October 12 2011
Making College Even More Irrelevant
Carrie L. Lukas
College graduates are suffering from historically high unemployment, as Hadley has written about here. Surely some are wondering, as they contemplate how they are going to pay back the tens of thousands of dollars they borrowed for tuition, why their colleges taught them so little that is relevant to the modern economy.
Yet some current students, perhaps still unaware of the harsh job market that awaits them after their time pondering great thoughts in university lecture halls, seem to want to make colleges even more detached from the real world.
Here's a piece by Madeleine Schwartz in the Harvard Crimson (applauded by Feministing) complaining that courses aren't incorporating enough about radical feminism into their curriculum. Naturally, Harvard College has a field of concentration for the study of “Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” but Schwartz wants an exploration of the feminist movement and the feminist perspective tucked in to other mainstream courses.
Certainly, Schwartz makes good points that the feminist movement was an important historic force and their history deserves to be preserved and considered. Fine. But it's an incredible stretch to imagine that Harvard is under-emphasizing the feminist perspective in their core curriculum.
I attended Princeton as an undergrad and got a master's from public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School. In my experience, it was hard to escape discussions on how gender figures into a subject. Many of what were supposed to be straight English literature courses lingered on feminist tropes.
I've written before on how I found the Kennedy School to be so utterly liberal and detached from reality that I regret my time there (save a few, very useful economic and statistic courses from excellent professors). And I certainly regret having poured my money into an institution focused on promoting policies that destructive to our economy and country.
Schwartz can still feel pretty secure that the name Harvard carries enough cache as evidence of a sharp mind that she'll find employment, regardless of her chosen course work. And there certainly is value to contemplating the great movements and philosophies that have shaped our society. Not everyone should become an engineer.
Yet this constant push to make campuses ever more liberal and more fixated on race, gender, sexuality issues is to render them more useless for most students and more inept at preparing the next generation for the real challenges our country will face. That's bad news for today's students, but perhaps a silver lining will be that change will come to higher education (or as Glenn Reynolds put it, our higher education bubble will final burst) and we will have new, more efficient paradigms for actually gaining skills and knowledge.