The Sad Decline of America’s Universities

Academia has fallen on hard times, most signified by the disgrace of Harvard. When high-paid, high-status professors are revealed as plagiarists, and then kept on with high six-figure salaries anyway, and when others are fired for opposing inhumane COVID-19 controls, one has to wonder.

Such places have only their intellectual integrity; when that falls, what are they left with other than their $51 billion endowment?

Let’s just use Harvard as a proxy for universities generally. How are they faring these days? Is the generation that is now in a position to decide to attend them—rather than develop an actual skill in a trade—and choose to give up four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars really going to take the bait?

It appears that this is seriously in doubt. The last of the last generation born in the 20th century, so-called Generation Z, has entered college and faces the decision to continue on the path or take a different route. It so happens that skills-based trades are paying huge salaries right now. That’s because there is a massive shortage of people who know how to do stuff.

This happens when you have fifty years in which millions have been trained to be one or another form of “intellectual” (or “mind worker”) even as the market for such “skills” has long been saturated.

Plus the job is awful in any case, contrary to what had long been promised. Most members of the professional managerial class of highly educated desk sitters are wholly miserable people. Most of their lives are spent following orders and fitting into the bureaucracy, with little or no creativity, much less adventure. All you get is a fancy title and some social status within some circles, and even that is changing.

As for academic jobs, truly, do you know a happy and wholly content professor or university administrator? I’ve personally never known any professional more willing to kvetch about his or her job, telling tales of amazing intrigue, perfidy, and backstabbery. One always wants to ask, “Why don’t you leave?” but we know the truth. There is nowhere to go. Academic jobs are hard to come by and extremely difficult to convert from one institution to another.

Such people have no other skills.

It’s about time that young people realize that there are other ways to pursue a career. We might finally have reached the point at which people are going their own way rather than following the prescribed path for the illusion of upward social mobility.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports:

“Long beset by a labor crunch, the skilled trades are newly appealing to the youngest cohort of American workers, many of whom are choosing to leave the college path. Rising pay and new technologies in fields from welding to machine tooling are giving trade professions a face-lift, helping them shed the image of being dirty, low-end work. Growing skepticism about the return on a college education, the cost of which has soared in recent decades, is adding to their shine.

“Enrollment in vocational training programs is surging as overall enrollment in community colleges and four-year institutions has fallen. The number of students enrolled in vocational-focused community colleges rose 16 percent last year to its highest level since the National Student Clearinghouse began tracking such data in 2018. The ranks of students studying construction trades rose 23 percent during that time, while those in programs covering HVAC and vehicle maintenance and repair increased 7 percent.”

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