Monday, December 21, 2015
My next reading project will be Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. Although not specifically a book on educational issues, it probes deep into the heart of the American psyche, and is considered relevant even to this day by a great many commentators from a wide range of ideological commitments.
NYU is facing criticism after their MA in Arts Politics program declined to waive a student's application fees, and said in an email that if he can't pay a $65 application fee he probably can't pay $60k in tuition. Somehow, this incident has been spun as one in which social justice demands that a student from an apparently disadvantaged background be given a chance to borrow $60k for a graduate program with a questionable economic return.
I don't believe that higher education is or ought to be solely a vocational program. I do believe, however, that there comes a point where you might be wise to take your BA and go explore the workforce, and that graduate education should only be undertaken after a very sober risk-reward calculation. Go ahead and include non-economic returns on the reward side of the calculation, but don't ignore economics either.
To the extent that I want to sympathize with the academic left, I wish they'd rediscover economic concerns. If the social justice crowd won't ask serious questions about whether the disadvantaged should be encouraged to borrow $60k for an MA then I see little hope for any sort of morally respectable or intellectually coherent leftist politics from the academy.