Category: Educational Choice

The educational cronyism of textbook publisher cartels is coming to an end as digital alternatives are on the rise, or so says AEI’s Mark Perry in a recent article. “Hear that hissing sound?” he writes, “It’s the sound of the college textbook bubble starting to deflate. . . . The era of the college textbook cartel and $300 college textbooks is ending.”

I have written on this subject in the past for the PowerBlog (here and here), mentioning Perry’s coverage of the subject at that time, among others.

In particular, I would maintain my position today that if more affordable, quality alternatives exist, educators ought to take the time to research them and find ones that fit their curricula if they can. Students are already overburdened by student loan debt in order to get degrees of decreasing quality and utility. If a professor can do a little to lessen the financial burden of higher education, it is one small victory for the common good. And Christian educators ought to lead the way.

Perry summarizes the problem as follows:

Between January 1998 and September 2013, the CPI for college textbooks has increased by more than 144%, compared to an increase of only 44.4% for the CPI for all items, and an increase of only 0.6% for the CPI for recreational books. In real terms, the cost of college textbooks has increased by more than 69% over the last 15 years, while at the same time the real cost of recreational books has fallen by more than 30%.

The reason that the college textbook bubble is on an unsustainable price trajectory and is already starting to show some initial signs of deflating is because of the increasing amount of competition for the college textbook market.

Read more . . . .

BrendleIn his article today Anthony Bradley asks, “When Did College Education Reduce To Making Money?

Our country’s narcissistic materialism has created a neurotic obsession with disparities between the incomes of individuals resulting in an overall devaluing of the learning goals and outcomes of what colleges exist to accomplish. There is a major disconnect here. I wonder if this explains why many parents do not want their children studying the humanities in college.

While I completely agree with Anthony about what the purpose of college should be (“a place where men and women are educated and formed into more virtuous citizens”), I think he’s overlooking how we got into this situation: College is priced like a luxury good but treated as a prerequisite for most forms of employment.

Unfortunately, the types of degrees that best fulfill the primary function of a college (e.g., liberal arts) are also the most likely to lead to underemployment.

A couple of years ago, Andy Whitman wrote an article for Image, “Starbucks and the Liberal Arts Major”, that highlighted the problem:
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saving-money-for-collegeSomeone should tell university administrators and educators that their primary purpose is to guarantee that graduates will have better incomes than those who are not fortunate enough to attend college. In addition, colleges and universities are now, it seems, supposed to be places where everyone equally becomes one of the “Joneses.”

In an article titled, “Rethinking the Rise of Inequality“, Eduardo Porter of the New York Times writes that college education is about solving the income disparity problem. Porter opens the story with this odd statement: “Many Americans have come to doubt the proposition that college delivers a path to prosperity.” What? Is that what college is about? Making people prosperous? What college has making graduates prosperous as its mission? Why would anyone go to college just to become economically “prosperous”?

Are colleges off the target then? Are they missing their new true calling? The mission of Brown University is “to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.” Clemson University states, “Our primary purpose is educating undergraduate and graduate students to think deeply about and engage in the social, scientific, economic, and professional challenges of our times. The foundation of this mission is the generation, preservation, communication, and application of knowledge.” Fort Lewis College (Colorado), says that its mission is to offer “accessible, high quality, baccalaureate liberal arts education to a diverse student population, preparing citizens for the common good in an increasingly complex world.”

Do these colleges, and many others, simply not get it? It seems that these schools are primarily interested in student learning and the formation of good citizens, so when did college reduce to being a means of addressing “income inequality”?
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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, October 24, 2013
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school-taxWhen it comes to public education, racial bias has not been acceptable for almost fifty years. So why is religious bias still tolerated?

If we really want to promote religious liberty and educational reform, says Charles L. Glenn, we have to end the public school monopoly:

[T]he rich diversity and energy that has been the glory of American religious life was, by the early twentieth century, largely suppressed in American K–12 schooling, though it continued at the collegiate level. This was not primarily through the regulatory efforts of state governments—that would come later—but through an emerging consensus among a class of professional educational administrators, part of the Progressive movement, who sought to create what historian David Tyack has called “the one best system.”

Accompanying this development over the course of the later nineteenth century was a growing popular concern about what was seen as the divisive and even subversive effects of Roman Catholicism, associated with immigrants and with contemporary conflicts in Western Europe. The efforts of Catholics to provide their own schools, as was the norm in most of the countries from which the immigrants came, was seen as a refusal to allow their children to become absorbed into American life, and rejection of Catholic demands for public funding of those schools became a winning formula in many elections.

