March 16, 2011
That’s the title of an “Innovations” column by Frank Donoghue in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education. (Donoghue is an associate professor of English at Ohio State.) It trods some of the same ground as the Posner-Becker-Krugman discussion of whether everyone should go to college. Donoghue thinks that ‘college is an entitlement’ is the de facto liberal position in higher education policy.
Donoghue starts out mentioning two recent books, Jackson Toby’s The Lowering of Higher Education in America and Richard Vedder’s Going Broke by Degrees, but then notes that the arguments these two books elaborate are essentially arguments made earlier in two white papers presented at a meeting of the Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, in Charlottesville, Va., in June of 2008.
One of the papers, “Aligning American Higher Education with a 21st-Century Public Agenda” was by James Duderstadt, who I referenced recently. The other paper was by Gordon Davies (former Director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia from 1977 to 1997) and entitled “This Line Has Been Disconnected: The Break between Public Purpose and American Higher Education.”
According to Donoghue, Davies “states bluntly that we [in the U.S.] are betting that we can compete in this global economy by educating a technological elite and ignoring the masses. China is making this bet. So is India. But they are much larger populations than ours. For the United States, and for individual states, is this an economically responsible bet? Is it a morally responsible choice?”” And then Donoghue adds “Vedder and Jackson, if I read them correctly, are arguing that we simply have no choice but to make that bet. It’s a frightening prospect, because it raises the obvious question of how the vast majority of our population will make a living wage.”