Academia DIEs, Students Suffer
Pinnochio on Pleasure Island, or, the Shadow of Social Justice Over Innsmouth U
In the first part of this series, I gave a quick post-mortem on the Western university, which has Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity’d. In the second part, I explained what the consequences have been for our society of the intellectual and moral collapse of this essential institution.
In what follows, I look at this from the perspective of students: how are universities failing them, what are the roots of that failure, and what are the results for the students?
Universities and colleges are supposed to serve as finishing schools where talented youth can acquire the knowledge and training they will require to operate as skilled professionals in the complicated dumpster fire we call the post-industrial information age.
Students foolish enough to enrol at one of these institutions are betrayed by them at every level.
The first and most obvious betrayal, at least to an American audience although increasingly a severe problem throughout the anglosphere, is the tremendous cost of higher education. The average American student accrues something like $30k in debt by the time they finish their four-year degree. If they don't have parental support or scholarships, and they insist on attending a prestigious out-of-state school, this figure can balloon to six figures very easily given that each year of tuition can cost $30k to $50k. The situation in the United Kingdom or Canada is not quite as bad, but is rapidly getting worse. Tuition was free in the UK until the 90s, and last I heard now goes for up to £9k per annum, or about USD12k.
Tuition fees have been increasing much more rapidly than inflation since about the 1970s, which (and this is not a coincidence at all) roughly corresponds to the introduction of federal student loan programs combined with the widespread availability of private student loans. College administrators, who never met a cash cow they didn't want to milk to the point of a Title IX violation, immediately saw dollar signs and started hiking tuition fees. The government, with access to cheap money since all the Fed had to do was print it, simply responded by offering larger loans, thus initiating an iterative process of fee escalation with the students left holding, and eventually getting a hernia from, the bag.
Students haven't objected much. Your average 18-year-old understands financial consequences with about the same sophistication with which a jungle savage comprehends the mechanical operation of steam engines; to these starry-eyed victims the loans are simply free money that will enable them to access the carnal delights of four years with Pinnochio on Pleasure Island, after which their shiny new accreditation will be the sure-fire ticket to the upper middle class good life. It's not until they graduate and start working that they realize they've been turned into donkeys. Stories of graduates a decade or more out of college having paid $100k on a $30k principal without touching the principal are practically a trope at this point.
Ah, the joys of usury.
Now, you'd think that with tuition having become far more expensive, students would at least be rewarded with an education that has become correspondingly richer. You would of course be wrong. Essentially none of that money finds its way to hiring additional instructors; the student-teacher ratio has barely budged in decades. Indeed, the job market for academics is so bad that universities happily make use of adjunct professors hired on an ad hoc basis to teach individual courses, pocketing the tuition of 99 students out of 100 to pay the adjunct's pathetically tiny stipend. Instead, the money students fork out has been soaked up by a vast bureaucracy of university administrators, the Associate Vice Deanlets of Diversity and Junior Assistant Provosts of Excellence, who do no-one-knows-what, and are paid handsome sums for doing so. The money is also lavished on extravagant, and of course inevitably very ugly, new buildings - student centres, super-gyms, and the like - whose construction is marketed by the administrators responsible as necessary to attract additional students in a competitive higher ed environment, but is driven in truth by the vanity of senior administrators concerned with their 'legacy' (as well as their greed, kickbacks from contractors being common).
Back in the 90s, as rising tuition levels were starting to move student debt from the merely burdensome to the truly onerous, students started figuring out that it was actually cheaper to just declare bankruptcy and wipe their debts clean. Sure, their credit rating would be garbage for a decade, but that was a small price to pay given that they'd spend that long or longer paying the debt anyhow, and during that period would therefore be unable to afford, for instance, a mortgage. Since this would have caused the entire scam to come crashing down, the government simply responded by making student debt the one and only form of debt that could not be expunged by bankruptcy, thus trapping indebted students in perpetual debt peonage.
The reasoning for this high-handed measure was that, in cases of bankruptcy, one's leveraged assets - home, car, and the like - are liquidated in order to pay off the creditors. It being impossible to lose one's education, the government explained that education was in a distinct asset class and therefore student debt could not be erased.
That of course assumes that the students actually receiv an education, a proposition largely unsupported by the evidence.
