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America must take care of its families, or go the way of the Roman Empire

Time to turn away from materialism and imperialism.


One thing demographers have known all along is something you cannot deny: “Demography is destiny.” The phrase was coined by 19th century Frenchman Auguste Comte. Agree or not with his positivist philosophy, he nailed it about demography.

While clickbait comes at us with news of wars, markets and celebrity gossip, the bigger story, the backstory behind so much of everything, is demography.

Demography didn’t get much attention in legacy media until 2020 when the British medical journal The Lancet released the most comprehensive world fertility study to date. The study documented a mysterious, unprecedented earth-shattering trend: a 50% decline in world fertility over 50 years, with no end in sight. Even the study’s scholarly authors described their findings as “jaw-dropping.”

We are only beginning to realise the social, economic and political impact. Look no further than the United States. Trends in America are followed worldwide and tell quite a tale.

Rising cost of living

For decades, well into the 1960s, US pensions and retirement benefits proliferated. Why not? Back then, relatively few people lived beyond 80, and it was a given that there would be four or more workers to support every retiree.

But things have changed mightily since Social Security and elderly healthcare schemes came of age. The heady days of easy money are gone.

First, people live much longer and have fewer children. The US fertility rate is 1.7 children per female, 20% below replacement level.

Also, the dominant world reserve currency — the US dollar — has diminished in value. Back in the 1960s you could buy a Coke for a dime. Now it’s at least ten times that. Is the soda worth more, or your money worth less?

Today two incomes are necessary to support the average family. That wasn’t the case back when a Coke cost a dime. Women, mostly out of necessity, entered the workforce.  That meant less family time. In such a system, children become a financial liability.

Then there is the uniquely American higher education industry, a colossal con commanding exorbitant subsidies and insanely inflated fees for a ticket to upward mobility. For the average American family, the costs of college are their largest expenditure apart from the family home.

Covid, the economy and lower fertility are testing the diploma mills as never before.  Also, a growing number of Americans are beginning to push back against a pious professoriate that subordinates authentic education to woke indoctrination.

Today there are over 65 million Social Security beneficiaries and 132 million people who work full-time, just two workers kicking in for each beneficiary. And a lot of those full-time folks don’t make much. On top of that we have Medicare, Medicaid and a vast global imperial footprint, all financed by a fiat currency that is losing value. Without at least replacement fertility, these systems will see a slow-motion collapse.

Thus two troublesome trends confront American families: A diminishing currency (chronic inflation) and declining fertility. Each exacerbates the other.

Also in the mix is an American popular culture promoting consumerism and instant gratification, prioritising creature comforts over children. Hedonism is not family-friendly.

Stop-gap measures

Over time the powers-that-be have tried to fix things with:

  1. Immigration: For years, cheap labour flacks told us that importing vast numbers of unskilled low-wage workers would save Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Not true. Mass immigration does not generate sufficient revenue to offset social welfare costs. (Funny thing about immigration: moneyed interests privatise the profit [cheap labour] and socialise — via taxpayers — the costs). Mass immigration instead suppresses wages, making it harder to rear children. Not only that, recent immigrants and their descendants feel the squeeze like everyone else, and their fertility is now below replacement-level.
  2. Printing money: In order to finance the welfare/warfare state, the government just continues to spend. We’ve become accustomed to debt financing and printing money to prop up a broken system. This works for a time if your money is the dominant world reserve currency. Imagine if you maxxed out your credit and could print your own money to finance it. Works fine until creditors say your money is no good or worth much less than you think. Inflation hurts families.

The above short-term fixes have not worked. And let’s face it: the days of global dollar dominance are numbered. There is a disastrous disconnect between public policy and demographic reality. Try as we might, there is no substitute for children.

America has a large middle class that binds the social fabric and includes most intact families. What is good for the American middle class is good for the family. But the middle class — the establishment’s cash cow — is shrinking.

At the very least, supporting families and children should take priority over subsidies for the elderly. But the elderly vote, and politicians care more about the next election than the next generation. However, supporting parents and children is the solution to preserving retirement programs and the society at large.

Superpower status at the expense of family is a Faustian bargain. We need to hunker down and focus on the family instead of propping up the wastrel welfare/warfare state. Yes, it can be done, though it will require changing our ways, establishing new priorities and investing in the future of families.

