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...