Justification for higher education Essay

This essay has a total of 1587 words and 6 pages.

justification for higher education

Chris Harrison
Writing 39B, Assignment 1
5 February 2003
Justification For Higher Education
After analyzing William A. Henry III s In Defense of Elitism and Caroline Bird s
College is a Waste of Time and Money , it is clear that Henry s argument concerning the
purpose of an education is more rational than Bird s due to the fact that Henry supports his claims
with credible statistics, logical insight, and uses current real world scenarios. Bird, on the
contrary, bases her argument solely on manipulated statistics, overly dramatic claims, and
ridiculously out-of-this-world scenarios.
While there are various viewpoints and perspectives on the subject of higher education,
Henry for one, has landed the conclusion that in America higher education for the masses has not
only been extremely costly economically, but it has also greatly lowered the educational standards
and therefore defeated the purpose of higher education itself.
Henry s primary grievance against higher education for the masses is that the influx of
mediocrities relentlessly lowers the general standards at colleges to levels the weak ones can
meet (335). Quite simply, higher education is by no means any higher if the standards keep
lowering just so some students can barely meet the minimum standards. For example, although I
am a full supporter of the bell curve in college, it is certain that this recent innovation has had its
share in lowering the university s educational standards. This practice of calculating the students
average score on an exam and then re-scaling grades to help those who didn t fare as well is a
clear example of bringing the standard of college down to everyone s level (336). I can certainly
attest to this claim because I was recently directly affected by the bell curve. In the first quarter of
my freshman year, I received a score of 44 out of a possible 100 points on my Physics 7A final
exam. According to the general 10% increment grading scale, this would mean that I earned an F
on the exam. However, thanks to the mediocrities earning even lower scores than myself and
the establishment of the bell curve, I fared quite nicely and escaped with a B- grade. Although this
is definitely good news for me, Henry s claim that the mediocrities tend to lower the educational
standard seems to prevail.
The influx of mediocrities flooding college campuses has also lowered the credibility and
status of a college degree. Henry acknowledges this and states that the trend in recent years has
been eliminating layers of middle management"much of it drawn from the ranks of those lured
to college a generation or two ago by the idea that a degree would transform them from the
mediocre to magisterial (334). Of course, this is no longer the case. Higher education does not
necessarily lead to higher income or status. For example, the median income for a stockbroker
who has a college degree is approximately $50,000 a year .A truck driver earns the same income
and potentially even more depending on the amount of hours he works, all without a college
degree . This is exactly why Henry is endorsing higher educational scarcity. A college degree
doesn t even guarantee a job or higher pay anymore due to the mediocrities making the institution
of college and a degree itself mediocre.
In addition to lowering college standards, higher education for the masses has also
imposed great economic costs on the American people while delivering dubious benefits.. (333).
While some may consider this to be an investment in human capital (333), Henry disagrees. He
supports his claim with a demanding statistic from the U.S. Labor Department s Bureau: 20% of
all college graduates toil in fields not requiring a college degree, and this total is projected to
exceed 30% by the year 2005"(333). So one must then ask the question why these students went
to college in the first place? This returns us to one of Henry s most important points: Mediocre
students have been flooding into colleges the past couple generations thinking a college degree
will transform them from the mediocre to magisterial (334), when in turn a college education is
only as good as the individual being educated.
As wasteful as it may seem, college graduates working in fields that don t even require a
degree is indeed a trend today. It reminds me of a close family friend of mine who graduated from
the University of California, Riverside in 2000 as a math major. Today he is working as a private
investigator for an insurance company. This job not only lacks the requirement of a four year
college degree, but can actually be obtained rather quickly by simply enrolling in a six-week
training program. It is certainly not fair to simply categorize my friend in Henry s group of
mediocrities just yet, but it is safe to say that he would have been better off not going to college in
the first place. In his case, Henry s claim that college may well be a credential without being a
qualification (333) is confirmed.
While Henry makes his claims with regards to rationality, Bird attempts to undermine the
thinking of her readers by overdramatizing her claims and then trying to support them with
manipulated statistics. Her simple argument is that too many students are in college for the wrong
reasons and therefore they are wasting their time and money. Unfortunately, her approach and
lines of reasoning for various claims are not so simple. Bird expresses her feelings that she is
overwhelmed by the prevailing sadness on American campuses (324). However, instead of
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