What’s College FOR, Anyway?

Following on yesterday’s post, we see that the Left has inadvertently gotten another one right (there is a small kernel of truth in all the bullshit they excrete): Capitalism turns everything into a commodity.

Sometime in the Sixties, we noticed that many successful people have college degrees.  Because “correlation isn’t causation” is a truth we seem hardwired to ignore, we went on to infer that because successful people tend to have college degrees, a college degree causes success.  And since college degrees can be bought, we decided to buy them for our kids.  After all, what parent doesn’t want his kids to succeed?

The consequences were predictable to anyone who has ever seen a consumer fad.  Furbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Tamagotchis, pet rocks, mood rings, coonskin caps, whatever (I dare you not to spend the next two hours on that site).  First everyone wants one, then the prices jack into the stratosphere, then everyone has one, then nobody cares anymore, because when it comes right down to it you’re carrying a fucking rock around in a box.

That’s what college is these days.

Universities were never intended to be jobs training programs.  Nor were they intended to be research centers.  Both of those are parasitic on the bad “college causes success” inference from the Sixties.  With all those kids flooding onto campuses — and paying a pretty penny to do it! — military contractors like Dow Chemical realized they had a huge supply of trained labor sitting around, in the form of all those new-minted science PhDs churned out to meet the consequent demand for professors.  Why give some egghead a GS rating, a lifetime pension, and a security clearance, when Football U. will foot the bill for you?

Colleges are conduits for Elite values.  That’s it.  That’s all they’ve ever been.

As you probably know, the university system developed in the Middle Ages to train churchmen, the managerial class of their day.  Primitive as they were by our standards, medieval governments were too complex for the nobility to handle, especially because the nobility were a fighting class — generally speaking, the kind of guy who is great at besieging castles and looks to solve problems with a broadsword is notso hotso at the paper-pushing that even a backassward feudal monarchy requires.  The kind of guy who is good at paper-pushing tends to be scrawny and lacking in blue blood.  That kind of guy went into the Church, who sent him to college, and the result was a match made (forgive me) in heaven.  Sir Jousts-a-Lot got to keep doing what he was good at, churchmen did what they were good at, and — this is the important part — since the guys handling the paperwork all spoke the same language, had the exact same education, and probably all knew each other from their undergraduate days, such diplomacy as was required to keep a crazy quilt of fiefs together in some kind of order got handled no muss, no fuss.

The Renaissance university operated on the same principles — minus, in some cases, the holy orders — and that’s the system we have today.  Here again, the idea was to train a universal managerial class.  Whether it was the second sons of the nobility (who would’ve gone into the Church in the Middle Ages), the sons of the nouveaux riches, or ambitious commoners on “scholarship” (= patronage from a blue blood), a university graduate was a pen-pusher, a lawyer, a minor diplomat, an accountant, a scribe, an all-around gopher, factotum, Man Friday.  What he most definitely was NOT was a researcher, an entrepreneur, or a Customer Service Specialist.

The Renaissance had the equivalent of those things, of course, but they’d laugh you out of the room if you suggested one needs university training to do them.  You think you’ve got what it takes to be a professional historian?  Go hit the archives and tell me the first guy to achieve something in a research field — medicine, say — who did his major work while serving as a university professor.  I haven’t done this exercise myself, but I’ll bet you an Obamacare premium you’ll get well into the 18th century before you find one, and probably into the 19th.  Try the same thing with business leaders and inventors.  Generally, the more important the figure, the less formal schooling he had, until well into the 19th century — Carnegie had a 6th grade education; Edison was mostly self-taught; so was Michael Faraday who, along with Edison, basically invented the 20th century.  The guys who kept Edison’s books and vetted Carnegie’s contracts, though… those guys were college grads.

Which makes sense if you think about it.  A management class is, at bottom, a maintenance class.  Managers aren’t expected to innovate.  They’re expected to consolidate, to facilitate, to — at most — tinker around the edges of established structures, to make them maximally efficient.  Those are vital skills; the modern world couldn’t exist without them.  BUT…..

… to effectively maintain a system, one must know that system.  It’s not strictly necessary to like the system — I doubt even the most rah-rah middle manager has warm fuzzy feelings deep inside for GloboCorp — but it’s necessary not to hate it.  And that’s the problem with the modern university system.

Professors are convinced they’re not maintenance workers, because working with one’s hands — the image “maintenance worker” invariably conjures up in modern America — is très gauche.  They’re intellectuals, damn it!  And to prove they’re so much Smarter Than You, they must, necessarily, bite the hand that feeds them… and train their students to do the same.  This is like GloboCorp hiring a bunch of dreadlocked antifa noseringers straight into middle management but, thanks to the “degree = success” category error, we’re all perfectly ok with it.  So what if all they’ve got to show for their degree is a tattoo and some fugly polysyllabic ways to say “white people are evil”?  Studies have shown that people with college degrees make seventeen gazillion more dollars over their lifetime than those without.  Scoreboard, baby!


