Frost’s Note: We are fortunate again today. The eloquent and widely-regarded Zdeno, previously the author of a few show-stoppers over at 2Blowhards, has agreed to let me print another of his brilliant, yet seemingly effortless works. A round of e-applause please, for our esteemed guest:
A re-introduction, for those just now tuning in:
I have proposed a complete liquidation of North America’s institutions of higher education. Every University, College, Technical Institute and Sylvan Learning Centre that is owned by any level of government – give it the eBay treatment. (Throw in the entire K-12 system while you’re at it , but we’ll save that post for another day).
I’ve spent the past half-decade in a couple of these venerable institutions, and I’ve seen how they operate. The things we should want in our Universities – education, honest scholarship, practical research and curiosity – I saw very little of. In their place were drugs, debauchery, alcoholism, academic dishonesty, and worst of all, course content of an indescribably bad quality.
But before we pledge ourselves to the liquidationist cause, we need to be reasonably sure that the world we create is better than the one we currently inhabit. For a change as radical as this one, we need to be really, really, really, reasonably sure. As of this writing, I feel pretty good about the idea. But I’ll feel a lot better if I lay my case out for all you bright people to pick apart, and come out alive on the other end.
Let’s discuss the various organs of the Beast in increasing order of difficulty – I’ll begin with what I feel are the most easily-recognized-as-crap aspects of the system, and proceed from there. This approach gives me a very obvious starting point: Business programs.
About which: As your one-armed buddy says when you ask him what it was like back in ‘Nam, I can only say, “You had to be there.” Mountains of textbooks, lectures and PowerPoint slides, all repackaging whichever pseudo-scientific theories-of-week were published in this month’s Harvard Business Review. I won’t be so cruel as to recommend you actually peruse any of this material, but please spend a few minutes clicking through some Dilbert comics. There is a reason why Scott Adam’s caricature of the useless, pointy-haired business-school graduate resonates with so many.
But let’s say we give every business school the axe. What will replace them? My answer: Nothing. Craters, hopefully. If a kid wants to learn about business, the best thing he can do is go work in one. Once he figures out what kind of role he’s best suited for, he can learn the skills required along the way. How hard is it to calculate a net present value? Not very. Next up: The Arts.
This one’s not so hard either. Most of what is taught in Arts departments is either completely worthless – Gender, Ethnic, Post-Colonial, and Marxist-Leninist Studies – or so poorly taught that their inclusion in any sane curriculum of the future would require a complete break from any pre-2009 intellectual tradition – Anthropology, Sociology, English Literature, Criminology, Political Science. Without the University system as it exists today, these areas of inquiry would be relegated to the fringe, studied only by those interested in understanding the peculiarities of 20th-century academia.
The more sensible subjects in the Arts faculty, such as Psychology, Economics, and foreign Languages – are green shoots pushing through the cracks in a concrete parking lot. I will punt these into the next category: Legitimate fields of inquiry.
This group comprises areas of study that I consider valid, interesting and useful. Unlike the above-mentioned departments, I feel the world would be a much poorer place without dedicated people and institutions advancing the state of human knowledge in the Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, Economics, History, and (after a complete revamp) Literature, Poli Sci and Anthropology.
I also include in this category the professions that currently require many years of intensive schooling, such as Law and Medicine.
These subjects – and here I tip my hand, revealing my radical Libertarian leanings – can and should be taught and researched by private citizens, free from government funding and influence. For-profit R&D institutions will advance the state of human knowledge in science and technology. The rest can be taken up by individuals, motivated by curiosity and linked together by this wonderful thing called “the internet”.
So there’s my big idea. Insane? Perhaps. But in my opinion, no more insane than maintaining the fatally flawed status quo. For those interested in further reading on the subject, Check out Murray Rothbard on compulsory education here. Wash that down with some Milton Friedman, and finish it all off with Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. If you can make it through them without developing a healthy skepticism of government-monopolized education, than your convictions are strong indeed.
Of course, I doubt you’re a convert to my admittedly eccentric viewpoint yet. My question to you, Blowhards: Why not? What would we miss out on, if we shut down all post-secondary education funding tomorrow, and deregulated every profession that currently requires a state-sanctioned accreditation?