This year was a pretty busy summer for our family. Our 17-year-old son must decide what college he will go to. He is homeschooled, which means he hasn’t been drugged with Ritalin, hasn’t spent time in idiotic activities that have nothing to do with education, and has had enough time to both finish his general course and pass the SAT somewhere in the 90+ percentile, and pursue his specific professional interests which include computer engineering and programming. So we have been looking for a good technical college where he can develop his skills in either computer science or computer engineering.
So we have been traveling and visiting different universities and colleges, and we have been going through lots of literature and web-sites in order to make an informed decision about my son’s education. We want him to find the best computer education for the price we can afford. We are interested in education, not in anything else. We don’t want to know anything about all the side activities that parents and students pay for at college. We simply want to know the quality of education in the specific field for a specific college.
Strangely enough, we never found a college where the information session would tell us about the education part of it. Every time we go to an information session we hear about dormitories, the college football team, about the great relationships between students and professors (hmmm, I don’t think that excites me very much), about mascots, colors, and the origins of a college yell (or battle cry, or whatever they call it). We learn about what politician graduated from that college, which only makes me wonder if these people know anything about our modern American politics, and if they knew, whether they would just as proud of associating politicians with their college.
Every once in a while, when we sit at information session for an engineering college or computer science college, we would hear something about research done at the college. A few words about it, nothing specific. And then the conversation again goes to the students’ “experiences,” how great the community at the college is, and how the professors would find time to have a coffee with their students. Extra-curricular activities seem to be of more importance to a college than the curriculum itself. I only learn about the curriculum and the material learned from a sheet of paper where the study program is written in the dullest possible way, conveying minimum of information; codes and names of subjects. What the subjects contain is never disclosed. For example, Calculus can mean anything from just basic Calculus (which my son is taking this year) all the way to advanced Calculus. We were never told about the academic expectations at any college, and we were never told what a college does to help the academic knowledge and skills of the students. What was important in all of them was “building community”; which meant, of course, first the great religion of the American people, College Football, and then all the other smaller rituals that make one a “cultured person,” i.e. one that blends so much with the culture that they cease having an identity of their own. Academic knowledge and professional skills? Nah, not that important.
Same thing with the nice little brochures we get from colleges every day. Ever since he achieved results on the SAT that public schooled kids can only dream of, we’ve been buried under advertizing literature from a thousand colleges. (I am not kidding you.) Guess what they promise: Community, fun, nice experiences, study abroad, and all other kinds of things for which he’ll be happy to spend his money on. Academics? Ah, yeah, you may get that at our college too. Among other things.
The last one we went to, we had enough time to walk around and actually observe the students in the middle of a busy week day. Scores of them had occupied the cafeterias and the shops. A few individuals did have books with them, and a chosen few actually had them opened and were studying. Most were in the business of “socializing.” Which meant they were filling the air with the same 27 words separated by filler noises of the sort, “I was like,” “she was like,” “really cool,” “dude,” and “y’know.” Let alone the multiple shows of affection between a boy and a girl, probably studying for their anatomy class or something.
But my son wants to study. He doesn’t care for being “cultured” through a collective of bunch of young, little airheads whose idea of productive life is get drunk and laid. No college really tried to attract him with that concept. My son wisely decided to not ask them more questions. He could have startled them to death if he said he actually wanted to study.
Anyway, we’ll probably find something cheap and get him through the system as fast as possible, even if we need to cheat the system. Given his study habits, he may be able to pass the whole study course within a year. Well, may be year and a half; he likes taking lazy days every once in a while. We may be able to find alternatives to the traditional college.
But the greater question is this: Since when have our colleges become places for dumbing down the children of America? Since when academics is such a miniscule part of a college “experience” that it gets so little attention in a college advertising? How is it that with the super expensive colleges we have here in America, Eastern European and Asian kids know more after graduating from high school than our college graduates?
In his book, The Graves of Academe, Richard Mitchell explains the problem. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king; and in the land of the witless the half-wit is king. But the privileges of the one-eyed and the half-wit are only secure when there are not people around who have their full vision or have all of their wit with them. Therefore a major part of the policies of an one-eyed king or a half-wit king would be making sure that there are no two-eyed people or smart people around to rock the boat of the establishment. They can and will – in Mitchell’s words – “command the construction and perpetuation of a state-supported and legally enforced system for the early detection and obliteration of anti-social traits, and thus arrange that witfulness and 20-20 vision will trouble the land as little as possible.”
According to Mitchell, this system in America is called “education.” He knows. He’s been part of it.
Apparently, our educational system is controlled by “kings” who are one-eyed and half-wit. And that’s why our colleges are increasingly turning into factories for blind and witless graduates who can’t think beyond their “social experiences” and can’t talk without their really-cools and I-was-likes. Something needs to be changed if we don’t want America to go down the drain for the simple reason that our colleges have left us without vision and without wit – and have charged us crazy money for it.