Why College No Longer Matters

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Fount of knowledge or white supremacist suppression?

Don’t send your children to college, Mrs. Worthington, don’t send your children to college.

I recently stumbled across some articles about a professor at American University in Washington, DC named Asao Inoue. His official title is Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and Director of University Writing. According to his own writing and a podcast interview I listened to, he identifies as a person of color, though in one of his “books” (I would have called it an academic monograph) he describes himself alternately as either Japanese-American or Asian-American. He claims to have come from an extremely impoverished working-class background and to have been subjected to unrelenting racism from white neighbors as a child because he was mistaken for Mexican-American, “a beaner,” (his words).

Professor Inoue has received some attention lately for advocating the promotion of social justice and “anti-racism” in creative writing classrooms by no longer grading compositions based on quality, but rather on the labor involved on the part of the student. Professor Inoue believes traditional writing standards are “subconsciously racist.” He uses the phrase “white language supremacy,” to describe the subconscious racism of traditional university classroom instruction:

“We all come from and work in hegemonic systems with particular biases and that means if you are a teacher today, that means you came out of a white supremacy system [therefore] you have those biases…[snip]…any denial of racism in our writing assessment is a white illusion that upholds a white hegemonic set of power relations that is the status quo…”

He goes on to state this is not the result of bad individuals (meaning individual teachers and professors) but rather bad systems.

Professor Inoue apparently currently grades his students on a negotiated system (meaning negotiated by him and the individual student) that designates one third of the grade to the student’s “labor” (it appears he means effort), which is in turn predicated on a mutually agreed upon “labor-based contract” between the student and himself, a contract that may be changed by the student if he (the student) comes to feel the contract places onerous demands on him, demands such as having his assignment done on time.

Another third of the grade is determined by something Professor Inoue calls “classroom ecology.” Apparently, as I understand it, a class taught on Monday morning will differ in its effects and unconscious biases from the identical lecture taught on Tuesday afternoon. Who knew?

The final third of the grade is predicated on the “disposition of the teacher, what’s in his life when he reads the paper. Is he well-rested, is he well-fed?”

Professor Inoue would prefer, however, dispensing with grading altogether.

While Professor Inoue may be steeped to the gills in good intentions (not to mention his own unconscious biases) it would be very easy to ridicule him and his social justice crusade, but I have some very real objections to what he is advocating.

First, it costs over $50,000 a year to send a kid to American University. For that, I expect my child to be taught to a standard, and a goddamned high standard at that, not to be pumped full of progressive social justice concepts. I expect my child to receive something more and better for my money.

Don’t send your children to college, Mrs. Worthington.

My second objection is that there is a basic law that applies to all artistic endeavors, from to writing to painting to musical composition, and that is that first you must master the fundamentals before you can ignore them. For example, if you wish to be acclaimed as the next great artist, you first need to be able to master basic drafting and be able to draw an egg before you can throw those fundamentals out the window. It’s why one used to see young artists tediously copying the Old Masters in museums all over the world; if you can’t copy Rembrandt’s techniques, you will certainly never surpass them. And if you can’t write a coherent sentence based upon society’s mutually agreed upon rules intended to aid communication and coherence and comprehension, you’ll never have much of an audience. Try reading Finnegan’s Wake; write me when you get through the thing. And that was written by a genuine genius who had mastered all the rules.

Don’t send your children to college, Mrs. Worthington.

And finally, I would like to point out that nothing I have done well in my entire life, be it acting, writing, different competitive athletic activities, or anything else, has not been done far better by a multitude of minorities. In other words, if I were a black person (I am specifically referring to blacks because in his monograph, Professor Inoue cites a study showing black students having lower verbal and writing skills than white students) contemplating racking up a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of debt attending American University, I would be deeply offended by the tacit assumption that I need a lowered bar because I’m just not smart enough to compete with all those privileged white students. I do wonder what James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, J.C. Watts, Maya Angelou, Colin Powell, Lorraine Hansberry, Charles Payne, Zora Neale Hurston, Benjamin Carson, Richard Wright, August Wilson, Denzel Washington, Alex Haley, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, James Earl Jones, and so many others would have made of that. I do believe they all mastered the English language tolerably well.

Don’t send your children to college, Mrs. Worthington, don’t send your children to college. Save your money instead. Hell, blow it all on that dream vacation you’ve always wanted, or redecorating the house; you’ll get more bang for your buck.

