Jon Stossel is one of the last few remaining investigative reporters, and used to be on television quite often, 20 years ago. His big career-killing problem was he tends to investigate government waste and corruption. It’s painfully obvious today that much (all?) of our mainstream media is just another department of our government, or at least the deep state, and thus has no interest in revealing its own corruption. Stossel found himself off the government-controlled airwaves because he was just too good at his job.
Thus he’s consigned to “fringe” “alternative” media sites like Reason. He’s recently released a video detailing a scam I write about often:
The video itself is more evidence of how the world has changed in the last 20 years. We’re in a post-literate society, which is just a fancy way of saying people don’t read much anymore. If you want to disseminate knowledge today, you must use video. I’ve considered doing some videos, but the whole “anonymity” thing might make it tough, and I do lack the technical skill to make much beyond me talking.
Anyway, the video is short—another sign of the times, as people just can’t focus for very long. It’s one of the (many, admittedly) reasons the film industry is suffering so in theatres, and people just can’t tear themselves away from their phones for a whole hour and a half. Ok, nowadays a movie is usually an hour and a half of SJW posturing against a backdrop of explosions (hi Last Jedi!), but still.
He says some things in this short video (along with a summary transcript for us dinosaurs who still read), and he misses a mark or two. I’ll cut him some slack because he’s trying to cover this ground fast enough to reach people who are so addled by today’s world they can’t think clearly for much past five minutes, but I’ll make some clarifications all the same.
That’s because most people don’t learn much in college. Studies find that a third of people haven’t learned anything detectable after four years in college.
Yet government pours about $80 billion a year into college subsidies.
“Taxpayers ought to know that they’re getting ripped off,” Caplan tells Stossel.
For those who don’t have time, the above is basically everything you need to know about higher education in America today: for the vast majority, it’s a big waste of time, and for anyone who pays taxes, it’s a big waste of money.
He says taxpayer money mostly helps more people signal their ability to conform to college expectations.
While the above is true, the clarification needed is a college degree used to be a valid signal the holder was exceptional in some way. Today’s college degrees are mostly meaningless, since the average GPA is close to A-, and many schools mandate that a certain percentage of students pass every course…a degree is more of a rubber stamp of a person having a pulse than any exceptionality. Toss in how most degrees are in subjects of minimal, if any, job value and we’re back in rip-off territory again.
Stossel merely discusses how giving everyone a degree destroys the usefulness of the degree. While true, he neglects to mention how the student loan scam is destroying the lives of 40,000,000 people and rising. I feel the latter detail is far more important to humanity than the destruction of the value of a piece of paper.
Caplan responds that if students wanted to learn they can just walk on to a campus and attend class. Caplan says professors are happy to let the student attend. But few students do that.
The above is an odd thing to say. Yes, I don’t have a problem if someone wants to attend class, but I’ve received many warnings from admin not to let unregistered students in my classes. This is merely a minor detail, since the modern world really does allow anyone to read and learn about anything without much effort or expense without setting foot on campus (hi internet!).
Caplan does think college is great for a few people like him—tenured professors. He can never be fired, gets paid well, and only has to teach classes for five hours a week.
“That’s a scam,” Stossel responds, “we’re paying so much money for people like you to teach five hours.”
“Yeah. Well, I’m a whistleblower,” Caplan quips.
My blog has shown time and again that “tenure” and “can never be fired” are far from synonymous, and shame on Stossel for not being aware of that fact. That said, yes, “tenured professor at a legitimate school” is a wonderful job to have…but there are very few of those. Most college courses are taught by sub-minimum wage adjuncts, and some schools are trying to get the teaching done for free now, the better to yield money to the plunderers running many of these places.
Moreover, the professor being interviewed used the time granted by his cushy job to write a book warning people away from college and exposing what a scam so much of it is. Maybe he’ll save a few people from destroying themselves in college. This highlights how professors got these cushy jobs, or used to get them, anyway. The whole reason scholars are given so much free time in their jobs is because writing books to help humanity is a thing they do in their free time.
I’m just not concerned with the few and dying faculty with cushy jobs, not when admin outnumber faculty by a wide margin, are paid vastly more, and many have jobs just as cushy. I’ve never, ever, seen an admin write a book trying to help humanity, and I’ve seen quite a few actively hurt human beings in many ways.
All the free money flowing onto campus has warped things, and since the profit margin on “education” today is so large, colleges compete to get people willing to pay for it. Before the student loan scam, this competition was done by getting the best faculty, having the most successful programs, and earning a stellar reputation. What do colleges do now?
“…many compete by advertising luxury…”
I know I’m something of a one-note singer, but Stossel only scratches the surface of what the student loan money has done to our campuses. Prospective students are now promised lobster dinners for coming to campus, a campus often decorated with a luxury resort-style pool and other recreational areas. 600 colleges now have rock climbing walls—they do look interesting even if most people have the sense not to use them. No matter, “looks” are what it’s all about now.
“…used to be reading, writing, and arithmetic. Well now we’re the 4th ‘r,’ recreation.”
The above quote from the video nicely sums up higher education after years of drowning in student loan money. Please, please, just stop the student loan scam already.