Conned Crybullies

A successful con always involves a mark not knowing he is being conned.  My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, explains why campus crybullies of the Left are the very quiddity of such oblivious marks:



Yet visit campuses and there is almost no awareness on the part of students of why their education has proven both expensive and inadequate, much less any self-realization that their own leisured lifestyles are incompatible with the liability that they are incurring. The annual cost of education has usually risen beyond the rate of inflation in part because there are record numbers of administrators and non-teaching personnel on campuses, from diversity czars and gender counselors to exercise trainers and psychological service facilitators. Teaching loads for tenured faculty have been reduced. Non-instructional costs, from paying a speaker like Hillary Clinton $300,000 for a 30 minute chat at UCLA to setting aside “prevention centers” and “research support” for particular aggrieved groups, are not cheap. 

Yet supposedly politically aware students are not protesting over the crony-capitalist cycle of the federal government guaranteeing their shaky student loans, which further inflates the cost of education. That web of deceit is not much different from the disastrous 2008 Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae empowerment of Wall Street sub-prime loan profiteering. Then the con was airbrushed by Wall Street’s supposed eagerness to help the poor subprime mortgage holder; now, the mutual back scratching and price gouging are exempt from audit through progressive campus mission statements about fairness, equality, and diversity.

To make matters worse, college students are not even receiving a high quality education. Courses that enrich liberal education and lead to mastery of written and spoken English are often squeezed out by therapeutic “studies” courses—Gender Studies, Asian Studies, Africana Studies, Chicano-Latino Studies, Environmental Studies, Community Studies, Cultural Studies, Leisure Studies, Media Studies, and on and on. The latter courses often require less work, result in easier grades, grant psychological rewards for ideological uniformity, and provide little in terms of a classical education. For such a revolutionary cadre of students, eager to battle America’s inequities, students have almost no interest in demanding a quality education at a reasonable price.

One of the most exploitive hierarchies in the modern American workplace is the juxtaposition between tenured full professors and the legion of part-time lecturers with PhDs. Often, the two groups teach the same classes but at widely different compensation levels—regardless of seniority, the quantity and quality of publication, or peer and teaching evaluations. For a galvanized student body that is quick to damn Walmart or McDonald’s for labor disparities, the silence of students about the inequality in their midst is deafening. Nor is there student appreciation of why tenured faculty are so often the catalysts for student activism and protests, rather than hoi polloi of part-time lecturers, campus maintenance workers, or office staffers.

Are today’s students, then, aware adults or coddled adolescents? The ubiquity of drugs, alcohol, casual sex, profanity, and coarse invective might suggest that most are seasoned bohemians. Unfortunately, often such physical worldliness is a thin veneer for students who prefer it both ways: to indulge the appetites of their free-spirits and also be sheltered from ideas, people, conversations, or imagery that they find offensive. Hence, we have the rise of adolescent concepts like trigger-warnings, safe-spaces, and micro-aggressions—and the frequent suspension of due process during investigations of sexual assault and the curtailment of First Amendment rights in public colloquia. All of this is predicated on the notion of the provocative protestor as crushed victim.

Sixties campus radicalism was once manifested by connived slumming. Anti-capitalist diatribes often were matched—at least for a few years of youthful experimentation—by fashionable and loud expressions of pseudo-poverty: raunchy commune living, rejection of cosmetics and expensive beauty aids, pride of ownership in decrepit VW vans, ragged jeans, taped together sneakers and scandals, and home-made tie-dye T-shirts. As a first-year student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, I arrived from a farm bewildered that quite affluent and debt-free students—the University of California system charged no tuition in 1971—nonetheless parroted the impoverished classes. Many roughed about barefooted, hitch-hiked to town, and looked like back-to-nature beggars. Poverty-chic matched their shrill Marxism.

Today the opposite is true. Most students suffer not just zero-net worth, but minus net worth. The majority will likely be underwater until their late thirties. If in the 1960s and 1970s, relative student affluence was camouflaged by constructed poverty, today’s real student impoverishment is disguised by superficial affluence, as evidenced by late-model cars, smart phones, designer sunglasses, $400 X-box videogame consoles, and $100 jeans. At both high-end Stanford and workmanlike San Jose State, there are plenty of BMWs, Audis, and Lexuses sprinkled among new Accords and pricey Priuses in the student parking lots.