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4 thoughts on “Why College No Longer Matters”

  1. This reminds me of something a professor I had told me. He complained about how many of his colleagues were educated “a-holes” and had numerous personality and other psychiatric disorders. Academia and PhD. programs seem to attract the kind of people with strange ideas based on their screwed up childhoods and emotional issues.

    Yet more proof of how screwed up academia is these days. These indulgent programs and majors that prepare one neither for reality or a job or in other words the other four letter word, “life.” I call it the ultimate con job. Parents and students that pay for such garbage are sadly suckers for this crap. Even worse, we all pay for it as more “educated” and unemployable are cranked out of institutions to swell our ranks.

    Not to worry though, the Dems are promising there is no need to worry. They will guarantee free education like this for all. The Bachelor’s degree is now the new High School Diploma—the minimum standard and not much of a standard anymore. A limbo game of “how low can you go…” Low enough to crawl apparently.

  2. You are so right. What a joke of a grading system.
    It took me four years to finish my two year degree. After a 12 year gap of working, chasing after 3 kids, plus their Dad who I considered my fourth kid, I went back & finished my BA in History with minors in English & Psychology.
    I did use it to get into an alternative teaching program, but it wasn’t my style. The way discipline is in school( love to work with high schoolers), it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

  3. As a very non-traditional college students (I’m far older than the bulk of my professors), I am appalled by the article you reference. Good night! That’s not an education, it a freaking treaty. When it’s all said and done, I will spend far less than $50k on my undergrad-graduate degree; I still expect a great education built around a high standard of excellence. I don’t want to negotiate my grades with my professors. I want them to set the standards higher than I can reach at the moment, so I have something to work towards. Otherwise, just give me the dang, stupid diploma right now and cut the crap.

    Sigh and now I’m off to study…

  4. Even when I have nothing brilliant to say, I still like it when you post a lot. Inequality is real, but it would be better for this professor to offer writing workshops to underserved communities than what he is doing, which is destructive. It’s selfish to disrupt student learning with a personal agenda, and he’s doing a disservice to the students. I realize that there are all sorts of nutty things like this going on at colleges and universities, and perhaps especially at certain elite ones. However, they haven’t all completely lost their minds. For instance, there was not much room for ideological agendas at the practical, $1000 per class university, where I finally finished my long lost English degree online. My writing classes were evaluated on a set rubric, regardless of effort.
    I think college is still worthwhile for two reasons. One; students still do learn. I learned so much during my recent studies, just as I had 20 years earlier. I can’t imagine my life or either of those experiences. I feel like I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t learned how to analyze texts etc. during my first college time. Looking at topics from different angles and learning to describe complexity helped me to escape a devastatingly abusive relationship that started when I was 17. That relationship had destroyed my confidence in my own mind. My studies gave it back to me, and I slipped out of his control. Yes, I was brainwashed by a couple of tough grading feminists, but that’s part of me too. I never took it to an extreme; it was just a way of looking at the world sometimes.
    College still matters because it teaches people to analyze topics in a way that they might not otherwise learn. It also gives them knowledge of the world that they are unlikely to encounter casually. Some people might gain that knowledge and development without college, but many will not. The other reason is jobs. Having not had my college degree for many years of my adult life, I can say that it automatically cut me out of so many opportunities, and it was very frustrating. Of course, having a degree is no guarantee that you can get a decent job, but not having one takes you out of the running for a lot of them. Instead of saying “skip college,” I would say that parents and students should think twice about a really expensive school. Chances are, it may not be worth it. Find out if the school is more focused on education, or ideological fads and individual agendas.
    Recently, I have been seeing posts about how college isn’t right for everyone, or it’s a waste of time, and we should bring back trade schools instead. It’s true, college isn’t right for everyone, and the trades are a good option for many people. I am all for presenting trade schools as an option. That said, the trades aren’t right for everyone either. More importantly, while select jobs pay well without a degree, many do not.
    When I didn’t have a degree, it was frustrating to see positions that I knew I could do but weren’t open to me without that stupid piece of paper. Also, employers want degrees for all sorts of jobs that they shouldn’t, along with the rest of their often ridiculous, one-sided demands. It’s hard enough with one, but not having a college degree can be a true barrier.

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