Read more . . .

9973TressDunceCapThe New York Times reports on a study that found that young adults in the United States not only fare poorly in math and science compared with their international competitors — something we have known for years — but also now in literacy.

More surprisingly, even middle-aged Americans — who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world — are barely better than middle-of-the-pack in skills. Arne Duncan, the education secretary, released a statement saying that the findings “show our education system hasn’t done enough to help Americans compete — or position our country to lead — in a global economy that demands increasingly higher skills.” The study is the first based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition comprised mostly of developed nations, and administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries.

The great irony of this story is that the United States spends 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education from pre-kindergarten through the university level — the fifth highest in the world — yet the results don’t match the spending. What is happening? Why are we spending more and more money on education and producing less competitive students? I offer the following thoughts:
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UntitledIn the U.S. there are approximately 4,500 colleges and universities (2,774 4-year institutions and 1,721 2-year institutions). Most of the institutions that were founded prior to 1900 began as Christian colleges, though only about 970 schools are still religiously affiliated. Out of those 970 sectarian schools, 570 are distinctively Christian.

America has almost as many Christian schools as the entire rest of the world combined. But that’s quickly changing. As the Chronicles of Higher Education notes, in the developing world there is a renaissance in Christian higher education:
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While our educational system in the United States served us well at one time, Sir Ken Robinson says it’s not working for us anymore. In this short video, Robinson talks about what’s wrong with education, and some possibilities for making it better.

Catholic Education in the West: Roots, Reality, and Revival

Catholic Education in the West: Roots, Reality, and Revival

Catholic education has played a major role in the development of Western nations, yet it is in many places in crisis. To bring about renewal, it is necessary to revisit the subject with an eye to fundamental questions. What is the purpose of education? What is distinctive about Catholic education? What is the right relationship between schools, parents, Church, and society?

Every now and then I run across a series of studies that makes me wonder if white progressives are among the most narcissistic cohort of professionals in America. There seems to be this pervasive myth that simply being around white people adds value to the flourishing of blacks in America. This myth often extends to interpreting data along axes that are nothing less than insane. For example, it is often (mis)believed that when black students are in schools that are predominantly black they do not perform as well because of the “segregation.” Though it has been demonstrated that there is no such correlation, many white progressives seem to believe that the presence of white people is somehow a cosmic advantage for blacks. That is, blacks need to be around white people so that their lives will improve.

Much of this narcissistic progressivism comes from a pervasive misunderstanding of what drove the Civil Rights movement. Many progressives seem to believe that in the 1950s and 1960s blacks were fighting to be around white people in order to experience “the good life.” This is far from the truth. In fact, the Civil Rights movement was a fight for equal treatment under the same laws without deference given to whites. It was a fight to end discrimination so that all Americans, regardless of race, could exercise the exact same freedoms. Perhaps this may explain why there seems to be a sense of surprise and shock in a Huffington Post blog entry explaining that blacks who were attending segregated schools have better overall health and well-being than those in integrated settings:
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Today at Public Discourse, I explore the dubious connection between educational attainment and upward income mobility, arguing instead that a focus on cultivating social capital would be far more effective than the conventional wisdom: “Stay out of trouble and stay in school.” Staying out of trouble is still a good idea, but staying in school — when it comes to higher education — is becoming less and less effective on its own at predicting economic improvement.

In addition, while I believe education to be desirable for itself, I do not think that one can turn a blind eye to the great cost, decreased quality, and decreased utility of higher education today. I write,
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abrahamkuyper1One of the great misconceptions about Christian higher education is that Christian colleges are places where Christian young adults go to withdraw from “the world.” A closer look at some historical roots of Christian colleges prove otherwise. For example, in the work of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), a Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, journalist, and statesman, we see that Christian colleges are not places of withdrawal but education centers of preparation for a life of living in a pluralistic world — a world with more similarities to Daniel’s Babylon than Europe’s 16th-century Christendom.

In the book Wisdom and Wonder Kuyper offers perspective to help Christians understand that a university education that presupposes and integrates the Triune God across the curriculum can solidly develop the Christian minds of young adults. Kuyper believes that if it is true that “the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:19), then divorcing higher education from the knowledge of God will produce knowledge that is likely to appear as foolishness to God. Christians, then, in ways consistent with honoring God, need to create additional educational opportunities so that Christians do not abandon higher education and retreat to the asceticism of church life: Christians should be trained properly for participation in public life. This is one of the many reasons Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches have invested so much institutional capital in maintaining colleges and universities. Kuyper explains:
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