If not, look no further than ancient Rome. They also dumped their Republic, became an Empire, spent like crazy and came to neglect the welfare of families.

Is there a lesson here?

AUTHOR

Louis T. March has a background in government, business and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family… More by Louis T. March

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Why College Degrees Are Losing Their Value

The signaling function of college degrees may have been distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation.


The concept of inflation (the depreciation of purchasing power of a specific currency) applies to other goods besides money. Inflation is related to the Law of Supply and Demand. As the supply of a commodity increases, the value decreases. Conversely, as the good becomes more scarce, the value of the commodity increases. This same concept is also applicable to tangible items such as vintage baseball cards and rare art. These are rare commodities that cannot be authentically replicated and therefore command a high value on the market. On the other hand, mass-produced rookie cards and replications of Monet’s work are plentiful. As a result, they yield little value on the market.

Inflation and the opposite principle of deflation can also apply to intangible goods. When looking at the job market, this becomes quite evident. Jobs that require skills that are rare or exceptional tend to pay higher wages. However, there are also compensating differentials that arise because of the risky or unattractive nature of undesirable jobs. The higher wages are due to a lack of workers willing to accept the position rather than the possession of skills that are in demand.

Over the past couple of decades, credentialing of intangible employment value has become more prevalent. Credentials can range from college degrees to professional certifications. One of the most common forms of credentialing has become a 4-year college degree. This category of human capital documentation has evolved to take on an alternate function.

Outside of a few notable exceptions, a bachelor’s degree serves a signaling function. As George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan argues, the function of a college degree is primarily to signal to potential employers that a job applicant has desirable characteristics. Earning a college degree is more of a validation process than a skill-building process. Employers desire workers that are not only intelligent but also compliant and punctual. The premise of the signaling model seems to be validated by the fact that many graduates are not using their degrees. In fact, in 2013; only 27 percent of graduates had a job related to their major.

Since bachelor’s degrees carry a significant signaling function, there have been substantial increases in the number of job seekers possessing a 4-year degree. Retention rates for 4-year institutions reached an all-time high of 81 percent in 2017. In 1900 only 27,410 students earned a bachelor’s degree. This number ballooned to 4.2 million by 1940, and has now increased to 99.5 million. These numbers demonstrate the sharp increase in the number of Americans earning college degrees.

Today, nearly 40 percent of all Americans hold a 4-year degree. Considering the vast increase in college attendance and completion, it’s fair to question if a college degree has retained its “purchasing power” on the job market. Much of the evidence seems to suggest that it has not.

The signaling function of college degrees may have been distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation. Credential inflation is nothing more than “… an increase in the education credentials required for a job.”

Many jobs that previously required no more than a high school diploma are now only accepting applicants with bachelor’s degrees. This shift in credential preferences among employers has now made the 4-year degree the unofficial minimum standard for educational requirements. This fact is embodied in the high rates of underemployment among college graduates. Approximately 41 percent of all recent graduates are working jobs that do not require a college degree. It is shocking when you consider that 17 percent of hotel clerks and 23.5 percent of amusement park attendants hold 4-year degrees. None of these jobs have traditionally required a college degree. But due to a competitive job market where most applicants have degrees, many recent graduates have no means of distinguishing themselves from other potential employees. Thus, many recent graduates have no other option but to accept low-paying jobs.

The value of a college degree has gone down due to the vast increase in the number of workers who possess degrees. This form of debasement mimics the effect of printing more money. Following the Law of Supply and Demand, the greater the quantity of a commodity, the lower the value. The hordes of guidance counselors and parents urging kids to attend college have certainly contributed to the problem. However, public policy has served to amplify this issue.

Various kinds of loan programsgovernment scholarships, and other programs have incentivized more students to pursue college degrees. Policies that make college more accessible—proposals for “free college,” for example—also devalue degrees. More people attending college makes degrees even more common and further depreciated.

Of course, this not to say brilliant students with aspirations of a career in STEM fields should avoid college. But for the average student, a college degree may very well be a malinvestment and hinder their future.