Both studied constructions were, of course, hypocritical. But the old leftist redistributionist, who sought to look like the imagined poor, somehow seemed more consistent than the current iPhone-carrying class-warrior picking up a mocha on the way to the boathouse.

The same self-absorption often characterizes student calls for society’s help. Should we really ask blue-collar taxpayers, who either could not or did not wish to attend college, to help forgive collective student debt through tax-supported federal bailouts? Are bachelor degrees certifications of intellectual accomplishment any longer? If they are, why not require exit tests upon graduation: if colleges can demand standardized ACT and SAT tests for admission, why not equally require proof that their product resulted in something similarly quantifiable?

Ultimately, the cry-bully will grow up only when faculty and administers do as well. And that remediation will not happen until state legislators, alumni, and philanthropists conduct an intervention to demand of universities and colleges the same maturity, accountability, and manners that they do from everybody else.

Go here to read the rest.  Modern higher education often seems to be focused on producing ignorant ideological drones, not much good for anything other than to live on the net and call down the wrath of the gods of political correctness on those who disagree with them.  Kipling would not have been surprised:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

I doubt if almost any of campus crybullies have read the Kipling poem The Gods of the Copybook Headings.  They shall merely live it instead.

More to explorer


  1. I thank God my education was in the nuclear Navy, and my first job as reactor operator on my old submarine was cleaning the bilges in Engineroom Forward. I still teach fundamental math and physics courses to new hires because college teaches them not one darn thing worthwhile. The millennials hate me because I am an old white man telling them what to do based on 40+ years of real-world reactor experience. To heck with them I say.

  2. I left college 32 years ago and I saw signs of this when I was there. The campus newspaper was a left wing scandal sheet. The Black United Students went around screaming racism as they had nothing else to do. The one group of students who were regularly trashed were commuter students – how could a real college student not live on campus?
    I was a commuter student. I lived at home. I paid for my tuition and books with a part time job. I drove three old cars that broke down a lot. Kent State University never gave a rat’s rear end about me or others like me. After I got my degree – dropped in front of my front door in early February 1988 – I was done with the place.
    College is a rip-off. Tuition increases yearly without explanation and garbage classes are mandated I would have been a better electrician than an accountant because then I could have stuck it to the diversity types who have climbed the corporate ladder on my back.

  3. “College is a rip-off. Tuition increases yearly without explanation …”
    No explanations are needed. Once the government got involved in education there was an endless supply of tax money to feed the academic beasts. Tuition goes up? Oh well…the tax payer will pay for it. Tell the tax payer over and over again decade after decade that your children HAVE to have a college education or they will fail in life. Failure OR success in life is in the eye of the beholder and subjective to each one of us. Higher education I believe is on the brink of implosion and something much better will replace it without all the doctrinal baggage included.

  4. I respect Hanson, but the starboard critique of higher education has long suffered from a tendency to assume localized phenomena and small-scale irritants are the norm. You read remarks by Martin Peretz or Wm. J. Bennett ca. 1985 and it occurs to you that they’re thinking of Harvard, and describing things you don’t see elsewhere. You read much of the discussion about ‘the liberal arts’, and you realize that the speaker is devoting no thought to the objects of the majority of students at tertiary institution, for whom academic courses are an imposed distraction.

    The problem presented by the victimology programs is less the waste of resources than the faculty and administration culture which gives rise to them. The people running higher education fancy it’s proper to devote public funds and entrusted donations to providing patronage for favored political interests and pretending arguendo that these are serious disciplines. Same deal with jobs for institutional diversicrats. They have no serious function. They merely indicate what the fashions are among the people who run the place (though a bit of it is prophylactic to ward off the predatory civil rights bar).

