Saturday, June 7, 2008

Curmudgeonly Musings

I feel dispirited today. Perhaps it's just all the opprobrium that higher educators have been firing at me following the publication of America's Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor's Degree in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But I think it's more than that. I feel like I'm living in the wrong era:
  • I am at my core, an elitist. Today, the world, especially the intelligensia, deifies egalitarianism.
  • I believe education is grossly overrated in its potential and certainly as implemented. The world thinks education is the magic pill.
  • I believe that men are a good, sometimes superior gender. The world thinks men are inferior.
To use a popular feminist term for men who don't agree with them, I'm a pterodactyl.

With that as context, here are the thoughts rolling around in my brain in my current curmudgeonly state:

I live near a school and today, the schoolyard was home to a celebration of the start of constructing a new replacement school building. My reaction: I hate celebrations. They accomplish nothing; they're often self-congratulatory narcissism for things that anyone can accomplish: Anyone can have a birthday, get married, be christened, or have a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony.) With today's grade inflation, nearly anyone can have a college degree, for godssake. And any educrat on the government dole can extort tax dollars from the public to build a building that will only obfuscate the crappy education that probably goes on inside. What good is it to put lipstick on a pig? You can gift-wrap a turd, but it's still a turd. I've seen great education go on in shacks and horrendous education go on in palaces. What counts are good teachers (live or online) and good kids. Period.

Then I started to read a book called Love Today by Maxim Biller. It reminded me of what a narcissistic waste of time romantic love usually is. You spend all sorts of time trying to get it or save it, often suffering enormously in the process. Indeed, many people, contrary to the aphorism, end up wondering if it's better not to have loved. And even when love is a net positive to a person, look at the opportunity costs. If the world redirected the time spent in the pursuit and maintenance of romantic love to activities more likely to make the world better, I think we'd all be better off.

15 comments:

Charles said...

Perhaps you should revisit this blog post.

Anonymous said...

Your publication, America's Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor's Degree, made me stop and smile at the time I read it. What I was thinking was this...Mr. Nemko has not only "nailed it" so to speak, but is a brave soul indeed to name the naked emporer.

Anonymous said...

In response to the musing about love...

I said the following in an online chatroom about 2 weeks ago:

"I saw a friend a couple of weeks ago, and he asked me if I was interested in a relationship yet, and I said no. He said then that even if experienced only once, it was worth it to fall in love.

"Love in all its forms has caused more strife and stress than anything else in the world, I believe, and has done so since the beginning of time. Even so, everybody wants to be loved. There is no bigger potential high or low than falling in love."

I can't agree with the assertion that we'd be better off if none of us pursued love, however. If every person was working with no love in their lives, this world would likely not be one many people would want to live in. Can you imagine a world without caring about things, or being deeply passionate about anything? Can you imagine a human population without it? There'd be no art, no theatre, no music. There'd be no enjoyment.

As much as I think love causes dizzying highs and heartbreaking lows that most of us can certainly do without, the world as we know it would be a different one, and probably not for the better.

Anonymous said...

But I think it's more than that. I feel like I'm living in the wrong era

From what I've read of your stuff, I'm inclined to agree. I think you'd have been more at home in 1908, when affirmative action was nonexistent and credentialism nearly so, feminism was mostly limited to voting rights, and so few people had degrees that your self-study, up-by-your-bootsraps "You U" approach was a far more viable option than it is today.

I'm actually sympathetic to lots of what you write, but in all honesty, it often seems like you're fighting battles that were lost decades ago.

Milton said...

First Mr. Nemko, I'd like to thank you for your book, the All in One College Guide. Against my better judgment, I picked it up even though now that I'm out of college, there's nothing in there I can actually use. Sadly, my suspicions were confirmed: had I used the Guide to choose a college, I'd probably be a lot happier today. So there's no need to worry about the naysayers, your books and website are still out there helping millions of kids and their parents make the right decisions.

Anonymous said...

Elistist? It seems to me that you care about the fair treatment of men, from a construction worker breaking his back to a senior partner in a law firm. And I'm a woman and I've never felt that you wanted women to be anything less than men - just equal.

It's got to be ironic and painful for someone who cares about education to watch the nation waste money building when it's what goes on inside that counts.