Incurring large amounts of debt to work for minimum wage is not a wise decision. When faced with policies and social pressure that have made college the norm, students should recognize that a college degree isn’t everything. If students focused more on obtaining marketable skills than on credentials, they might find a way to stand out in a job market flooded with degrees.

COLUMN BY

Peter Clark

Peter Clark is a blogger and enthusiastic advocate of free-market economics. Find his work on Medium.

For more education related columns please click here.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Institutional Racism in Higher Ed

Institutional racism and systemic racism are terms bandied about these days without much clarity. Being 84 years of age, I have seen and lived through what might be called institutional racism or systemic racism. Both operate under the assumption that one race is superior to another. It involves the practice of treating a person or group of people differently based on their race.

“Negros,” as we proudly called ourselves back then, were denied entry to hotels, restaurants, and other establishments all over the nation, including the North. Certain jobs were entirely off-limits to Negros. What school a child attended was determined by his race.

In motion pictures, Negros were portrayed as being unintelligent, such as the roles played by Stepin Fetchit and Mantan Moreland in the Charlie Chan movies. Fortunately, those aspects of racism are a part of our history.

By the way, Fetchit, whose real name was Lincoln Perry, was the first black actor to become a millionaire, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, in 1976, the Hollywood chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Perry a Special NAACP Image Award.


How are socialists deluding a whole generation? Learn more now >>


Despite the nation’s great achievements in race relations, there remains institutional racism, namely the widespread practice of treating a person or group of people differently based on their race. Most institutional racism is practiced by the nation’s institutions of higher learning.

Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, recently wrote that Yale University “grants substantial, and often determinative, preferences based on race.”

The four-page letter said, “Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants.”

Yale University is by no means alone in the practice of institutional racism. Last year, Asian students brought a discrimination lawsuit against Harvard University and lost. The judge held that the plaintiffs could not prove that the lower personal ratings assigned to Asian applicants are the result of “animus” or ill-motivated racial hostility toward Asian Americans by Harvard admissions officials.

However, no one offered an explanation as to why Asian American applicants were deemed to have, on average, poorer personal qualities than white applicants. An explanation may be that Asian students party less, study more, and get higher test scores than white students.

In court filings, Students for Fair Admissions argued that the University of North Carolina’s admissions practices are unconstitutional. Its brief stated: “UNC’s use of race is the opposite of individualized; UNC uses race mechanically to ensure the admission of the vast majority of underrepresented minorities.”

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, said in a news release that the court filing “exposes the startling magnitude of the University of North Carolina’s racial preferences.”

Blum said that their filing contains statistical evidence that shows that an Asian American male applicant from North Carolina with a 25% chance of getting into UNC would see his acceptance probability increase to about 67% if he were Latino and to more than 90% if he were African American.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative) that read: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

California legislators voted earlier this summer to put the question to voters to repeal the state’s ban on the use of race as a criterion in the hiring, awarding public contracts and admissions to public universities and restore the practice of institutional racism under the euphemistic title “affirmative action.”

When social justice warriors use the terms “institutional racism” or “systemic racism,” I suspect it means that they cannot identify the actual person or entities engaged in the practice.

However, most of what might be called institutional or systemic racism is practiced by the nation’s institutions of higher learning. And it is seen by many, particularly the intellectual elite, as a desirable form of determining who gets what.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

COMMENTARY BY

Walter E. Williams, a columnist for The Daily Signal, is a professor of economics at George Mason University. Twitter: .

RELATED ARTICLE: Black Patriots Who Helped Keep America Free


A Note for our Readers:

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For years, “Democratic Socialists” have been growing a crop of followers that include students and young professionals. America’s future will be in their hands.

How are socialists deluding a whole generation? One of their most effective arguments is that “democratic socialism” is working in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway. They claim these countries are “proof” that socialism will work for America. But they’re wrong. And it’s easy to explain why.

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Get your free copy of “Why Democratic Socialists Can’t Legitimately Claim Sweden and Denmark as Success Stories” today and equip yourself with the facts you need to debunk these myths once and for all.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

School Is About Freedom, Marco Rubio, Not Just Money

Republicans including Marco Rubio parrot leftist lines about how education’s ultimate goal is money. It needs to be a great deal more than that if our republic is to survive.

