Agreed that our current model of higher education is terrible, quite fallen from its recent world class preeminence. How did we go so fast from envy of the world in higher education to calamity? College is now more of an expensive retirement spread for the young (Mark Edmundson), as evidenced by its high cost and the massive and ongoing construction projects to be seen on so many campuses, than any provider of rigorous training and standards for our national workforce. And note that faculty salaries as a portion of higher education’s budget have been slashed dramatically over the last twenty years, with now a large majority of undergraduates taught by part-time faculty. Where is all the money going?!
But why does college or any of the education system have to exist at all, especially as an endlessly hungry user of our taxes and as a kind of shadowy handmaiden to business? Can someone explain that to me? Why does a PhD in history, psychology, or English have to deliver students that business wants? That seems stupid, a waste of resources, and a fine example of cross-purposes, of sending a poodle to train a cadre of security personnel. Does business care if employees know who won the War of 1812 or what assumptions and values reside in the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence? Furthermore, what do historians, psychologists, or English professors know of business’s urgent needs? Business is what counts most for our country’s well-being, growth, and prosperity after all.
If education’s handmaiden status has to be the case–that education exists for employers to be able to better judge the capacities and abilities of job applicants–then why do taxpayers have to pay for that at all? Isn’t that just the Marxist idea that capitalism is about privatizing profits and socializing losses, i.e., socialize the high cost of educating people (or of sub-prime mortgages) but privatize the profit made off workers once they are educated. Let’s bypass the educational and bureaucratic middlemen. Let’s have a real and pure free-market: Business should bear all of its own human resource expenses and rightly profit from investing them smartly. There would be lower taxes because there would be no public education, no state regulations, no higher education boards–none of that government bureaucracy machine: no need to court the educrats across the country with core standards that business can simply impose nationwide with one decisive act. With a lower tax need for the federal and state governments, there would be lower tax rates on business and citizens, and then there would be more profitability for everyone, more demand and more spendable dollars to fuel our dynamic economy.
Seems then like a great solution would be for business to operate its own “school” system or systems (they’d be training centers in reality and not schools in any old-fashioned factory model that we think of from the likes of outworn educational philosophers like Dewey or Steiner) and train people the way business sees fit with the precise measures, firm outcomes, accountability standards, certifications, competencies, massive online delivery systems, etc., that business needs and trusts. Because business knows best what it wants, business knows the future needs of the market, let business design and run its own education and training needs: Think of this new model as business-run corporate charter schools throughout the country.
Let business have total control of education and do what it does best: train people, tell the public how people should be trained, as well as what they need to know, and run such operations efficiently and for profit. There would be no need for public departments of education at the federal or state level. There would be no need for foundations to coax educators and the public into changing schemes of testing or credit hours or semesters or curricula or any other antiquated, out-of-date part of the bloated education bureaucracy. Education would already be in the best hands possible, the most efficient hands, and the hands that know the real needs of business.
With such an end solution, individual American families can pay their local business training center to deliver skills to their offspring with little of the waste or fuss we see today in public education with its teachers’ unions, its educational “experts,” its parent-teacher organizations, and, frankly, all the educational anti-reformers in this country: the idealists, liberals, progressives, democrats, unionists, and, let’s be frank, socialists and their anti-American notions of education for social engineering and social “justice.”