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Chappell ch 2_07-15-2015-115902


This is a reasonably good Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post (“College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one”) by the president who signed my doctoral diploma at the University of Iowa a few years back. I agree with its general drift.

What it lacks, however, is an honest recognition that the vocational (commodity) turn in higher ed has largely been imposed and sustained by academics themselves. University scholars, researchers, and administrators have been willful participants, playing along and profiting quite nicely from the commodification of higher education for at least two generations.

A call like this one for the media and the public to stop treating higher ed like a commodity can’t be taken seriously as long as university faculties and administrators continue to lust after government and industry grants, and market their programs to unsuspecting potential student consumers with hollow promises of jobs and lucrative careers, if they only sign up for the right major, with often misleading or unsubstantiated job placement rates.

Academics have only themselves to blame for the commodification of higher education.

RP Cover Educating Royalty April 2014

Reformed Perspective magazine

New article by yours truly on educating covenant children to be the Kingdom heirs they are in the latest edition (April 2014) of  Reformed Perspective magazine.  Here’s a snippet:

“Like young Prince George, the child heir to the throne of England and the United Kingdom, a day mustn’t pass that we wonder who we are, why we are being educated, and what we are being prepared to be and to do. We are heirs to a throne and a Kingdom far greater and more glorious than the one in England. The House of Windsor pales in comparison to Jesus’s realm and our divine inheritance! How much more, then, should we, who are heirs of the King of kings and Lord of lords, prepare ourselves and our children to be thoroughly and faithfully educated in everything it means to be a son and daughter of the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord of the Universe, thoroughly and faithfully educated in everything it means to be royalty.”

Thanks to RP editor Jon Dykstra.

So what is the best course of study to prepare for a legal career? It isn’t political science and especially not criminal justice. It is classics, by a wide margin.

A recent study by a university law professor analyzed law students by their undergraduate majors, grade point averages, and performance on the LSAT, the law school admissions test. The results may be surprising to some, but reveal once again that narrow academic specialization has little long-term value and a short shelf-life.

Classics. Time to rethink the dominant university academic specialization paradigm.


See the full article here and its links to related resources.

Thx:  Ben Merkle


Universities that emphasize career preparation in their recruiting have a new and serious credibility gap.

Business leaders think today’s graduates, even from predominantly “voc-tech” heavy universities, are ill-prepared for the job market, according to a new survey.

By contrast, university provosts think their students are doing great. The width of the gap between the two groups suggests universities that are claiming to prepare students for the work world are more out of touch with that world than they–and their now more heavily indebted and under-employed graduates–ever realized.

“The word Classicus in itself means no more than belonging to a class, but in ancient Rome it was the name of the citizen who belonged to the wealthiest and most heavily taxed class. According to tradition, King Servius Tullius divided the whole Roman population by property into five classes: those in the first class, who paid the highest taxes, were the classici par excellence. Classified apart from them and from proprietors in general were the proletarii, who could not serve the state with their money but only with their offspring; according to Servius Tullius’s division, they constituted the sixth and poorest class.

It is easy to understand that the word classicus was soon transferred to people who excelled above others in other areas. It was used, for example, for a witness who was completely reliable, of a writer of the first rank, of a student who excelled others with his gifts, and so forth.  This distinction continued as long as Latin was spoken, but it disappeared in the Middle Ages [only] to reappear in the time of the Renaissance. The term then assumes the general meaning of excellent and exemplary, and it becomes the designation for whatever is authoritative and serves as a model.  And while humanism assigned authority mainly or exclusively to Greek and Latin writers, classicus became limited to authors of ‘classical’ antiquity.”

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), “Classical Education”
Essays on Religion, Science and Society
Editor John Bolt
Translators Harry Boonstra and Gerrit Sheeres
(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008, p. 209)

Edgar Bronfman, a CEO who understands the value of a liberal arts education for business and the marketplace without selling out to pragmatism, offers his insights in Inside Higher Ed from his experience leading Seagrams.

“In my experience, a liberal arts degree is the most important factor in forming individuals into interesting and interested people who can determine their own paths through the future.

“For all of the decisions young business leaders will be asked to make based on facts and figures, needs and wants, numbers and speculation, all of those choices will require one common skill: how to evaluate raw information, be it from people or a spreadsheet, and make reasoned and critical decisions. The ability to think clearly and critically — to understand what people mean rather than what they say — cannot be monetized, and in life should not be undervalued. In all the people who have worked for me over the years the ones who stood out the most were the people who were able to see beyond the facts and figures before them and understand what they mean in a larger context.

“. . . The work place of the future requires specialized skills that will need not only educated minds, but adaptable ones.

That adaptability is where a liberal arts degree comes in. There is nothing that makes the mind more elastic and expandable than discovering how the world works.”

Read more in Inside Higher Ed :

Liberal arts are the best preparation — even for a business career (essay).

Edgar M. Bronfman was chief executive officer of the Seagram Company Ltd. and is president of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, which seeks to inspire a renaissance of Jewish life.

Thx to Rob Sentz at Economic Modeling Specialists, Intl./CareerBuilders.

Some private colleges are cutting tuition by as much as $10k in hopes of luring more students, but few are apparently biting. With so many colleges overpriced for minimal value, it will be hard to attract new students by price reduction alone. In today’s economy, it’s all about true educational value for the price.

President Obama has put a new twist on the old Viet Nam era saying: he wants to bomb higher education to make it more affordable for the middle class* (curious how he has suddenly become such a “champion” of the middle class; he hates the upper class and is doing little to help poorer classes, except increase their dependency, but I digress). His “personal” education proposals to make college more affordable will almost certainly have the opposite effect–ultimately making college less affordable for almost everyone. And the substance of the changes won’t be worth affording. I suspect we’ll hear much more blow-back like this article against Obama’s higher education plan in the days ahead. I can only hope that it doesn’t survive congressional committee review. His plan deserves to go no farther.
In my more cynical moments, I consider this part of the Left’s long strategy to nationalize higher education. The current “crisis” in affordability (I would argue is government aid-stimulated) and the government’s recent complaints against peer accreditation (there are real problems there, to be sure, but mostly from the Left’s hegemony against private and religious education) are already being used to justify further federal encroachment into private non-profit higher education nationally. The Left won’t be satisfied until private (especially Christian) higher education is either dead and gone or absorbed into the statist system and thus indistinguishable from Behemoth Secular U. If the President’s affordability plan succeeds, then everyone will be able to afford going to the smoldering ruins of the American academic village and the Commander in Chief can declare “mission accomplished.”
*Since the passage of Obamacare, the President has begun to love the smell of napalm in the morning.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics latest report, The Condition of Education, the 2011 graduation rate for full-time, first-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2005 was 59 percent. That is, 59 percent of full-time, first-time students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2005 completed the degree at that institution within 6 years. The report indicates the percentage of students that complete their program within 150 percent of the normal time for completion, that is, within 6 years for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Students who transfer and complete a degree at another institution are not included as completers in these rates.

Figure 1. Percentage of students seeking a bachelor’s degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor’s degree within 6 years, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2005

 Figure 1. Percentage of students seeking a bachelor's degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions who completed a bachelor's degree within 6 years, by control of institution and sex: Starting cohort year 2005

New Saint Andrews College’s graduation rate was 20 percentage points higher than the national average, or 79 percent. Among all Idaho institutions, NSA’s graduation rate was the highest. All of the state’s private 4-year colleges and universities were above 50 percent. All the state’s public colleges and universities were significantly below 50 percent, except for the University of Idaho (51 percent).