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Jewish World Review Feb. 11, 2003 / 9 Adar I, 5763

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
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Consumer Reports

Don't waste your money on an expensive college | Never have so many paid so much to so few for so little.

I refer here, of course, to American families' expenditures on college education.

But there is good news. A recent article in The New York Times about the mountain of education debt owed by college graduates -- an average of $27,600 -- reports that "fewer students than ever say taking out loans to attend college was worth it."

Americans have so long believed that it is necessary to spend a great amount of money on a college education that few ever questioned these skyrocketing costs. But with high paying jobs increasingly hard to find, many students now find themselves stuck with college loans that will take them many years to repay. There is nothing like financial pain to focus the mind on the question of whether one has received fair value for money spent. And regarding college tuition, the answer is usually a resounding no.

With very few exceptions, any tuition over $10,000 is rarely worth it. This is especially so for students in what is variously called the humanities, the social sciences (a term that is even more deceptive than the tuition), or the liberal arts. In the natural sciences, where students learn without being propagandized, a high tuition is far more often justifiable.

But for the student majoring in subjects such as English, political science or sociology, or in feel-aggrieved programs such as women's studies, students are paying enormous sums of money to be politicized by highly paid and underworked radicals.

The tragedy of contemporary American college education has been described in depth by the late scholar Prof. Allan Bloom in his best-selling book, "The Closing of the American Mind," by Professors Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate in their major work, "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses," and by many others.

Suffice it to say, therefore, that vast numbers of college students outside of the sciences learn too little, rarely have their minds opened and rarely learn to love learning. If you major in English, for example, you are far less likely to immerse yourself in studying Shakespeare than in deconstructing him and others dismissed as Dead White European Males.

Our colleges are dominated by "post-moderns" and other nihilists for whom seeking truth is regarded as a reactionary fraud, not an academic ideal. For these professors, deans and presidents, the primary purpose of the university is to mold students in their images -- people alienated from America and from God.

One extraordinary result was noted recently by Harvard President Lawrence Summers: the university has now become a center of anti-Semitism (as it has long been for anti-Americanism), the only such center in mainstream American life.

None of this used to matter to most American parents and students. But two significant changes are taking place.

First, awareness of the anti-American, morally deconstructed and simply foolish ideas (e.g., men and women are essentially the same; Islamic and Christian fundamentalists are moral equivalents) that saturate universities is finally seeping into the American consciousness. Second, Americans are also beginning to realize that one of the most widely accepted beliefs in modern life -- that it really matters what college you attend -- may not be true. For the most part, what college you go to doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

If you find that hard to believe, answer these questions: Do you know what college your most trusted physician or lawyer attended? Do you know what college the writers or clergy you most admire attended? Do you care? Did you choose your spouse or any of your friends on the basis of what college they attended? In other words, can you name one area of life where the prestige of a person's alma mater has mattered to you?

If you want to spend money on your college-aged child, try this: Pay him or her $5,000 or even more to attend a much cheaper college. You save money, your child makes money. And many radicals will have to seek productive work.

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JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to visit his website and here to comment on this column.


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© 2002, Creators Syndicate