Employers have been complaining for many years that university graduates are essentially useless. They've gained very little in the way of relevant skills, to the point where the employers have to do the training that the universities should have done. To a certain degree this isn't entirely the fault of the universities: the public education system has failed to the same degree that the academy has, as a result of which the first year of college is essentially remedial instruction in the rudiments of English composition and elementary mathematics, material that high school students would have mastered years earlier in the before times. International students coming from countries that retain functional primary and secondary educational systems generally find the first year or two in American colleges to be laughably easy.
The universities are not, however, even remotely blameless. Professors typically have no real idea about life outside of academia, and often do not update their course materials to reflect the skills that are actually required as it is much easier to simply continue using the same slides and notes that were developed years before. Furthermore, the name of the game at the university is not to ensure that students are trained to an appropriate standard in the most reasonable frame of time; it is to extract money from the students for as much time as they can. The four-year duration of the typical college degree is entirely arbitrary, and in most programs is padded out with 'breadth requirements' and irrelevant ancillary materials for no other real reason than to ensure that a degree requires a sufficient number of courses for it to take 4 years to complete.
The mismatch between curricular materials and the requirements for professional employment arises from what is really a broken incentive structure. It is perfectly irrelevant to universities whether or not their graduates are able to find employment in the field for which they have nominally been trained; nor do universities particularly care if the jobs for which their students are being prepared even exist. Instead, the only motivation is 'bums in seats': how many students can be recruited, and retained, such that the maximal tuition fees can be extracted. This results in a situation where not only are students poorly prepared for the professional environment, but in which the universities regularly issue forth gluts of graduates into fields that might have had a shortage when the graduates first enrolled, but thanks to massive over-enrolment are suddenly over-crowded, thus reducing employment prospects and wages for all.
Another factor contributing to the decline in standards has been the explosive expansion in access to the university enabled by the student loan system. In the bad old days of racism and patriarchy, there were really only two types of students who enrolled. First were the wealthy, who could afford it, and could afford to not take it very seriously since their family connections would ensure they were taken care of regardless of their performance. Second were the highly talented, who could obtain competitive scholarships. The second group was drawn exclusively from the far right tail of the IQ bell curve. Since the upper classes will in general be somewhat smarter than the average, their privileged progeny would also be generally clever, if not usually to the same level of genius as the scholarship students. The result was that the student body, never more than a few percent of the young adult population, was much smarter than the average human. This meant that high standards of both entrance and scholarship could be demanded of students. That in turn meant that a university degree was a reliable indicator of at least some degree of intellectual acumen, thus making the degree prestigious. The entire motivation behind the student loan system, that economic outcomes could be improved by providing more people with degrees, rested upon a sort of cargo cult mentality: the truth was that the wealthy and the talented will always tend to do well, and their success was always a reflection of this basic truth rather than a result of their university education. Society in effect confused a correlate of future success with the cause of future success.
Now, by contrast, something like a third of the youth of Western countries attend university. This inevitably means that the fat middle of the bell curve is being much more heavily sampled. It follows that somewhere must be found to put those originating in that fat middle. Initially, that was in the humanities and social sciences. Mathematics, engineering, and medicine are all much too important to a functioning industrial society for dullards to be allowed to practice them; the hard sciences in general, while not quite as essential, are even more cognitively demanding than the skilled professions. By contrast, the humanities could be dumbed down without any immediately obvious, life-threatening consequences. After all, who cares if someone interprets a poem incorrectly or has a cold take on Chaucer? Thus it was that the humanities degenerated into the butt of every joke involving an academic saying something obviously retarded.
This, as it turned out, was a terrible mistake. Midwit students are the most easily indoctrinated students. Activist professors looking to turn the lecture theatre into an arena for political agitation rapidly gravitated to these disciplines, and began using them as vectors for the introduction of cultural Marxism into the societal bloodstream and the cultivation of an army of activist students. Before long, the humanities had not just gotten dumber, they had also become a breeding ground for a mass of useful idiots who could be weaponized against ideologically recalcitrant administrators or faculty at a moment's notice. Thus it was that the reign of terror began.
This dumbing down of the humanities also contributed to the decay of academic credentials as a value signifier on the job market. Employers now regard a university degree as proof, not of intelligence and competence (in fact rather the opposite), but rather as a near-guarantor of a civil rights lawsuit or woke uprising waiting to happen. Degree holders are not assets, they are ticking time bombs. Naturally, this hasn't improved the job prospects of humanities graduates, many of whom find themselves working low-paid service jobs as they struggle to meet the interest payments on their eternal student debts, an experience that only leaves them more embittered against capitalism (or more accurately, the system they mistake for capitalism) and more committed to the Marxist ideology they were indoctrinated with in the first place. This, of course, is all to the good so far as socialist revolutionaries are concerned.