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7 thoughts on “What’s College FOR, Anyway?

  1. Al from da Nort


    Don’t forget the central role of chance and WWII in changing the mission of Big U from teaching to research. And also its paradoxical role in starting the Cultural Marxist subversion of the U’s. During the war we used a lot very smart guys to drive the technology that we needed to win. We desperately needed that tech because we were essentially starting from scratch.

    Some of that tech came from refugees from Fascsim, most particularly the largely Jewish refugees who contributed to The Manhattan Project. They were from European U’s. Much of the initial A Bomb work was done pre-war under cover of the American U’s where they had landed (since how else were they going to eat, pre war, than teach at a U). To have moved them all somewhere else before the war began would have attracted highly unwanted attention, maybe tipped the Germans off.

    Once the war started and the A Bomb effort got underway full speed, however, security concerns required them all, native and refugee, to be moved from the comfortable U’s to a small number of highly isolated locations in TN, NM, NV & WA. Once the war was over, the vast and costly efforts were drastically scaled back. So it was back to the U for almost everybody. They mostly had no other obvious way to earn a living

    Then a number of un-charistically entrepreneurial ex-U tech guys (e.g. Glen Seabourg) made the audacious claim that they should just be given gobs of tax money and gauzy great things (like world domination) would follow. Because of their prestige from being credited by the NY-centered media with winning the war, Congress was persuaded to go along, to some of their surprise.

    But few of the project alums liked the idea of going back to the boonies, so it was ‘tax funded research work at the U’ after that. Besides this, they were suddenly badly needed at the U’s to handle the vast influx of GI bill funded students.

    Not all of those GI Bill students could or wanted to actually do tech stuff, so teaching them provided cover for the refugee Marxists to also burrow into the U’s. I had a couple of them as teachers in the ’60s. They were open about working on recruiting us leading edge Boomers to subvert the evil Capitalist America.

  2. bob sykes

    “Universities were never intended to be jobs training programs. Nor were they intended to be research centers.”

    Both statements are factually false as demonstrated by what went on at Medieval Universities. They trained doctors, priests, what scientists there were (all Catholic priests in those days), and they conducted research. There was much more going on that the liberal arts, which, by the way, were intended to train the ruling class.

  3. Jay Carter

    As some college professor once said while he was handing a diploma to one of his graduates:

    “Here’s your diploma. You got your degree. Now go out into the world and get yourself an education.”

    1. Severian Post author

      Yep. It’s a brute fact that the Liberal Arts are of no real benefit to about 75% of the population. They’d learn a lot more, and a LOT more of value, by pulling a hitch in the Marines.

      AND THAT’S OK. I can’t talk this way to every student I meet, but I’ve told more than a few of them — off the record, with guaranteed plausible deniability — that they’re wasting their time and money. Look, kid: Shakespeare is meaningless to you. You know it, I know it, your parents know it, I guarantee you the administration knows it. When you graduate, you’re going to go back home and get a job selling insurance. It’s an honest living, I’ve held a similar job myself, but you sure as hell don’t need a college degree for it. You need to be literate and numerate enough to pass the licensing exams, which you can learn with a minimum of self-study (you should already have it coming out of high school, if not junior high, but that’s a rant for another day). Later on, if you find you suddenly have an interest in Shakespeare, you can get yourself the equivalent of a BA online, in your free time, at no cost. Until then, you are simply farting around…. at about $4,000 a credit hour. Why?

      Worse, the people who DO need the Liberal Arts — teachers, lawyers, doctors, cops (seriously), the “technical intelligenstia” — aren’t getting it. They don’t get Shakespeare, either, because he’s not taught — too white, too male, and, frankly, too excellent (we can’t expect every writer to hang with the Bard, but reading a Shakespearean sonnet next to some Diverse claptrap shows you how truly wretched modern writing is).

      So it’s the worst of all worlds. Yeah, you got your degree all right… that and $7.50 will get you a cup of coffee. The only difference between you and the truck driver who delivered it is, the truck driver knows what he doesn’t know.

  4. Al from da Nort


    I’d say that it is still our necessary duty to stand up for the eternal ideal that there *is* both truth and beauty. God has planted that in our hearts. And I applaud you for doing your best to do that throughout your time as a teacher. Who knows which of the students that you try to influence will have that click in later.


    1. Severian

      Al, thanks. That’s why I do it. Well, that, and (in no particular order) the ability to stick a shiv in PC, and love of the subject.

      I play the long, long, long game – it’s the only way to keep from going crazy. I like to think that, one or five or fifteen years down the line, a former student will have an “a-ha!” moment, and realize that crusty old prof was right about something.

      1. Linda Fox

        Today, I wrote on the Obit Memory page of a dear professor I had in college. I remembered his passion for his subject, his skill in helping me learn to do research and read original sources critically.
        And, for just being a funny and warm human being.
        FWIW, I did use those research skills in my jobs, and, now, in my writing.

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