Reclaiming Traditional Education

Samuel Goldman in a recent issue of NRODT has recommendations for improving college education.  We suggest that other alternatives would be more appropriate.

He starts with a little slight of hand.  Goldman quotes Marco Rubio as saying welders make more than philosophers.  Then he says that Rubio is wrong because philosophy majors make more than welders.  It is likely that both Rubio and Goldman are right.  There are not lots of opportunities for philosophers even if you include stand up philosophers from Mel Brooks.  Not many philosophy majors make their living as philosophers but a college degree can lead to another degree or on-the-job training (OJT) that leads to financial success.  One philosophy major of our acquaintance got into a philosophy PhD program and recognized the financial futility of it and went on to other degrees that led to that person being a well-paid business faculty member.

Welding is a great skill for many.  A college degree is good for many and on average it might be better than a welding skill.  The first problem is sorting the welders and the folks that can benefit from college.  Not everyone should go to college.  We do not have space to sort it out but students need to find their niche.

The second issue is what to do about college.  Goldman is worried about majors.  Although we have something to say about majors we think the market should decide.  A big part of the market is the students.  Not all students will make wise decisions but the evidence will weigh on parents and the next generation of students.  What we should worry about is the core of the university education.  There are a variety of names for it but each school has core requirements.  The university core is what conservatives should be worried about.

One reason for concern about the core is majors.  Core courses are a budget entitlement.  When XXX Studies becomes a core course then the department expands and has the opportunity to entice and support majors.  The reason for support is that major courses are usually smaller than core courses.  Thus, a core course of 40 students allows a department to run a major course with 12 students (or whatever the relative sizes are).  Most departments support themselves in such a manner.  A required philosophy course will make for a healthy philosophy department.  Make it four required philosophy courses, like at our alma mater, and there is a very strong philosophy department.

The point for conservatives is that majors should come and go.  Creative destruction and all that.  Worry about the crucial issue of core rather than majors because first, the core has an impact on everyone, and secondly it has an impact on majors.  What is included in the core will get more majors.


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