For a time, the hard disciplines resisted this rot, for the simple reason that morons couldn't hack it, for the more nuanced reasons that professors of hard science (regardless of their political leanings) found little time for ideological instruction given the sheer breadth and complexity of the necessary course material, and finally because students of a more conservative inclination who disliked the prospect of being brainwashed in Maoist struggle sessions gravitated towards the hard sciences as a refuge. Inevitably, an academic caste system developed, in which a degree in the humanities was an object of scorn while a degree in the sciences merited some degree of respect.
With their laser focus on power, it was inevitable that the Marxists who had wrecked the humanities would turn their sights on the sciences.
They went about this in several clever ways, which are as we speak bearing their poisoned fruits. First, they began insisting on inclusion, pointing to the overwhelming dominance of White and Asian males in the hard sciences. With their militant armies of humanities students to amplify their voices, they forced the sciences to concede to the premise that the reason that blacks, women, and other groups were 'under-represented' was, and could only be, due to some nebulous force of systemic prejudice that exerted a subtle pressure driving talented female scientists of colour away from the fields to which they yearned from the very depths of their innocent souls to devote their lives. Once accepted, it became imperative to increase representation of students from under-represented backgrounds.
To suggest that this under-representation might be due to some combination of lack of interest and lack of innate ability was absolutely verboten. Since this is almost certainly the truth of the matter, the inevitable result of this was that admissions standards had to be lowered for preferred groups. This immediately created the problem of students lacking the ability to master the necessary material, who then floundered and flunked out. Given that the sole acceptable premise for any discrepancy is discrimination whether deliberate or 'systemic', it therefore followed that in order to retain students from under-represented groups, standards must be lowered not only at the point of admission but throughout the curriculum (not that they would ever admit that this is what they have done).
That's essentially where things stand now with the hard sciences. Admissions standards have been watered down and in some cases done away with (for example, by dropping SATs and GREs as requirements for entrance to undergraduate and graduate programs). Course material has been simplified; grading made easier; the path to graduation smoothed out; professors instructed to make special allowances on the basis of sex or race or "gender", whether formally or, just as often informally (e.g. simply bending the rules for students belonging to preferred groups who might otherwise have flunked out).
Things have not entirely fallen apart yet, but give it time. The rot has well and truly set in and the course is set.
None of this helps students. As degrees become easier to get, the value of a degree is driven down, and indeed for many degrees is now a net negative so far as many employers are concerned. Ironically, this is even more the case for graduates from 'under-represented groups', as sane humans will assume (whether they admit it or not) that their primary qualification is their ancestral lineage, their reproductive organs, or what they like to do with their reproductive organs, rather than what is actually carried in their heads. Before long this evaluation will be made for science degrees as well, at which point there will be essentially no economic advantage to holding a degree of any kind, despite the considerable opportunity cost incurred by four years of study, and the ongoing cost due to interest payments on student loans.
To certain degree students have responded by going for more advanced degrees: as the Bachelor's became common, students increasingly went for Master's, and then Doctoral degrees. That process only kicks the can down the road, at the expense of the students losing more of their lives and going even deeper in debt just to obtain the same job market advantage a high school diploma carried in the 1940s. Extrapolation of such a trend ends in students spending their whole lives in university so they can get a job at Burger King three years before they die, with their debts being inherited unto the seventh generation. Clearly, something has to give.
Then there's the emotional cost of indoctrination with a deranged, internally inconsistent pseudo-ideology that demands every student tembrace an identity as either a perpetual victim or a guilt-stricken oppressor forever groveling after forgiveness that can never come. Many have remarked on the hideous transformation students undergo throughout their university career. They enter as happy, well-adjusted, fit, attractive teenagers raised by adoring parents in a stable household, and they leave as angry, depressed, overweight, tattooed, pierced goblins with hair dyed the colour of fading vomit, who go into hysterical fits if their neo-pronouns are not given sufficient respect. There's a kind of Lovecraftian level of body horror that accompanies such a metamorphosis. A functional young human being has been rendered simultaneously psychotic and ugly, repellent to the eye as well as the soul, and while deep down they must be aware of how they've been mutilated the Stockholm syndrome is too intense for most of them to acknowledge the role played by their torturers. Universities have become Innsmouth under the Shadow of social justice.
