Monday, May 5, 2014

Education Exchange

Education Exchange
P. Schultz
May 5, 2014

Here is an email exchange about education that was the result of a posting of mine on Facebook. First, you have my friend’s contribution and then there is my response. Enjoy.

“Our kids have jobs that keep them in the public eye so I can't comment on Facebook. 

“””I went to a public college for undergraduate and private for graduate school.  I graduated in 1974 so my experience is as old as yours.  Our kids went to private and public colleges for daughter and public then private for son.  Both finished their doctorates about 5 years ago.  Daughter from University of Virginia and son from Harvard.  Both got an excellent education and are married to folks who went to public university for daughter and private university for son. I frankly don't see any difference between the level of education that each received at any point of their education.  Because of strides in affirmative education and pushes by the institutions to diversify, there is much more integration of social and economic groups than you infer, in my opinion.  

Our daughter-in-law worked for several years in admissions at Tufts and said that their push to diversify was real and strong.  Our son's classmates at Harvard throughout his years there appeared to be very diverse as well.  We spent several occasions with these folks and they seemed pleased with where they were and cognitive of the doors they would open for them.  (our son) feels that his engineering degree from West Point and PhD from Harvard got his foot in many doors but (our daughter ) feels that her pure math degree from Bentley and PhD from University of Virginia in research methods and pure math did the same for her.   Both have zoomed up through their professions at what I view as the same rate.  Both left me in the dust years ago.

So....although I think you may be correct in some cases I think you are far from the reality of it in the small cohort of our family.  I think that you may be right with the few who think the institution is more important than the education received but that doesn't last long in the real world which relies on results more than pedigree.

“I will now descend from my soap box.  Harrumph .”

My response:

I may be incorrect, as this has happened in the past, once or twice. ;-) [A joke, I say, as humor doesn't always play well in this virtual world.] It would be nice to think that this country is not becoming increasingly inegalitarian but most of the stats don't support that conclusion. Also, while colleges and universities have shown increasing concern for diversity, at the same time they have gone up the socio-economic ladder in their search for students. I saw this at Assumption, know it was happening at places like Boston College and Holy Cross, and see it clearly here at my alma mater, Wake Forest. As one of my classmates posted on Facebook, the Wake Forest we went to doesn't exist any longer and I am pretty sure I would not be as happy today at Wake as I was from 1964-1968. But I suspect this trend is just a reflection of what has been happening for past 50 years or so in our society, which has become increasingly unequal as the middle class and lower class move further and further away from the upper class, a trend which in my opinion is facilitated by both Republicans and Democrats, with no end in sight.

C. I did not mean to impugn anyone's efforts to fight this trend nor to belittle efforts, which work, to increase diversity. In this regard, Wake Forest is a much different place than it was all those years ago, when there were very few blacks on campus and no other minorities at all. Today, Assumption College looks, racially, like what Wake looked like in the 60s. But Assumption, which began as all male institution, is now about 2/3'ds women and 1/3d men. In that regard, things are much better than they were. So, yes, I would agree with your daughter that the push for diversity is real and strong, and has been successful. But it does not seem to extend to much socio-economic diversity and at times is sacrificed for the sake collecting the better off. Why?  

D. I  suspect that much - and personally I would say a lot - of this at the college and university level is due to the fact that most of them have become merely business enterprises, more concerned with the bottom line than anything else. They go where the money is. Up the socio-economic ladder and big time athletics, the latter of which impacts greatly on quality education. This is just the way it is. It does impact these institutions, however. Some years ago, it was said that Holy Cross and Boston College decided to keep their admissions at 50% male and 50% female. I suppose they did this because they were concerned with donations later and history indicates that males give more than females. While I thought this was short-sighted given the changing roles of women in our society, it was fine with me because it meant Assumption got some women students we would not have gotten otherwise. But more often than not I think it is the bottom line that dictates policy. Another example: Now more than 50% of the professors in the US are adjuncts or in non-tenure track positions, which is also economically "efficient" and, of course, empowers the bureaucrats at the expense of the faculty, as intended. These positions, adjunct and non-tenure track, usually amount to little more than exploitation and will impact the quality of education. And the bureaucratization of colleges and universities has increased exponentially, again, with not an insignificant impact on the quality of education. All of this will then be hidden by what are being called new measures of "assessment" which are being imposed on colleges and universities by federal law. Just another part of the plan to make colleges and universities businesses and serving businesses, as if that were the goal of "higher education."

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