Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yet More Evidence that Higher Education is America's Most Overrated Product

Today's New York Times reports the latest in a spate of research supporting my contention that higher education is America's most overrated product.

That research finds that after two years of college, 45% of students have learned essentially nothing, while getting good grades--grades have become overinflated into meaninglessness.

Students' lack of growth is not surprising in that:
  • Professors are hired and promoted based largely on their research not teaching. As you may recall from your own college experience, a professor needn't even speak comprehensible English let alone be an effective, not to mention transformative teacher.
  • Except for roughly 100 of the nation's 3,500, colleges are little more than 98.6 schools--all you need to get through is normal body temperature. And professors having to teach a class with brilliant students sitting alongside the semi-literate would be a Herculean challenge even for professors hired based on how well they teach rather than on how likely they are to get an article on Wittgenstein's hermeneutics published in the Journal of Arcana.
  • Most universities educate in the cheapest way possible: maximum number of classes in large lecture halls, on TV, or online, taught as often as possible by graduate students or even undergraduate students rather than by professors.
Is it not time, as I've repeatedly argued, for a College Report Card, which among other things, reports each college's average freshman-to-senior growth in reading, writing, critical thinking, and quantitative reasoning skills, disaggregated by the students' high school record?

Otherwise, millions of prospective students have only the flimsiest basis for deciding whether a particular college, indeed any college, is worth spending a fortune and years of their life compared with self- or mentor-guided independent study, a short-term career prep program at a community college, an apprenticeship, the military, on-the-job training, or starting their own business.


Jacked Up said...

Interesting book.


Jeffrie said...

This video parody and this one may each contain more than a little grain of truth.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting little screed at pajamas media on this topic:


Anonymous said...


Looks like some Taiwanese animators have figured this out before most Americans.

Milan said...

Dear Marty,

When I was about 31 I had a scholarship for an MBA (Case Western Reserve University) which was partially delivered in Hungary.

I could not attend the program due to personal reasons but for a few short weeks in which I did attend the program I had an eye opening experience:

The average US students had a score of say 500-600 on the GMAT they well well dressed, were well spoken and had no inhibitions.

The Eastern European students in comparison were all the product of dictatorial regimes with high quality Prussian type educational systems which stresses book learning and recital and no oratorial skills with degrees in engineering , maths, computer sciences etc. from excellent albeit no name universities (At least on the world stage)

The Eastern European students had GMATs of 650-750 and were smart. Their spoken English was poor because they never had the chance to speak it with natives. They were poorly dressed, had no money and had an air of slight dispair.

The US and Canadian "professors" imparting their superior knowledge were dressed in elegant marine blue jackets, wore gold rimmed glasses and made stage like soap opera style presentations and gave veritable "rah rah you will be successful" sessions.

After a time I simply figured out that this was the only school were the students were far more qualified and intelligent than their so called professors.

You blog seems to corroborate that at the end of the day what really matters is who you are and what you know instead of attending designer label schools. Even networking can be accomplished without going to these places.

I am pretty much convinced convinced that in an increasingly globalized world with the onset of the coming American nightmare cum financial Armageddon the Ivy League Schools will loose their prestige.

If I would be 20 now then I would strive to go to a top Chinese University since the XXI century will belong to them.

Thanks for your insights.