    What he’s not discussing much are the main sources of trouble: (1) higher education has captured an escalating share of the function of sorting the labor market and training employees. In 1974, about 25% of each cohort obtained a baccalaureate degree. This year, it’s around 45%. (2) the cost of these degrees is padded by state and federal compliance costs and by waste induced by open-ended public subsidies; (3) the cost is padded by witless conventions which require that about 25% of the man-hours in higher education be devoted to following a jumble of courses taken for distribution credits. (Allan Bloom was among the few critics of higher education who noted that schools require students waste wretched amounts of time; he was of the view that they should set up a serious core or keep students for no more than two years), (4) student loans are extended without serious underwriting because it simply is not required in that market, and (5) higher education services are subject to cost disease, and there isn’t much you can do about that.

    One thing I discovered about 8 years ago (from the college archivist) is that the tuition, room, and board charges my employer imposed in 1928 were, as a % of nominal personal income per capita in this country, fairly similar to what they were in 2010. The thing is, in 1928, about 6% of each cohort were attending baccalaureate granting institutions. With some exceptions, that 6% was drawn from the patriciate and the fancy bourgeoisie – people who in our own time are often able to shoulder costs without much debt.

    There’s a pathway out of some of the economic and cultural problems we have in this realm, but we lack the institutional set-up to implement them (much less get past the vested interests who like the current system just fine).

  5. An addendum:

    Almost no one actually majors in black studies or women’s studies. These programs are not there in deference to student demand, but to provide faculty positions for favored ideologues. You have about 1.8 million BA degrees issued every year in this country, but fewer than 3,000 are in these subjects. The waste is offensive and the reasons for the waste appalling, but in $ and c, it’s a small problem.

    The intensity of AA is something people don’t commonly realize. As we speak, about 14% of the students enrolled in baccalaureat granting institutions are black. The thing is, the pool of blacks aged 17 who are performing scholastically at a level above the 55th percentile is not 14% black. It’s more like 7-8% black. Collectively, the body of baccalaureate-granting institutions are admitting any black youth with a GED and a pulse beat (and systematically sorting the competent students to the wrong institutions). The share of BA recipients each year who are black is currently about 10%. IOW, N% of non-black students are able to complete a degree, but just 0.685 x N% of black students. If you look at some descriptive statistics on matriculation and degree-awards at black colleges, you discover than nearly 40% of their recruits never finish their degree. This whole pantomime is done to help the faculty feel better about the work they do and to help institutions meet their fixed costs. It’s a scandal.

  6. “There’s a pathway out of some of the economic and cultural problems we have in this realm, but we lack the institutional set-up to implement them (much less get past the vested interests who like the current system just fine).” Like turning a 4 year college BA into a 5 year couse by gerrymandering the credits.

  7. In his book Economic Facts and Fallacies our national
    treasure Thomas Sowell spends a 40-page chapter dissecting
    the current decadent state of American higher education. He
    clearly outlines why the provision of an education is a low
    priority for these institutions, and why we’re seeing the
    decadance we have today.

    Suggesting remedies for the rot in academia is outside the
    scope of Dr. Sowell’s book, but I’d be interested to hear
    what suggestions he might have. Honestly, I’m not sure
    American academia has either the dedication to the idea of
    education or the testicular fortitude necessary to pick itself
    off of the trash heap it currently inhabits.

  8. I wonder how teachers and professors salaries today compare to fifty or forty years ago.

    Not sure. Professors usually receive satisfactory salaries all things considered. However, there’s been a secular decline in the share of faculty who have f/t appointments. It’s currently about half. Also, there’s a great deal of overproduction of graduate degrees in certain disciplines.

  9. Honestly, I’m not sure American academia has either the dedication to the idea of education or the testicular fortitude necessary to pick itselfoff of the trash heap it currently inhabits.

    Fr. Paul Shaughnessy used the term ‘sociologically corrupt’ to describe an institution unable to aright itself with it’s own resources. The larger society will have to repair academe. There’s no interest in doing so by decision-makers (our Republican state legislators do nothing) and our odious judiciary would probably run interference if any of them attempted it. What would be agreeable would be parallel efforts of state and federal legislators.

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