Higher Education Corruption: The Dangers of a College Education

by | Mar 9, 2021 | Education

Without a separation of school and state, the madness will continue.

Higher education is considered by many to be essential to a person’s life. It’s considered necessary for a good job, developing the mind, and is often the source of our most formative experiences and relationships. This perception is just one of the many persistent myths in American culture that needs to change. Higher education is not only unnecessary for most people, it’s often destructive to them and the rest of society and needs to be completely overhauled.

Most people do not need to go to college because they can learn what they need on the job.

Supposedly we need to go to college to learn the knowledge and skills required for today’s advanced jobs and careers. But according to economist Bryan Caplan, author of The Case Against Education, most undergraduates do not go to college for what it teaches. They go for the credential and nothing more.

Most undergraduates don’t learn anything from their degree they can’t learn on the job just as easily or better and in a shorter amount of time and without going into debt. Consider the basic jobs in food and beverage, retail, insurance, real estate, banking, business, education, etc. Individuals in these jobs often don’t even need to have a degree specifically related to the work they will do to get hired; they just need a degree.

According to Caplan, hiring managers are responding to the overabundance of applicants with high school and college degrees that needs to be narrowed down somehow. Requiring a college degree acts as a minimum qualification for proxy qualifications like intelligence, responsibility, and other personal qualities they hope their hirees possess.

College should exist as an academic institution only for those jobs that truly require learning beyond a basic high school degree. Individuals who plan to work in the arts and sciences, medicine, law, etc. should go to college. But they do not need the first two years or all the “student affairs” we have come to believe is an essential part of our education like sports teams and social clubs.

It does not teach you to be a critical thinker as they say it does. In fact, it does the opposite.

When it is presented to faculty and administrators that college is unnecessary for the majority of people their usual response is that college is much more than a means to get a job. Its main purpose is to create critical thinkers.

On the contrary, the first two years of college are basically a repeat of the last two of high school. Nothing new is taught.

Second, the first two years, which are presumably the liberal arts part of the curriculum designed to enlighten our minds are often taught by teaching professors without tenure, graduate assistants, or by reluctant tenure track professors who dislike undergraduate teaching and just want to do research. In short, there is no pervasive commitment to a liberal arts education as claimed.

Third, the curriculum, especially the liberal arts and social sciences, is taught from a liberal bias.   According to Inside Higher Ed, liberal professors outnumber conservative professors 10 to 1. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the liberal professors are indoctrinating their students, if we accept their basic premise that we are all “implicitly biased,” then that’s exactly what it means.

George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley testified before congressional lawmakers that “you are more likely to find public supporters for (the liberal idea of) restricting free speech than you are to find defenders of free speech principles on many campuses.”

And Walter Williams in “What Students Learn in Today’s U.S. Colleges” provides just a short but shocking list of examples of liberal bias taken from Campus Reform and The College Fix:

  • A University of California, Davis, mathematics professor faced considerable backlash over her opposition to the requirement for “diversity statements” from potential faculty.
  • Those seeking employment at the University of California, San Diego, are required to admit that “barriers” prevent women and minorities from full participation in campus life.
  • At American University, a history professor wrote a book calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.
  • A Rutgers University professor said, “Watching the Iowa Caucus is a sickening display of the over-representation of whiteness.”
  • A Williams College professor has advocated for the inclusion of social justice in math textbooks.
  • Students at Wayne State University are no longer required to take a single math course to graduate; however, they may soon be required to take a diversity course.

It is clear to see to anyone who is interested that you will not learn a subject objectively or free from a specific moral, political, or economic perspective. You will not be exposed to competing rational and viable viewpoints including and especially ideals like self-interest, individual rights, and free markets. You will learn everything through the left’s view of morality, politics, and economics. Since the leftist viewpoint is the only viewpoint taught and many if not most of these ideas are flawed or wrong, students aren’t becoming critical thinkers at all.

Most of the research enterprise in the liberal arts and social sciences is, like the teaching, corrupt.

Supposedly research is the quest for knowledge and truth that will improve the world in some way. In reality, the research might be the most corrupt aspect of higher education.

As you know, the research is conducted from a far left-wing bias that by default means it is flawed or just plain wrong. But even if these beliefs were true in some sense they are often incoherent or impractical. I doubt the average college graduate would be able to understand any of the journal articles written by his professors and if he did I doubt he would approve of their ideas. There have now been at least two scandals known as the Sokol hoaxes where researchers wrote and submitted articles for publications that were deliberately written to be incoherent but that included left-wing ideas like diversity, social justice, etc. Many of these articles were actually published even though they were nonsensical. The point of the hoaxes was to demonstrate the state of research in the liberal arts and social sciences, namely, that there is no rational systematic development of or defense for the ideas in the articles.