Celebrations - don't even get me started. Especially in the workplace where it's entirely inappropriate and propagated by coworkers avoiding real work.

Some people's gift to our planet is best pursued feverishly without hindrances of overly dramatic expectations of romance.

But for others the impact they make on even one person is meaningful.

Perhaps romantic love is what brought Marty Nemko into this world. If so, sure glad your parents went for it!

But there are certainly days when I wish I were the last person on earth...

Marty Nemko said...

I just want to say that I love the previous person's post. Very fair, very thoughtful.

Marty Nemko said...

I, of course, also appreciate Milton's comment. While I am often curmudgeonly, like most people, I do care to be respected and yes, even loved.

Marty Nemko said...

In response to the 2nd person's comment, of course, I beleive the world needs love of the type you describe: passion for your work or avocation, love of your children, etc. But romantic love--while at its best is truly wonderful--is too often never achieved in one's life time or is evanescent.

Dave said...

"If all the world redirected the time spent in the pursuit and maintenance of romantic love to activities more likely to make the world better, I think we'd all be better off."


I agree. As Gustave Flaubert once said, "The fewer the erections, the better the writing."

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nemko, please do not feel jaded or discouraged due to some mentally ill forum trolls at CHE. There are a lot of people who agree with you about the need for higher education reformation. One commentator from this blog (Jane) makes good points on her blog as well : blog.yellowblockwall.org
Also, I wanted to bring to your attention that if a forum troll is monopolozing your forum at the Chronicle, as host/author of your blog,you can close your blog from further comments or request a moderator (should you so desire). I saw another blogger close his blog from further comments (and yes, "anti-hypocrisy" makes comments on every forum and annoys other blog hosts and commentators). Lastly, while I agree sometimes women and minorities often play the victim, I disagree with your statement: "I believe that men are a perfectly good, sometimes superior gender. The world thinks men are inferior." Hmmm.., Dr. Nemko, how does Mrs. Nemko feel about that statement (from what I gather in your other blog she is extremely intelligent and successful)?

Marty Nemko said...

I don't want to close off comments on the Chronicle's blog. I rail about the influential media's censorship of right-of-center ideas. Especially in the Chronicle Brainstorm, which is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, I don't want to do any censorship. I hope, somehow, that the readers will fairly evaluate my posts and the commenters'.

Re your response to my statement, ""I believe that men are a perfectly good, sometimes superior gender. The world thinks men are inferior." You wrote, "Hmmm.., Dr. Nemko, how does Mrs. Nemko feel about that?"

Well, that statement makes clear that I believe that sometimes, women are superior and sometimes men are. I believe that statement is accurate, and know that my wife, Dr. Barbara Nemko would agree.

By the way, Barbara certainly is no slouch. She was the 2004-5 Greater San Francisco Bay Area Schools Superintendent of the Year.

She'll readily admit, too, that without my pushing her, she would never have been ambitious enough to seek her current position.

I am a huge fan of encouraging people of all races, both genders, and all sexual orientations to achieve their potential. I am only an opponent of reallocating yet more disproportionate resources from groups with the greatest potential to profit (and, in turn, benefit society) to the groups with the least potential to profit

Dave said...

"I am only an opponent of reallocating yet more disproportionate resources from groups with the greatest potential to profit (and, in turn, benefit society) to the groups with the least potential to profit."


Dr. Nemko,

What is your position on pansexual (GLBT) scholarships? Would you agree that funds used for flawed pansexual theory and research have a negative impact on the social sciences?

I think it is a waste of resources.

BGC said...

I believe that a step forward would be to restrict the subsidy for college education to those who really need it.

It is standard economics that if you tax something you get less of it, if you subsidize something you get more of it.

With the vast amount of subsidy being pumped into Higher Education, and calls for even more subsidy, over-provision is inevitable.

Marty Nemko said...

Re the question about research on sexual orientation, I am unaware of any research that suggests that homosexuals are less worthy contributors to society than anyone else. Yet unlike other subjects of identity-based research (women and minorities) gays and lesbians are, in much of the US (and certainly in Islamic countries), treated unfairly with regard to their merit.

Thus, a MODEST amount of research on how best to reduce that is, in my view, worthwhile.

 

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