Monday, May 11, 2015
Things are getting better, not worse: Higher Ed Edition
Yesterday I read what could be the worst op-ed ever.
People, you know it was in the NYT!
Allow me to summarize the creepy, illogical, smug, moralizing of one, Mark Baeurlein
In the old days students idolized and hung out with professors, and the wise professors counseled them to live well.
Now students have little contact with professors, so they have reverted to their baser instincts and only care about money, while the professoriat simply pats them on their greedy heads and gives them undeserved good grades.
But there are just a few holes in the argument (hard to believe, given that the author is a english prof at Emory).
First off while he gives statistics about "low" (25% of seniors never talk to a prof outside of class) professor contact in the current era, he only uses anecdotes from himself and his buddy Todd to argue that, in the good old days, things were very different. Not exactly a convincing argument.
Then he goes back to the data, showing that in the late 60's many more students said they cared about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” than they did about “being very well off financially.”
Today the numbers are reversed.
So far so good, but then Baeurlein implies that the sea change has come from the "fact" that students no longer hang out with profs after class!
Never mind that he hasn't proven that case, what about the simple fact that many more people and different types of people go to college now than in 1968?
In other words, perhaps we should consider that the change in the volume and composition of college students caused both phenomena that Bauerlein decries (to the extent that they even exist at all).
In 1972, 25% of people between the ages of 18-24 were enrolled in degree granting institutions. In 2012 the percentage was 41%. Colleges moved from a preserve of the elite to embrace a much wider economic and social demographic. Hispanic enrollment rates went from 13% to 37%, while rates for African-Americans went from 18% to 36%.
Bauerlein's good old days were elitist and kinda racist. But hey, at least the profs had disciples and were revered and the students didn't care about money. Because that's what really matters.