Friday, November 25, 2011

Where Does All the Money Go?

Where does all the money go? Is America's education budget being spent on education or on something else?

How much education money is siphoned off by bureaucrats and administrators, thus, by people who do not teach?

Compared with high schools around the world American schools are not doing a very good job. Yet, we lead the world in spending per pupil.

Teachers unions say that we need to spend more on education. But what if we could increase teacher salaries by eliminating a dozen layers of bureaucracy and redistributing the revenues? We could probably even save some money in the process.

Is money the problem or is American education suffering because of the way assets are allocated?

Heather Mac Donald suggests that education funding is being directed away from education and toward diversity programs.

If she is right, universities must have redefined their mission. Many of them have put education in second place behind their new primary mission: creating a utopian community that embodies the ideal of diversity.

I think it fair to say that this new utopia will be a utopia of equals. If inequality is merely a social construct, then we can change it by changing the way society functions.

Lest we overlook the fact, you can still get a great education at many American universities.

For the most part this applies to STEM subjects or to programs that require advanced numeracy.

These departments are among the few where students are judged objectively according to merit.

Thus, they are filled with students who were brought up by Tiger Moms.

By now, everyone knows that STEM subjects and others that involve numbers are the best path to future employment. Yet, non-Asian American children are often not well enough prepared for college level math and engineering courses.

High school administrators torment themselves over self-esteem and political correctness. Somewhere along the line, they forgot to teach calculus.

Testimony suggests that STEM majors have become their own ethnic ghettoes. Programs in ethnic studies create another kind of compartmentalization.

Since grading is much harder in the STEM courses, students of superior aptitude might end up with lower GPAs than students who major in Humanities courses.

Different standards for different folks… universities committed to diversity use skewed standards for evaluating students. Students with less aptitude are likely to end up with higher grades than students with higher aptitude.

Worse yet, STEM students will be have more marketable skills and therefore, if they borrow money to pay tuition, they will have the best chance to pay it back.

Students who are chosen to fill diversity quotas often find themselves lost and at a disadvantage. They are given every opportunity to take out student loans and they achieve grades that suggest that they are the best and the brightest.

After college, when they discover that they have been lied to by their professors and defrauded by their universities, they might refuse to believe the verdict of the job market and become fierce critics of a world that does not resemble the academic dystopia that tricked them into thinking that they were better than they are.

Worse yet, the money that they borrowed to pay their inflated tuition is not really being used to produce a better education. It is being siphoned off by an increasingly bloated administrative apparatus.

Many students are out protesting against the 1%, but clearly, their problems have been engendered by the utopian visionaries who are using the universities to affect a grand social experiment.

Commenting on the anguish felt by the Occupy Wall Street students MacDonald writes: “Just where do the OWS-ish student protesters think that their tuition money is going? In the vast majority of colleges and universities, there are no greedy shareholders sucking their profits from the livelihoods of workers or other ‘community stakeholders.’ Rather, rising tuitions funnel straight into the preposterously unnecessary diversity bureaucracy and the rest of the burgeoning student-services infrastructure, as well as into the salaries of professors who teach one course a semester, the arms race of ever more sybaritic dorms and social centers….”

Why do these universities need so many diversity officers? Apparently, the hyper-diverse student population is suffering from the kinds of social pathologies that are produced by excessive diversity.

Too many students have too little in common with too few other students. Beyond their cliques or ethnic enclaves they do not know how to get along or even to feel like they belong to the same community.

Admissions officers seem to be implementing a one-of-each policy.

We see the one-of-each approach on television sit-coms and dramas. You turn on a show where there is an ensemble of young lawyers or doctors or recent college grads and you can be assured that each ethnic, religious, racial, and gender will be represented. In other words, no one is going to be offended by the mix. No one is going to feel left out or underrepresented.

Despite the fact that these people have precious little in common they manage to do a great job and to have great lives. When they have problems, these are easily resolved by an injection of sensitivity and empathy.

Let’s imagine that this dramatic world is the model for what universities are trying to produce. I fear that they believe that they can create such a world because they saw it on television.

Universities admit a very mixed bag of students, and when they see that many students can barely function academically and do not know how to get along with each other, they conclude that the school needs more diversity officers.

If students gain admission to universities according to radically different standards, some will suspect that others do not really deserve to be there.

You can say that they are prejudiced or that they need an attitude adjustment, but if admissions committees judge different groups by radically different standards, they are not entirely wrong.

And, if some students do not belong there, what does it mean to belong there?

Then there is grade inflation. If some students cannot do the coursework, the university has an interest in ensuring that they can. Otherwise it would be admitting that it was being prejudicial in its admissions process. The result is specialized departments and inflated grades.

Universities will also need to hire more guidance counselors and to institute more programs to assert that everyone is equal.

Is today’s diverse university a community of equals? Or is it just pretending to be one.

In the liberal mind, inequality can only have been produced by discrimination. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you bring with you.

Once you arrive at college you are equal to everyone else. If you are having trouble fitting in or are falling behind in your course work the fault must like with the residual prejudice that still infects the minds of professors and fellow students.

Or else, it means that the university has not hired enough professors who look like you.

MacDonald explains: “The Big Lie of the campus diversity industry has been that without constant monitoring by diversity bureaucrats, faculty and other administrators would discriminate against minority and female professors and students. In fact, anyone who has spent a day inside a university knows that the exact opposite is demonstrably the case: Hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars are wasted each year in the futile pursuit of the same inadequate pool of remotely qualified underrepresented minority and female applicants that every other campus in the country is chasing with as much desperate zeal. The hiring process has been thoroughly corrupted. Faculty applicants are brought onto campus who have no chance of being hired, either because the hiring committee incorrectly assumed from their names or résumés that they were the right sort of minority (East Asians don’t count) for a position set aside for just such a minority, or because, although they were the right sort of minority, their qualifications were so low that their only purpose in being interviewed was to fill an outreach quota.”


David Foster said...

What is astonishing is the number of academics and especially academic administrators who claim that no economies can be achieved without hurting education. See fisking Fish's fishy financial findings.

n.n said...

It is ironic that in our race to recognize individual dignity, we embraced a standard which denigrates it and, in following, devalues human life.

Any legitimate process to identify and mitigate occurrence of discrimination should be done through an ex post facto review. The alternative, which is enforced through current policies and laws, is to preemptively assign individuals to a class or caste without reason and without care.

The problems are comprehensive and there is no indication of an effort or desire to distinguish between cause and effect. There are only dreams of physical and material instant gratification through redistributive and retributive change.

If we recognize individual dignity, then we will recognize that each of us have a different potential, different interests, different ethics, etc. Our education system would focus on teaching fundamental, enabling knowledge (i.e., STEM) and skills; but, it would also encourage individuals to develop their own ability to think and grow.

In the meantime, corruption of individuals and society progresses unabated. One group will be blamed, while another will receive a pass. One form of corruption will be condemned, while another, greater, will be promoted. The cycles of history are periodic and will be repeated. It is only a large middle class which moderates the instability and they are at risk.