As if the veracity of the research weren’t enough the publishing process itself is broken. Professors are pressured to publish as much as possible in peer-reviewed journals, a process that supposedly ensures only articles that are true get published. In reality, there is no need for peer-review. Why do we need to submit our articles to managing editors and reviewers who are often inept or biased in their selection of articles? Why not put it on the internet and let the article speak for itself? One would think that those who support democratizing knowledge would be a proponent of this, but they are the biggest defenders of peer review because it often keeps legitimate viewpoints with which they disagree from influencing the culture.

It’s unjustifiably expensive due to out-of-control spending.

It’s now commonplace for students and families to save and invest thousands of dollars, often beginning before the child is even born. This doesn’t take into account the federal and state subsidies, grants, and loans paid for by the taxpayers. According to Daniel Mitchell in “Government Schools: More Bureaucracy, Lower Performance, Higher Cost,” government spending on each student in K-12 education from 1970 to the present increased a staggering 180% while test scores remained flat or declined during the same time.

What is the money for? The inherent value of the individual courses can hardly justify this expense. It’s everything else you are paying for. Colleges have become club med summer camps for young adults. In order to attract students colleges have to provide ever more audacious incentives to justify going to school for all the people who aren’t there for the academics. Among these are successful sports teams, especially football teams, lavish dormitories, state-of-the-art gyms and student centers, gourmet food bars, entertainment in the form of movies and concerts, and on and on.

Then there are the ever-expanding student affairs centers like the career center, psychological support, etc. All of these “support” programs employ dozens if not hundreds of staffers and administrators earning between $40,000 and $150,000 or more in many cases.

Finally, the “life lessons” students receive from college are mostly non-academic and mostly bad.

College has become synonymous with partying and having fun rather than producing anything of value. Just when the young are primed to unleash their inherent curiosity and enthusiasm on the world they are diverted into a four-year welfare program that makes them more dependent not less on others for thinking and dealing with real-world concerns.

Instead of spending those years establishing themselves in their career, they are forming the worst habits that become more difficult to break later. The college graduate who returns home to live with his parents while he ponders his next move has become all too common in American society and has been well dramatized in movies like The Graduate.

What is the cause of all of this? Don’t you know?

Government control of education at all levels is the reason for the corruption of higher education. The economics of the government-run market incentivizes college rather than going to work.  The government has enacted a campaign for decades to get as many people into college as possible on the pretense that this is essential for success. Low-interest loans and grants paid for by the taxpayers as well as grade inflation and social promotion in our K-12 schools have incentivized students to go to college.

The consequence of such a policy has resulted in “credential inflation” a term sociology professor Randall Collins uses to denote the devaluation of education. He says in “The Dirty Little Secret of Credential Inflation,

“Such credential inflation is driven largely by the expansion of schooling–like a government’s printing more paper money–rather than by economic demand for an increasingly educated labor force. Our educational system, as it widens access to each successive degree, has been able to flood the market for educated labor at virtually any level.”

Businesses needing some way to cull out all the candidates with worthless high school degrees now require college degrees, but only to identify the correlational personal characteristics perceived to be associated with a college degree, e.g., intelligence, responsibility, etc., certainly not for what they learned in college as businesses often regard that as an obstacle to their new employees’ success.

Such forces have penetrated the financial goals of families who put away money and apply for scholarships to pay for college, which only diverts more people into college. Once students know college is mostly paid for, they are faced with the choice of going to college and living the good life while earning the one credential that will enable them to get a job or going to work and never being hired since they don’t have a college degree on their resume. It’s obvious what a person would do in this instance.

What needs to happen once and for all is to separate school and state. For one, it’s morally wrong to make people pay for the education of others. You don’t have a right to an education. Each individual should have to pay for their own education just like everything else. Two, it will actually lower the cost of education. Like any other socialized industry, education has only gotten more expensive the more the government has controlled it. Three, this will help reduce the political bias in research and the curriculum and instruction as competition usually produces more varied choices.

Without separation of school and state, the madness will continue. Even if lawmakers wanted to begin making cuts to the bloat in colleges and stop providing incentives they wouldn’t be able to carry them out objectively and there would be a huge backlash that would end their political careers. In short, society has to change. Individuals need to start demanding this. Businesses need to bypass college. Take them out of the equation altogether and make them irrelevant.

There is some evidence that this is taking place. Google is now offering a class to teach people how to code and then work for them. A college degree is not required.

Once high school seniors see that today’s college is useless they will be incentivized to enter the workforce immediately and colleges will be forced to change.

A professor of educational theory and practice with specific research interests in Objectivist education, curriculum development, and the epistemology of education.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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