Every so often, you come across an article that leaves you thinking, “Gosh — I can’t believe he actually said that!” A recent essay that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 27, 2002) had that effect on me. It was written by a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Randall Collins. Collins entitled his piece, “The Dirty Little Secret of Credential Inflation” and what made it so remarkable was his audacity in speaking a truth so contrary to his professional interest.
Are claims that some professors use their classes more to indoctrinate students in their own political ideology than to teach them anything true? Or are they like Elvis sightings? Liberal faculty members and administrators often scoff at such complaints, saying that the students who lodge them are just hypersensitive gripers.
Suppose you are dining out at a fine restaurant. You look over a menu that has many excellent items you are sure you would enjoy. At the very bottom you see this: “Plate of Spaghetti Without Sauce.” It’s priced the same as the other entrees. Would you order the spaghetti, or something else?
In 1976, I was a student at Duke Law School. One of the campus speakers that year was Milton Friedman, who had recently received the Nobel Prize in economics. Prior to his talk, leftist student groups posted signs around the campus protesting Friedman’s appearance on the grounds that since he had once given some economic advice to Pinochet’s government in Chile, he was therefore complicit in that regime’s repression.
The campaign for the higher education bonds in 2000 told North Carolina voters that the bonds were the best way to handle the University of North Carolina system’s deteriorating facilities and its pressing needs for new buildings to accommodate an expected surge in enrollment. Bond supporters were adamant and explicit in promising voters that the bonds wouldn’t raise their taxes. Now two years after passage, taxes have already risen and the deepening state budget crisis threatens to see them increase again, UNC is favoring new construction over supposedly critical repairs, there has been no sign of a massive surge in enrollment, and UNC is unnecessarily and openly pursuing contracting procedures that are possibly illegal and likely more costly. A moratorium on the bond sales, allowed by the legislation approving the bonds, appears to be the most responsible way to navigate the state’s fiscal crisis and UNC’s crisis of credibility with N.C. voters.
Moeser wants people to equate “knowledge” and “learning” with the kind of formal education he represents. But in his book The Joy of Freedom, economist David Henderson calls this “one of the biggest snow jobs.”
“Teacher Certification: Stumbling for Quality” is the title of a major report released in October by the Abell Foundation that has vexed the vociferous education establishment. The report, by Kate Walsh, tackles the assumptions that undergird the regulatory policies that all states have implemented, mandating teacher certification as the way to ensure good teachers.
Among the successful attacks on President Bush’s education bill, already mauled by the education establishment and its pack of congressional Dobermans, is a provision to dump more federal money into training “certified” teachers. I suggest that a large part of the explanation for the poor student performance, however, is the fact that our teacher-education programs are often worse than useless.
North Carolina has a long history of support for higher education. The state’s financial commitment to higher education is among the strongest in the United States. The high degree of subsidization of higher education in North Carolina has some very important effects. First, it transfers wealth from taxpayers in general to those families who take advantage of the low-cost UNC system. Second, it stimulates the demand for entrance into the system. Third, it works to the detriment of the private colleges and universities in the state. This paper will analyze each effect of North Carolina’s high subsidization of the University system.
Accreditation is one of those “the emperor is wearing no clothes” phenomena overloading our educational system.