I note two articles, both in the Hew Yawk Times, and hence of needing some filtering to remove components of social engineering and liberal species sapping. The first, [Link] deals with teaching the underprivileged, too often an inaccurate synonym for African American in this “great metropolitan newspaper, how to write college essays that will get them attention for admission. The second, [Link] deals with the developing practice of some colleges to charge differential fees for some courses of study.
The entrance essay is a requirement that has evolved since SCP applied for undergraduate shul in the mid ’60’s. I can only say that this is one of several educational trends that I am thankful to be “grandfathered” from. Despite the fact that I have written many papers published in refereed journals, refereed and unrefereed proceedings, technical reports, letters, and the like, including two nerd books, I can admit to having feeling of severe and acoustic dyspepsia at the thought of the essay. I admit to writing several as both a high shul and undergraduate student, all in conjunction with some English syntax or literature class and all abominations.
I suffer from many faults. One of these faults is that I believe communication with language, written or oral, should be as error and noise free as possible. Another fault is that communication should be just that, I should impart information of value to someone else. Hence, I have had enormous difficulty with essays on vacuous non-subjects such as what I did on my summer vacation – I read a lot of books, and did less than pleasant and enjoyable things at the behest of my parents such as mowing grass and other household chores, abided the antic irritative intrusions of my younger brother, and participated in a “family” vacation trip that was noteworthy for its boredom, discomfort, and actual dyspepsia – or what I want to be when I grow up – I don’t want to “grow up” and have mind and body sapping responsibilities that result from the inept, self serving administration of human society by the privileged and “those with a mission” – or what event made me a changed person – I was born; up until then I was warm and comfortable and satisfied; and since all I have been is put upon and persecuted; or I discovered maths and science and that there was something to existence other than sheer ignorance, emotionalism, illogic, and irrationality.
The modern college equivalent of this, according to the article, is about the applicant’s exposure to South American poverty. These essays undoubtedly come in two flavors, the one that blames their poverty on the absence of liberal democratic government and the depredations of oppressive privileged oligarchy, or the failure of the poor to practice the religious beliefs of the only true religion, whichever that one may happen to be. Somehow these essays are never about poverty in Mississippi or on an Amerindian reservation. Somehow they never talk about poverty resulting from the barriers that belief, religious or political, places in the path of apoverty, or even that there may be forms of apoverty other than consumerism.
I am sure that the education mafia can give me a list of reasons why the essay is valuable, but I am not sure I can credit them or their arguments with value. Hence why I say I am happy to have grandfathered this requirement.
But I do think I understand the matter of differentials fees, mostly because I had to pay such when I was attending college. In those days, there was a fee for each course hour taken, and a separate fee for each laboratory component of a course. As a nerd student taking as much as a double load and half of the courses laboratory courses, my tuition fees were considerably higher that the business, arts, and education majors who skated by on the minimum number of hours to remain a student in good standing and hence secure from the clutches of the Selective Service Office. They however largely correctly, even overcorrected that imbalance by the costs of being a member of a party missioned fraternity or sorority.
The same was also the case with those studying engineering. In fact, some of their advanced laboratories had even higher fees. Both of us, engineering nerds and science nerds, had additional costs – lab gear, drafting equipment, slide rules, graph paper and engineering pads, Rapidiograph pens, and satchels to carry all of our gear about in. Where we struggled across campus with the impedimenta of several back-to-back classes, our non-nerd fellow students sauntered about with a solitary notebook and perhaps text under arm with widely temporally separated classes made livable by respites at local student watering holes or the comforts of their fraternity/sorority houses. But they did have to spend more money on fashionable clothes and shoes and fugicide – the latter since it was fashionable then for the fart boys to wear their Weejuns in Alibam humidity and heat without sox.
The rationale for the laboratory fees was the additional cost of the equipment and consumables – power and chemicals and the like – in the labs. The fees, while substantial, were clearly not adequate. The labs were as much about leaning how to get things done with inadequate, antiquated, and damaged equipment as they were about completing the experiments. Connecting the experiments to the coursework was a random and undirected process.
Now, with the nation dumbing itself down by such expensive programs as “Every Child Left Behind”, money for the colleges is even scarcer than before. This situation is enhanced by the (modern) republican war on science, the (modern) democrat apathy of science, and the commercialization of the faculty that leads them to form independent corporation to avoid college overhead fees. In this mode, it only makes sense for the colleges to try to make up the shortfall somehow. It makes little sense to charge additional fees for unpopular courses of study – this just drives away more students and increases the size of the albatross to be worn for the sake of accreditation. Better to charge more for the popular courses of study, a practice long familiar to colleges with strong athletics and the practice of scalping tickets.
Somehow I have my doubts of the distribution of the revenue. In the day, I noted that the football team had its own dormitory and several other “perks”. The only benefits I could see from the monies incurred by the team’s prowess was a new dormitory every three years – with the old one demoted to ordinary (athletically underendowed) students – and improvements to the administrative instrumentality of the college. The science and engineering classrooms still had forty year old desks and the labs still had the same deficient equipment.
Nonetheless, I cannot escape thinking that the problems derive from inside as much as outside.