Tag Archives: education


Via the National Review I came across John E. Seery’s lament for the small liberal arts college, strangled at the hands of administrators gone wild.

I commented:

The odd thing is that a good undergraduate Liberal Arts college needs a few classrooms, a few seminar rooms, a small library with a serious affiliation to a big library, some professors and an administration to take the fees and pay the people. (Yes, if it is residential, there is all that stuff but there are many people who have run Holiday Inns.)

I am astonished that American parents are willing to fork over 60K/a for a quasi-university education.

The temptation to create a “graduate college” on the lines above somewhere fairly remote and populate it with profs emeritus and brilliant buggers who have had it with being sessionals is huge. Two years, 10K a year, seminars of twenty in Y1, 7 in Y2 to give you the education you didn’t get while you were doing diversity training and taking “Studies”. Small, residential, maybe 500 20-25 year olds. Act up and you get kicked, be there to learn or leave. No social rules – you’re adults, deal with it.

Oh, and mandatory Church on Sunday (and I don’t care if you are Jewish or Muslim or what have you) – it is entirely cultural. Believe whatever you want but learn the liturgy, the Hymnal and the Book of Common Prayer because that is the cadence of Western Civilization – English division.

Teach the students to think, to write and to argue. Read chunks of the Western Canon, also read smart people like Orwell and Oakeshott. First year – rather like law school – everything is required. Second year an elective and a directed study towards a required forty page thesis.

Three grades – fail (you have to do it again until) pass and then, because excellence needs be recognized, distinguished. Distinguished would be very tough to get and papers which hit that standard would be published, on paper, every year.

The President of this Arcadia would be chosen for his or her grumpiness when confronting academic lassitude and capacity at the BBQ for the occasional “feast”. (Pace Frank Iacobucci.)

Admission would be strictly by merit but merit would be a very elastic concept. Write one really interesting undergraduate paper, you’re in, build a community organization from scratch, you’re in, play bassoon in a world-class orchestra, you’re in, build an app that’s on my phone, you’re in. But it is a liberal arts college so STEM people, valuable as they are, business undergrads and “studies” people are going to be faced with a fairly high bar.

Finally, the “interview” would be mandatory and last for a residential week. Arrive before Church on Sunday, leave after Church the Sunday after. Seminars, cocktail parties, a President’s BBQ, perhaps a paper presentation: gruelling does not begin to describe it because my graduate college requires a habit of mind, an ability to disagree without being disagreeable, the social is just as important as the academic.

If you get in, two years later, you will be better educated and, more importantly, a better thinker, more deeply informed. A much better writer and, I suspect, a more deeply understanding person.

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Kathy links to Megan Macardle’s article on the homogenization of America’s (and, realistically, Canada’s) ruling elite. Being the son or daughter of Harvard grads and a Harvard grad yourself is now, apparently, the ticket to alpha jobs in politics, law, the academy, journalism and finance. Which is a) likely more true than not, b) hardly surprising given the entrance requirements act as a ferocious cognitive screen, c) of less and less importance.

It is becoming less important because big government, the academy, big law, huge finance and big media are dying. Not quickly but they are on their way. Why? Because the mandarinate has not done much productive in forty years. And, in fact, the elite activities of governance, anti-trust litigation, climate action, tax law, derivatives and queered gender studies have largely left any possible reality. Spending a trillion dollars a year you do not have is a flight from reality, explaining why such spending is a good idea is financial surrealism, but actually financing the spending is an error that only a really well trained, Ivy League kinda of a guy could make. The rest of us are simply not cognitively capable of ignoring reality at that level.

As many people are starting to notice, the wheels are falling off the more cherished social tropes of the mandarinate. Cost benefit analysis of a black studies degree from Yale is being performed, legal analysis is being out sourced to India, banks are being bailed out to postpone the day when all those derivatives are going to come back and bite. Climate action is being quietly under bussed by smart politicians.

Smart parents are looking for ways to prepare their children for both the alpha cognitive world and the world where things are actually made and services performed. A trade makes a lot more sense than an internship at the end of a 200K debt financed “education”.

As with the end of the catastrophic global warming scam, the political elites will be the last to know because they are advised by mandarins.

It is instructive to look at what happened when the Chinese Manchu mandarinate was confronted with a changing world. The denial of the 18th century gave way to the decline of the 19th and the collapse at the beginning of the 20th. The mandarins did not become dumber nor were the examinations any less tough; the fact was that the modern, western, world arrived at China’s door and would not go away. The mandarins had no answer to a radical change.

Our mandarinate is, to a degree, innovative. But it is the phoney innovation of people who share precisely the same central world view and argue about the margins. Real change, radical restructuring in the face of a changing world is simply beyond the stunted imaginations of the test taking classes. It was not on the exam.

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Radio Silence and Moving

Sorry to be off air for few days. We have just moved which is massively disruptive as always. But we are in snug for Christmas and the books are returning to their shelves.

A couple of random observations. The place we are moving from was a lovely, large, Uplands house which is going up on the market. There it will join literally two dozen other, lovely, large Uplands houses which have, I fear, been rendered relics of a demographically and socially lost era. Ours was relatively sensible in that it had only four bedrooms. Most of the others have 5 or more. Families are simply no longer that big. Plus, families tend not to buy 2 million dollar houses. (We got an incredible deal on the rent for a couple of years; but even if we had the money we would not have bought the house.)

Along with the couple of dozen listed on MLS, there were, in fact, four vacant houses on my daily dog walk. As well there were a dozen more which had been for sale but had been pulled from the market. Call me crazy but I have to think that the upper end of the Victoria housing market is due for a significant price correction.

Second, I was in a small supermarket the other day and there was a staffing panic going on. It was occasioned by one person phoning in sick to an already short staffed store. And the reason it, and many other stores like it are short staffed is that there are not that many kids around to do the cashier/restocking jobs. I suspect this trend will continue (which is great for my younger boys who will be looking for work in a few years.)

All the kids my now childless female friends from highschool and university didn’t have are, of course, not around to fill entry level jobs while going to school or university.

A final and somewhat related point: sitting in our much cozier living room last night Sam, my nearly 12 year old, and I were talking about what he would actually like to do over the next decade or so. “I’ve been looking at some Apprenticeship programs Dad. You can start when you are sixteen and have your ticket by 20 or 21.” “University?” I asked. “Absolutely, but I’d like to do it part time and then do refrigeration stuff three days a week.”

For the refrigeration idea I want to thank the nice, 20 something guy who bought the double oven from us. HVAC and refrigeration has been good to him…he runs $90 an hour and has more work than he can handle. Which he told Sam and Sam is good at multiplication.

Many years ago, I met a guy named Joseph Tussman, a philosopher of education, who maintained that a candidate for a graduate degree in any of the Liberal Arts should be required to have a trade. I suspect he was right.

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