by Doug French
Recently by Doug French: Gold
Prices and Panic
The idea that
a brick and mortar university education is the key to success and
riches still has a hold on parents. Author Jennifer Mosess
piece in The Wall Street Journal last weekend made clear
that her and her Rutgers professor husband will do anything and
spend whatever to get their Moses twins into the one of the nations
best colleges of their choice.
cost isnt a concern. However, Mr. and Ms. Moses must make
sure the twins qualify for the Ivy league if thats where they
want to go. Dont want them ending up having to go, God
forbid, to Rutgers, she writes. So the twins have had plenty
of SAT and ACT tutoring, according to Ms. Moses at $125 per session.
Of course on top of this are the fees paid for the actual testing
and travel to all these places of higher learning. Plus, an additional
consultant is on the job to counsel the male twin to not do anything
stupid that could jeopardize his chance of admission. Moses considers
the consultant a bargain at $701.25 so far.
of Mosess view is there are only so many spots available in
prestigious universities and that dumb kids with rich parents have
a leg up to getting those few spots, so parents must do everything
possible to make sure their worthy children are accepted. We
are all caught up in a crazy arms race, where the order of the day
(to borrow a useful term from the Cold War) is escalation
dominance, she writes.
All this while
Richard Vedders work finds that 60 percent of the increase
in college grads end up working in jobs where a degree isnt
to credential inflation that arises from a perceived need by individuals
to demonstrate potential employment competence through a high-priced
college diploma. He writes, Employers are using education
as a screening and signaling device, at a low cost directly to them
(although not costless because of the taxes they pay to sustain
much of this), but at a high cost to the prospective employees and
to society as a whole.
the taxpayer may not last much longer as state governments teeter
on the brink of bankruptcy. When push comes to shove middle-class
tax payers will not be eager to keep subsidizing rich kids or their
professors with light teaching loads. But for now, as Vedder points
out, those in higher education that know college is a bad deal are
keeping quiet out of their own self-interest.
their hard-earned dough at their kids higher education, parents
might want to read Walter Kirns Lost
in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever.
Kirn is best known for his novel Up
In The Air which was adapted into a
movie that generated six Oscar nominations last year.
Much of Kirns
very funny book chronicles his student life at Princeton where he
roomed with eccentric children of the upper crust. The readers
first glimpse at Kirns life at Princeton has him waiting for
the effects of two black capsules to kick in so he can complete
his Rhodes Scholarship application. Meanwhile his friend is seeing
what happens when you smoke ground up Percocet tablets through a
other comrades in estrangement, writes Kirn, way out
here on the bell curves leading edge, where our talent for
multiple-choice tests has landed us without even the vaguest survival
went home to Minnesota for the summer, his classmates would spend
the summer on the Cape, the Island, or the Vineyard. He classifies
the Princeton student body into groups. For instance those that
came back baked from spending the summer on sail boats, drinking
gin and tonics, and wearing funny hats. These privileged students
napped during lectures, but rarely to their detriment because
they could always charm some awestruck strangera plump girl
with a limp, a science major with untied shoelacesinto giving
them copies of their notes.
were those students who wanted to serve mankind and those who only
stopped to eat and drink to sustain themselves for studying. And
then there were those who pursued higher education by injecting
the system and made it to Oxford. Flexibility, irony, self-consciousness,
contrarianism. Theyd gotten me through Princeton, explains
Kirn. As for his education, it began when he was laid up in bed
with pneumonia. Bored, he read the classics, books hed never
bothered with before. And so, belatedly, haltingly, accidentally,
and quite implausibly and incredibly, it began at last: my education.
French [send him mail]
is president of the Ludwig von Mises
the author of Early
Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply.
He received the Murray N. Rothbard Award from the Center for Libertarian
Studies. See his tribute to
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