Spengler: Thomas Friedman and the Higher Education Bubble (1)

Prof. Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University likes to say that the big question in American politics is whether the red states can produce kids faster than professors from the blue states can corrupt them.

That Thomas Friedman would spout stupidity and anti-Semitism surprises me no more than the appearance of a gumball after I put a quarter into the machine and turn the knob. But one line in the New York Times‘ calumnist’s (sic) Dec. 13 tantrum against Israel was worth a double-take:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.

Why on earth is the “real test” at the University of Wisconsin? For liberals, the only people who count are the smart people, because it is an article of faith that  social engineering can fix all the world’s problems, and a logical conclusion that only smart people qualify as social engineers. It doesn’t matter what the dumb people think. They are the ones who need to be socially engineered. To Friedman, it is irrelevant whether Americans at large support Israel by a 4:1 margin or better, and that support for Israel is growing steadily, as the Gallup Poll consistently shows:

[Read It All]


I just changed the lead story I put up earlier for this one.  As usual, Spengler drives the ball right out of the park.  Don’t miss him or his guests in the comment area.  Much informed opinion appearing there.

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  • stageleft

    Where is the anti-Semitism?

  • Cy

    1) The willingness to kiss Israel’s ass should not be any kind of measurement of intelligence. That is a quasi-religious movement from the neo-con camp and nothing more. Most people don’t care either way and some people just don’t like to see such a ridiculously one-sided fight be passed off as self-defense.

    2) Rote learning puts facts in heads and gives favour to those with a great memory. It does NOT indicate who will actually do well on the field – any field. I’m in a hiring position these days and have to deal with all manner of “A students” who are unable to answer any kind of question they weren’t “prepped” for.

    3) [political incorrectness alert] Most Chinese are hardcore rote students. Their only two advantages over other students are (a) they’re incredibly disciplined to do the level of work that most local students won’t (b) most of them are good at doing what they’re told … but god help you if they are asked to CREATE something. This is unsurprising, given the mother country’s economy is based on copyright infringement and low-cost duplication. Very few things are invented in China.

    4) The education system cannot teach creativity or motivation. Steve Jobs barely finished school. Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and the founders of RIM dropped out of university.

    5) Merry Christmas to all

    • beentheredonethat

      No bad, Cy. Not bad at all.

      Merry Christmas back at ya!

  • http://www.sandycrux.wordpress.com Sandy

    Joe — Truth is I have known and worked with some MBAs and Ph.Ds who lacked commonsense, yet that fact had nothing to do with their degrees or former professors. It was just their personality or the way they viewed the world.

    In other words, there is more to a person than what courses or papers they wrote or what degree they do or don’t have.

    Plus, and this is very important, the more education a person has in a certain field, the more specialized they become. So, they may be brilliant in their own field of expertise. But, try to discuss an everyday issue and ……

    Look, I know there is a lot wrong at all levels of our education systems today, but there has always been something wrong — only the whatever is wrong with it has changed. In the 1970s we were told that the students in rows and lecture method was making us uncompetitive in the world. So, we had to beef things up a bit and use discovery (now called progressive methods) to help kids think spontaneously and creatively, instead of regurgitating information 100% of the time. Now, we have gone too much in the opposite direction. Time for the old pendulum to start swinging back a bit I guess.

    Just sayin. Stupid is as stupid does, or smart is as smart does, whether a person has a college diploma, university degree, or journeyman’s papers.

    Merry Christmas~!

  • Joe

    Funnily enough I disagree with Sandy. The problem I have with most ‘higher education’ is that it fails its most critical test. That test being whether the product of that education can actually think in a coherent manner rather than not discerning between the tag lines of different and conflicting sources. I become filled with dread and foreboding when I try to discuss any thing with a recent recipient of a bachelor of arts, education, or science degree. When I point out that what they just said said they believed completely contradicted what they said they believed in their last statement I get, at best, a blank stare, at worse, a change in topic again conflicting with both their statements of moments ago. I had to laugh when a friend of mine and I tried to have an intelligent conversation with a newly minted Bsc. Both of us walked away with our mouths agape at the conflicting nonsense this person was spewing. Half in jest my friend suggested we go find a young plumber as the plumber was more likely to make sense than the degree holder. The problem I see is that education (good or bad) for the sake of education has become an end in itself. What’s more many ‘teachers’ and ‘professors’ lack the practical experience in their fields to be any good as teachers and professors.

