Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

College admissions season

The Washington Post Magazine has a package of articles on higher education admissions and marketing, timed to the particular time of year, when high school seniors and their parents (not to mention those of us whose paychecks depend upon their decisions) are anxious.

This article, in particular, caught my attention, since it argued that name-brand private universities weren’t necessarily worth the expense. Unfortunately, the comparison is with flagship state universities and worth is measured in terms of future career and earning potential. I can’t and won’t quarrel with the conclusions, such as they are. But I will quarrel with the means of measuring "worth," which seems to set aside (probably as impossible to measure) any consideration of how life-changing or character-building (or "just" character-maintaining) a college education can be. The author is correct that you can get a decent education and build a good career network at any "elite" institution, public or private. Whether your future success depends more on your ambition and innate talent, as opposed what happens within the ivy-covered walls, is another question.

On the other hand, if college is supposed to put a seal on your character, suiting you to assume the responsibilities of a liberally educated gentleman, gentlewoman, or citizen, then other considerations ought to come to the fore. About these, we learn nothing from the article.

Discussions - 2 Comments

I agree with Joe, here, though, ironically, if this article has the effect of pointing some students away from the "elite" colleges, it will have the unintended beneficial effect of helping them avoid some of the schools that actually _undermine_ good character, as well as at least raising the prospect of their looking at some schools where character matters. But, I’m finally doubtful whether anyone will be persuaded not to apply to the "best" schools, regardless of the irrelevance to future earnings potential, and of the damage such places inflict on character.

These elite colleges may be undermining themselves. We have a neighborhood boy here...national merit scholar, solid grades in AP courses...turned down flat by Duke. White, of course. Now some other college will benefit from this young man’s future career (and contributions as an alumnist), while I’m sure they’ve accepted some overachieving twit with the ’proper’ social characterististics. The wheel turns.

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