Friday, May 23, 2008

The BA is the most overrated product in America.

- Marty Nemko in his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And while I couldn't agree more, along with some other assessments that he makes, I took a slight issue with the overtones of Nemko's rhetoric, which seemed to emphasize the disparity between "college material" and "not college material," or stellar/nonstellar student, without acknowledging other qualities a person might have about himself. This kind of language only perpetuates the problem of kids being ashamed not to attend college.

He also encouraged releasing more accurate statistics on college success and providing certain guarantees as you would any other commodity. One of higher education's greatest flaws is that it has become a commodity, and that is what makes it an overrated one. As Nemko said, colleges are there to make money, but he doesn't tackle this as a problem. His solutions only call for standards which other manufacturers are expected to hold, rather than revamping the whole system as an institution in the service of the public and greater knowledge.

Going to his blog explained my reservations. He is a staunch libertarian who definitely sees one's lot in life as deserved according to the hard work or laziness of the individual. Nemko is dismayed at the idea of a universal healthcare system that would force "people with good health care (because they were good enough of an employee to be hired for a job with health insurance, had saved up enough money to buy their own, or on Medicare) having to give up that good health care and pay for health care for others', including, for example, lazy heroin addicts and illegal aliens."

Now I understand the source of the language and how it may extend to what I heard on NPR. To say "elitist" may still be a gut reaction, but the free market talk struck an appropriately dissonant chord. Libertarians have to see why the free market cannot and will not exist, and in this case, that education should be an investment by the society in itself. People who think that they got to a certain place exclusively due to their own hard work are deluding themselves. No one can make it alone, and no one has absolute control over circumstance.