Once again, presidential candidate Marco Rubio, when asked a question about education, disparaged liberal learning by repeating his well-rehearsed lines about preparing students for careers in a “global” and “twenty-first-century” economy.

During the CNN town hall last week, he said that rather than teaching philosophy (“Roman philosophy,” no less), colleges should teach practical things—like welding. Sadly, Rubio is not alone. Many Republicans, forgetting their conservative roots, have joined Democrats in advancing a utilitarian view of education.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being a welder. My father, an immigrant, was one. And there is nothing wrong with philosophy—for the student in a technical school. In fact, it was our Founders’ belief that only a literate, well-educated citizenry could govern themselves. Even the tradesman should be versed in the basics of literature, history, and ancient philosophy, they thought. “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people,” said James Madison.

Modern Philosophy Is Merely Cynicism

Rubio, however, does not distinguish between legitimate philosophy and what philosophy, like the rest of the humanities, has become under the regime of tenured radicals. The problem is that philosophy professors no longer teach their subjects or, if they do, it is to cast suspicion upon the very enterprise, as I learned in graduate school in the 1990s.

Yancy would do well to review the Greek philosophers on the art of rhetoric and what they have to say about not insulting your audience.
My seminar on ancient rhetoric consisted of the professor elevating the sophists, the teachers who for fees taught the art of persuasion by making the worse case seem better. The ends were practical: so citizens could defend themselves in court. To my amazement, my professor ridiculed the traditional philosophical goals of searching for the truth.

In the intervening decades, the situation has become worse. Consider Emory University philosophy professor George Yancy. This full professor, according to the university’s website, specializes in “Critical Philosophy of Race (phenomenology of racial embodiment, social ontology of race),” “Critical Whiteness Studies (white subject formation, white racist ambush, white opacity and embeddedness. . .),” and “African-American Philosophy and Philosophy of the Black Experience (resistance, Black identity formation . . .).”

Yancy received national attention in December for penning the screed “Dear White America” in The New York Times. He began, “I have a weighty request. As you read this letter, I want you to listen with love, a sort of love that demands that you look at parts of yourself that might cause pain and terror, as James Baldwin would say. Did you hear that? You may have missed it. I repeat: I want you to listen with love. Well, at least try.”

Yancy would do well to review the Greek philosophers on the art of rhetoric and what they have to say about not insulting your audience (“Did you hear that?” “Well, at least try.”). Behind such appeals like Yancy’s is an implied threat. Invoking the names of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and other allegedly innocent victims of police violence, he accused “White America” of being racist through and through. Such rhetoric presages and justifies the angry mobs on our campuses and in our streets.

Philosophy Doesn’t Mean Grievance-Mongering

College campuses, once the places where the civilized arts of debate and the pursuit of truth were taught, have become places where the PhDs, doctors of philosophy, lead mobs of students in pursuit of retribution against some “systemic” wrong, usually in reference to race, ethnicity, or gender. Socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, supporter of the Black Lives Matter mob movement, is promising to make such education free.

Our presidential candidates should consider what philosophy, rightly understood, could do. Indeed, by studying Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” students would be able to distinguish between different rhetorical appeals and learn the legitimate arts of persuasion—those that allow us to live in a civilized manner, where we resolve our differences through debate, not violence.

Were students to study Plato’s “Republic,” they might understand the dangers of a popular democracy and why the American Founders rejected one. They would consider Thrasymachus’s contention that justice is synonymous with strength, with being a “winner,” regardless of the methods. They might decide to evaluate such rhetoric carefully when it comes from a political candidate, like Donald Trump.

They would consider whether it is good for the government to put people in certain classes, as craftsmen or “guardians,” instead of allowing them to choose for themselves, or whether government should raise children rather than parents. What has been the historical outcome of such societies with centralized government, five-year economic plans, government-assigned jobs, and child-rearing from infancy? Are there any similarities to what Sanders is proposing?

Education Is Ultimately about Self-Governance

This is not to say that a class discussion should center on current political candidates. Indeed, the truly philosophical professor will keep the discussion largely away from the immediate. If the lesson is taught well, the student should come to his or her own conclusions and be able to carry those lessons into adulthood. That is the purpose of an education, not regimented job training and political molding.

