Phi Beta Cons

Still Commanding Respect

Mark’s post below on the support higher education enjoys in our country is amplified by something Gary Rosen mentions in his terrific piece on his participation in a journalists’ junket to China in the December “Commentary.”  Rosen says that most of the Chinese bureaucrats who hosted the junket had been educated in the U.S. at some point and loved to advertise that fact, going so far in some cases as to list their U.S. degrees on their business cards. ”In China, as in the rest of the world,” Rosen remarks, “the American university system still commands respect.”  It is an anomaly.  As the content of higher education in the U.S. grows more and more threadbare, the prestige of a U.S. degree remains steady.  It could just be the fact that the U.S. is the major world power today.  Also, as here in America, it could just be a matter of the certification and the prestige it carries.  Perhaps also in certain areas, especially where foreigners come to study, the educational content is still sound or at least practical.  Then there is the possibility that people for whom English is a second language are not absorbing the silly stuff.  It’s unlikely that a Chinese student will take a course in female self-fashioning in African American drama, for example.  Overall, it’s an interesting question that bears looking into.   But in any event, it points to the need for us to keep making the case against the degradation of higher education, as well as to keep putting forth the better alternatives, and not to wait for some outside man on horseback (alumni, parents, legislators, etc.) to see the problem and remedy it.


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