  • http://www.sandycrux.wordpress.com Sandy

    Oh, and by the way, I deliberately didn’t want to get into the debate about Asian students. It is not new that North American parents do not value higher education as do those in the east. Whereas, when Chinese parents send their only child (due to a one-child policy) to the U.S. or Canada for university, that child knows how much is riding on their success. And, their sense of duty and appreciation, more often than not, has them working far harder than their Canadian counterpart.

  • http://www.jacksnewsatch.com fernstalbert

    Since the students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin are not elected to Congress – it doesn’t count Friedman. And I don’t have an expensive university education to add 2 + 2 together. If and when these anti-semitic, moral relevance believers are in positions of power, there will continue to be support for Israel by the majority of the American people. Considering the state of higher education – university students are the dying breed as they are unable to afford the outrageous tuitions and therefore, fortunately unable to find jobs with their useless degrees. Cheers. Merry Christmas. lol

    • http://www.sandycrux.wordpress.com Sandy

      Agree fernstalbert. In my view, the anti-Israel stance on most universities is simply an example of the political correctness shown in society in general, in favour of Palestinians. Plus, most students who get involved in anti-Israel protests on university campuses are in such specialties as sociology or political science — and actually represent a minority of students. Unfortunately, they are the noisiest and most disruptive.

      Interesting, however, when I read the article first, I was most aware of the assumptions which is what I tried to deal with in my first comment.

      Merry Christmas to you.

  • http://www.sandycrux.wordpress.com Sandy

    An interesting article Jack but, perhaps surprisingly, I disagree with much of it. While I agree that students are confused, as are many of us ordinary folk, I think overall it is over the top generalization. Yes, tuitions have increased, even in Canada, although Canadian taxpayers subsidize what costs $50,000 a year in the U. S. Are all the increases for professors’ salaries and benefits? Hardly. Everything has gone up, including energy costs to air condition and heat university complexes.

    Will the present and next generation have it tougher making a living than we did? Absolutely. House prices skyrocketed and those of us who bought in the 70s and 80s benefitted. But, beyond that, hard work is hard work. It knows no particular generation or particular political belief.

    We had beatniks in the 1950s, hippies in the 1960s and drop outs in the 1970s. Problem is we have short memories. In fact, a bit of digging will show some universities were violent places in the 1960s — at least in the U.S., such as Kent State.

    Anyway, I was a professor in two universities, Brock and McMaster through the 80s and 90s and into 2000s. I also attended OISE at the U of T. Yes, I knew who the liberal/progressive left-winger professors were just as I knew who the right wingers were.

    But, you know what? I never saw myself as either a liberal/progressive professor or a conservative professor. I simply taught all sides of a subject or argument. And, in my own life, I voted based on the parties platforms and whether or not I liked the local candidate — meaning that horrors of horrors, I have voted Liberal, NDP provincially, PC and CPC.

    Rather, what I think has changed, and Spengler’s views just confirm that, is the open war on academics and the fact that the mainstream media, social media and the blogosphere have divided people into camps more than ever before — as progressives, neo-Marxists or conservatives.

    Social engineering is what all governing parties do! Just as Dalton McGuinty is engineering Ontario’s green energy politicies, Stephen Harper is doing it in Ottawa regarding changes to the criminal justice system. One is progressive or socialist engineering, the other conservative engineering. Meaning, socialists are not the only ones who seek about changing their society, one policy and law at a time.

    However, to my mind, the anger in society right now is scary and blaming “all” universities for being hot beds of progressivism (which they are not) is not helping those within those universities to present a middle way. Talk to a geologist and you will likely find someone who questions the AGW argument. Talk to a business or computer science professor and you will not find a socialist.

    Man, I am very tired of the blame game. I guess its not new but the Internet has brought it home like never before. As if to prove a point, I spoke to an elementary teacher this morning at church. I asked her if she still does the ten tests to practice times tables and — wait for it — she said absolutely! So, even Wente was generalizing the other day.