David Brooks Understands Fuck-All About Colleges:
The Rude Pundit doesn't spend a lot of time writing about his profession because, frankly, he just doesn't think a lot of what we do is very interesting to most everyone everywhere. But New York Times writer David Brooks decided to shit where the Rude Pundit sleeps, and, between that and an enraging sliming in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago, a response is more than justified.
Today, in his "column" (if by "column," you mean, "the pathetic pleadings of an elitist prig begging to demonstrate his regular dude street cred"), Brooks cites a few studies and books that say that students simply aren't learning very much in their college experience in the last couple of decades. You can tell where he's coming from by this line: "At some point, parents are going to decide that $160,000 is too high a price if all you get is an empty credential and a fancy car-window sticker."
Let's unpack that for just a moment: he's obviously talking about rich students at elite institutions, where "parents" can obviously afford $40,000 a year. Because that ain't about kids who have to pile up student loans and get government assistance. And it ain't about the vast majority of schools in the nation which cost far, far less. Oh, and one thing. Let's not be naive. Of course, those parents are buying a fancy car-window sticker. And the schools know that. Grade inflation has been a far greater problem at Ivy League institutions than elsewhere. Why? Because Harvard and Columbia and Yale need to keep those cash teats good and ready for suckling.
"One part of the solution is found in three little words," Brooks says, and if you know anything about a conservative approach to education, you know what he's gonna say. "Value-added assessments. Colleges have to test more to find out how they’re doing." Yes, yes, yes, let's test more because it's done so very much to improve public schools in America.
Let's get this straight, David Brooks and every other stupid fuck on the right who wants to solve the "problem" of college education (or any education) in America, and this comes from someone who has been at this job for over twenty fucking years: You fucked it up. Back in the 1980s, you got shit-scared when multiculturalism and ethnic/gender/queer/whatever studies began to take hold in academia. You published idiot books that said that what educators wanted to do about education was wrong and that people outside of academia should actually be involved in setting standards. And then you went further. Colleges, you decided, needed to be run like businesses, blaming colleges for the ever-rising tuition rates when, in reality, the problem was worthless tax cuts, going back to Sainted Reagan, that did jackshit to help the economy but forced states to gut funding to universities, but, no, no, it really was that schools needed to be run efficiently, like businesses, and if a college is now a business, with the bottom line being the only line, and not a place where people get, you know, educated, then you have a fucking responsibility to your customers, in this case, the students, to make them happy with the business where they are spending their money. The Rude Pundit's own institution is now in the midst of "streamlining" the general education requirements so that students can graduate more easily. It's under the guise of "making transfer easier" or some such shit, but it's really about getting the kids through to get more money. And let's not even get into the evisceration of public education at the primary and secondary levels so that the students that are coming to college are starting at a point where freshman composition is now "How you write a sentence with proper grammar and punctuation because your high school teachers were forced to transform their classrooms into test prep labs so that the place where they work won't be shut down." And let's not get into the over-reliance on criminally overworked and underpaid adjunct faculty to teach the vast majority of college classes, people who often work at several institutions in order to cobble together a liveable wage. And let's not even get into an economy that has transformed technologically and socially without any concomitant investment in those things that might actually allow people to be ready for the jobs that are out there. And let's not get into the devaluing of a broad, liberal arts education that creates thinkers and doesn't just train people to work. Shit, what's better to those in power? Good drones or questioning citizens?
And you know who caused all these fucking problems? The bastards and bitches who went to the $160,000 schools who figured out a way to scam and scare everyone into "value-added assessments" as some kind of Holy Grail of education.
Every couple of years, every department in the Rude Pundit's college has to deal with some "assessment" organization coming in and forcing them to justify everything they do. One of the last groups made the departments create rubrics of goals and lists of assessment tools to reach those goals. It was pencil-pushing, ego-soothing nonsense. It was overlaying a factory model onto the role of colleges. But you can be sure as shit that someone made money on the whole nonsensical exercise in futility.
But, no, really, David Brooks, by all means, let's waste another shitload of everyone's time and money on more worthless testing. It's far better than just letting professors do their fucking jobs.