Archive for May, 2012


An interesting, albeit unintentional, call for today’s state universities to be what they have always been at heart–jobs training programs.

Perhaps state universities (and those that mimic them) should simply eliminate the facade of  higher education and get to the heart of the matter of statist education. Eliminate the humanities and stop pretending to be educating students in what it means to be human,  citizens, community members, and image bearers of the Creator of the Universe.

Leave that to the Christian colleges, which honor the source of all wisdom and knowledge, which recognize that biblically understood education  is not about jobs,  and which honor the great biblical and classical tradition of raising the next generation in the paideia of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12).

See the full article at Forbes:  To Boost Post-College Prospects, Cut Humanities Departments.

HT: Jeff Perley

“In season and out of season, make it plain that what they live for is to help men’s souls, and not to decorate their persons with mere diplomas.”

—William James, from the essay, “The Ph.D. Octopus” (1903)

Brian Daigle, who attended New Saint Andrews, recently completed graduate work at the University of Dallas and is now headed to LSU for additional graduate study, sent me this essay by the American pragmatist philosopher William James. He sent it to me, in part, because of its insights, like the quote above. But what is particularly amusing about this article in today’s context is how conservative and reactionary James sounds–as a pragmatist. In his own day, he was regarded as a bit of a radical. Today, he and John Dewey would probably be shocked at what they helped unleash back at the turn of the 20th century. Today’s credential-obsessed culture dominates and denigrates actual learning and moral competence in America (and the West). Nonetheless, James’s article is insightful. And it is a warning to those who underestimate the consequences of pragmatism and secularism on the academy and the socio-economic sphere.

The Ph.D. Octopus

By William James
Published in the Harvard Monthly of March 1903 

Some years ago, we had at our Harvard Graduate School a very brilliant student of Philosophy, who, after leaving us and supporting himself by literary labor for three years, received an appointment to teach English Literature at a sister-institution of learning. The governors of this institution, however, had no sooner communicated the appointment than they made the awful discovery that they had enrolled upon their staff a person who was unprovided with the Ph.D. degree. The man in question had been satisfied to work at Philosophy for her own sweet (or bitter) sake, and had disdained to consider that an academic bauble should be his reward. Continue reading

An article in today’s Inside Higher Ed, “What we don’t know about student debt,” addresses the attempt by the federal government to rationalize student loans and inform “ed consumers” about the risks of their potential indebtedness. As the article indicates, the new federal calculus is missing some crucial information.

But Carl E. Zylstra, recently retired president of Dordt College (my alma mater) and now executive director of the Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education (arihe.org), has pointed out that the student loan default rate is probably the best available indicator of whether the average educational outcome from the institution is priced by the employment market at a level approximating its cost.

Default rates are a good indicator, but the statistics on default don’t necessarily correspond to the fiscal and  market realities that a college graduate will face in any given location or job. Default rate information certainly add helpful context, but it is still only a partial glimpse at the whole picture.
To find the default rate for any given college (that issues federal loans), you can type in the name of the college you’re interested in here. Then simply click on the college’s name link to see the default rates for its three most recent years of available data. Enrollments and the number of students repaying their loans are also listed in the reports generated.
The enduring student debt problem nationally remains the culture of Continue reading

“Th[e] Industrial Revolution, which started a century and a half ago in the west and still has not come to a complete end, can be regarded in part as an unmistakable expression of a living faith, i.e. the faith that things would get better and better through the advance of modern technology within the framework of a growing free market production. [author’s original emphasis]

“Without this deep faith in the intensely redemptive power of technological-economic progress, the Industrial Revolution is and remains a phenomenon that cannot be explained. I think, for example, of  the leading American industrialist Carnegie, who wrote a book around the turn of the [20th] century which he entitled The Gospel of Wealth. In this book he says that we must understand that ‘obedience’ to the laws of industrial progress guarantees us the joy of a new life in which poverty and oppression disappear and happiness returns to the earth. if such a faith is dominant and becomes generally accepted—and it has become accepted to a considerable extent—then there is no longer any barrier in allowing economics and technology to provide the leadership, not just in some areas of life, but in principle all of them. Because of this faith, economics and technology, as saviours and pioneers leading the way to a new era, assume the role of infallible guides.

” . . . But if it turns out that the driving force of a faith is embedded within the forward march of technology and the economic system, and that this faith is still operative in part today, then we must admit that the danger of an overdevelopment of both technology and the economic system was present from the outset. Their expansion was accompanied by an expectation of happiness that relativized anything that might raise objections against them.” [author’s original emphasis]

–Bob Goudzwaard, Aid for the Overdeveloped West (Wedge, 1975), pp. 3-4

A federal court case, touching the new electronic books and resources world with lots of ramifications for college classrooms, bookstores and libraries, has gone in favor of the colleges and against the nation’s major publishers.

From Inside Higher Ed:  Court rejects many of publishers’ arguments on e-reserves.

Mark Cuban on the financial woes of higher education:  The Coming Meltdown in College Education & Why The Economy Won’t Get Better Any Time Soon « blog maverick.

Nice story and some great pictures of the New Saint Andrews College Commencement 2012. Great class, classy send off. Congratulations graduates!

Speaker tells NSA grads to pursue Lady Wisdom –Moscow-Pullman Daily News

We learn as much (if not more) from our mistakes as from our successes. Some students need to fail to learn their lessons well. Many failed students have earned their failures well.

Some college students deserve failing grades (essay) | Inside Higher Ed.

Even elite colleges with huge endowments are starting to worry about their futures in the harsh new economic and tech realities.

See the report from an earlier issue of  Inside Higher Ed.

“A confessing Christian who lives amid this world cannot be satisfied with a profession of faith but, like anyone, needs a firm understanding of the world in which he lives. Without the guidance of Christian scholarship, he cannot but help absorb the conclusions of unbelievers.

“. . . There is only one way to parry this, and that is for Christian thinkers to found a university that will unfold another world of seeing and thinking; to transmit this among those who pursue higher education; and so to raise a circle of educated, influential people who can turn the public way of thinking. ”

Abraham Kuyper, founder of the Free University of Amsterdam,
from De Gemeene Gratie in Wetenschap en Kunst, 1902-1904