The student should come to his or her own conclusions and be able to carry those lessons into adulthood. That is the purpose of an education.
The responses to Rubio’s statements in November, by such leftist outlets as ThinkProgress, CNN, and Huffington Post, were quite telling. They replied in kind to his materialist arguments. “Philosophers make more money than welders!” they said. In this they betrayed their utilitarian view of education, one that dominates the Obama administration, specifically through Common Core, a federally coerced program designed to produce compliant workers in the global economy.

The job training part has lured some short-sighted or corrupt Republicans. In higher education, too, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker advanced short-sighted “careerism,” as if he had forgotten, as Peter Lawler pointed out, Alexis de Tocqueville’s argument for studying the Greek and Roman classics. Earlier this year, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin suggested that electrical engineering was worthy of support, while French literature was not.

The other part of the progressive vision for education is to produce graduates who adhere to the state’s status quo. Students are trained to work collectively, focus on emotions, refrain from making independent judgments, and read in a way that does not go beyond ferreting out snippets of information. They are not asked to read an entire Platonic dialogue or novel. They do not get the big picture, from the dawn of civilization.

Our current educational methods are a far cry from the Founders’ robust views, of preparing citizens who are literate, logical, and knowledgeable; citizens capable of voting intelligently.

We Need Cultural Renewal, Not Materialism

We should embrace this conservative view of education. Although it is extremely rare in today’s college classrooms, it is being advanced in more than 150 privately funded academic centers on and off campuses. According to the John William Pope Center for Education Renewal, these centers “preserve and promote the knowledge and perspectives that are disappearing from the academy.”

One of these is the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, where I am a resident fellow. It was founded by three Hamilton College professors in 2007, and is located in the village of Clinton.

AHI offers students the option to read the classics in a manner that is increasingly difficult to find in the typically highly politicized open curriculum. AHI-sponsored reading groups have focused on the works of such important figures as Leo Strauss, St. Augustine, and Josef Pieper. This semester Dr. Elizabeth D’Arrivee is leading a discussion group on Plato’s “Republic.”

Political candidates would do well to explain how they will support such efforts for educational renewal, instead of disparaging philosophy and literature.

RELATED ARTICLE: Campus Protesters Try to Silence Conservative Speaker, Demand College President’s Resignation

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Federalist. Photo Crush Rush / Shutterstock.com

Yes, Students Are Customers, but the Customer Isn’t Always Right by Kevin Currie-Knight & Steven Horwitz

“College students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George R.R. Martin–esque bloodbath of a demise.”

These are the strong words of education writer Rebecca Schuman in response to Iowa’s recent attempt to pass a law tying professors’ job security to their teaching evaluations. Such laws, Schuman and others think, are based on the misguided idea that students are akin to customers.

OK, So College Isn’t Like a Restaurant

To an extent, we agree with Schuman, but we think she vastly oversimplifies. In one way, it is hard to deny that students are customers. They (or someone acting on their behalf) pay for a service and, like customers in any other market, students can take their tuition money elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied.

Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services. 

On the other hand, as Schuman points out, college education looks quite different from many other businesses. Unlike restaurant patrons, for example, students are buying a service (education) that isn’t geared toward customer enjoyment. A good college education may even push students in ways they don’t enjoy.

Whether the tilapia was prepared to the patron’s liking is a good measure of the restaurant’s food. Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services.

Rather than this distinction being evidence for Schuman’s claim, however, it actually points out one of its flaws. She overlooks the fact that not all customers have the same sort of relationship with a business as we see in the restaurant industry, which serves as the only basis of her customer analogy.

Yes, colleges certainly have a different relationship with students than restaurants have with patrons. Patrons are there to get what tastes good and satisfies them for that specific visit. Students are (presumably) there to receive a good education, which may not instantly please them and may sometimes have to “taste bad” to be effective. (Most people who go to the dentist don’t find it immediately pleasurable, either, but, in the long run, they are certainly glad they went.)

No Pain, No Gain

We can think of three alternative business analogies for the university-student relationship.

First is personal training or physical therapy. Like university education, they involve services that aren’t geared toward immediate consumer happiness. To help a client achieve good results, a trainer often has to make the workout difficult when the client might have wanted to go easier. And good physical therapy often involves putting the client through painful motions the client would rather not undergo.

