of religious colleges. The school changes its name so it doesn’t sound too Catholic. Its ‘convent schools had been closed for decades, and the two dining halls were now a scent-free study space and prayer room for Muslim students.’ And its Catholic students club is ‘comprised of six Chinese communications majors who spoke little English.’ Many religious schools seem to be shifting away from their religious mission and identity. Religiously minded parents might choose a religious college for their children, but the reality on the ground isn’t as safe or sacred as they had hoped.

The novel sounds like a good read.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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