Even those students who manage to avoid falling prey to the emotional abuse, must still endure it, along with an environment in which so many of their peers are being turned into monsters in front of their eyes. There are many ways to scar a human soul.
All of this was already the case in the pre-Corona era. As with everything, Corona made it all a lot worse.
Throughout the first several months of the putative pandemic, schools moved to an online-only format. This meant that rather than sitting in a lecture theatre with their classmates and enjoying some semblance of a human interaction with both them and the professor, students sat in their jammies, depressed and alone in their bedrooms, staring at Zoom for hours on end. Despite the fact that many universities had already started offering online degrees at a steep discount, students were generally required to pay for this substandard service at the full rate, a move which was driven purely by greed on the part of the administrators ... although professors were often heard to grumble that it was also a lot of extra work for them to prepare online classes, and that they should after all be paid for it ... with no apparent awareness that, regardless of how much work they did or didn't do (and some were known to fob students off with lectures they'd already recorded years before), the experience for the students was well below the standards of in-person instruction.
After a year or so of being traumatized with enforced social isolation, universities started letting students return. Ah, but with a catch. Well, with a lot of catches. Administrators driven mad by pandemic propaganda demanded students comply with punitive restrictions supposedly designed to stop the (unstoppable) spread of the virus. Masks were mandatory everywhere, outside included. Students were often required to stay (alone) in their dorm rooms if they weren't in class. In meal halls, they could not sit together. In some cases it was forbidden to leave campus; some schools went so far as to put up barbed wire. Regular PCR testing was enforced, a positive result leading to enforced quarantine, with students prohibited from leaving their rooms even to eat, and the university authorities sometimes remembering to feed them. A snitch culture was cultivated, with students encouraged to rat out those of their peers who dared flout the demands of their camp guards.
It can't be emphasized strongly enough that all of this was done in the full knowledge that healthy youth were at essentially no risk from SARS-COV-2, having an infection fatality rate that was some small fraction of a fraction of a percent. These abuses were not enforced to protect students (although plenty of students, in particular the easily brainwashed midwit contingent who also form the enforcement arm for social justice ideology, were convinced that this was so). They emanated entirely from the neurotic hypochondria and desperate eagerness to conform to the perceived consensus that animates the social climbers occupying the university administration caste.
Finally, this phase of the nightmare drew to an end, when vaccinations became available. This, however, was merely a new phase in the descent through the circles of the Inferno, as universities immediately declared that all students must, on pain of expulsion (tuition non-refundable, of course), be vaccinated in order to attend. With their futures held hostage; the profound logistical and academic difficulties involved in transferring to other schools; and the pointlessness in transferring since most schools had the same mandates in any case, students by and large complied, as they had already done throughout, and got the shots.
It was only a few months later that the universities started demanding boosters.
All of this with a total lack of justification: as already mentioned, healthy young adults are at essentially no risk from the virus. Further, this was done in the absence of compelling evidence that the so-called vaccines were 'safe-and-effective' (a mantra repeated so often it practically took on the identity of a compound word), and indeed in obdurate defiance of the mounting evidence that the shots do not provide any protection from the virus at all, while posing unique and potentially serious risks to the health of young people. Given that the risk to young men of mRNA transfection leading to myocarditis is estimated at around 1 in 5000, and given that this disorder is generally fatal within several years of onset, and given that large universities have student bodies numbering in the tens of thousands, it can be estimated that every significant university in the Western world is now directly responsible for the premature deaths of several of their male students. That's a lower limit; myocarditis is only one of the dangers vaxx-takers risk, and probably not the worst one.
As described in the last post, it goes without saying that the professoriate raised barely a murmur of protest against this. Instead, they were vehemently in favour.
I can tell you from personal experience, from numerous candid conversations with students at the local watering holes, that a great many of them were far from happy about that.
Indeed a great many of them are deeply unimpressed by everything they have experienced at the university. The academy has not been as advertised. It has not trained them, but has instead neglected training in favour of political instruction and systematic emotional abuse and psychological torture. In exchange for a vast sum of money and irreplaceable years of their lives, it has given them trauma and useless pieces of paper.
They have been defrauded, and they know it.
Our young people deserve better than that. One way or another, the time will come when they get it.
But one thing's for sure: they won't be getting it in the universities.