Yet, these businesses see their clients as customers and probably take customer feedback quite seriously. Trainers need to push customers past where they want to go, but this doesn’t mean trainers dismiss negative feedback.

Credible Credentials

Second are certification services, firms that provide quality assurance for other firms. Such providers may find themselves at odds with their customers when they withhold certification, but if the firm asking for certification really wants an assurance of quality for its customers, that firm will understand why its unhappiness at being denied isn’t a reason for the certifying organization to just cave to whatever its customers want.

Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business.

For example, a manufacturer of commercial refrigerators might seek certification from Underwriters Laboratories to prove to restaurant owners that its appliances have been independently tested and proven to hold food at safe temperatures that won’t sicken customers. If tests reveal that the fridges aren’t getting cooler than 50 degrees — far above food safety guidelines — the fridges won’t get certified.

Any certifying bodies that give in to pressure to certify all paying customers will end up being punished by the market when someone (a competitor? a journalist?) reveals that the company’s certification doesn’t really certify anything. Protecting the quality of the certification process is in everyone’s interest, even if it makes some of a certifier’s customers unhappy with particular outcomes.

College students may well be like the firms seeking a certification of quality, with employers and graduate schools being the analogue of their customers, who will only hire or admit “certified” students.

The Cheapest Product at the Highest Price?

A third analogy is the nonprofit organization. Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business, and since a “business’s only goal is to succeed,” a customer-focused university will “purvey… the cheapest product it can at the highest price customers will pay.”

But does viewing the people one serves as customers necessarily turn one into a business whose concern is to sell poor products at a high price rather than to provide a good service? Credit unions, art museums, area transportation services, and, yes, private K–12 schools are often organizations that don’t operate for profit and yet provide services directly to paying customers.

Nonprofit museums charge admissions and nonprofit ride services charge for rides; therefore, they serve paying customers. But this does not mean they aim to make the maximum profit possible, or in fact any sort of profit, by providing the lowest quality at the highest price. (Of course, we would take issue with Schuman’s characterization of even more traditional profit-seeking firms as aiming to sell junk at high prices, but we can leave that to the side for our purposes here.)

Schuman is wrong to think that if universities see students as customers, this must turn them into profit-driven businesses in this narrow sense.

Is the Customer Always Right?

For all that, we sympathize with some of the basics of Schuman’s argument. As college professors, we understand her concern over putting too much stock in student evaluations of teacher performance. Even if students are customers, they surely aren’t customers in the same way the restaurant patron is a customer. And a restaurant will not automatically treat every customer comment card as equally influential in changing how it does business. Some restaurant customers have unrealistic expectations or don’t understand the food service business, and restaurants often have to decipher what feedback to take seriously and what to disregard.

We suspect that Schuman’s confusion may result from universities and professors thinking that they are selling something different from what students may think they are buying. Students generally want the degrees that come from education, with education being the process to get the degree. Universities (and professors) sell knowledge and skills, and the degree is simply the acknowledgement that students have obtained that knowledge.

Professors may think that they are selling something different from what students think they are buying.

Good learning may be difficult and, in the short run, unpleasant. But for students aiming for a degree, it would be better to go through classes that are agreeable and aren’t too difficult. If this is right, you can see why there’d be a mismatch between how students think their education is going and how it may actually be going, and why the former may not be the best gauge of the latter.

With a restaurant, the customer and the seller both agree on what the product is: a good meal (and good restaurateurs will generally defer to what the customer wants). With personal training, it may be that the trainer’s job involves pushing customers past where they’d go on their own, but the trainer and customer do still generally agree on the service: the trainer helps customers achieve their goal of fitness.

We appreciate and share Schuman’s concern that universities not over-rely on student evaluations and the degree to which students find their educations pleasurable in a narrow sense. But the issue isn’t as simple as saying that, because professors’ job security shouldn’t come down entirely to student evaluations, students aren’t customers.

Yes, there is a danger in treating students the way restaurateurs treat patrons. But there is also danger in the other extreme: if we stop viewing students as customers in some sense of the term, then instead of treating them with the respect we generally see in the personal training and certification industries and among nonprofits, we risk turning universities into something more like the DMV.

Kevin Currie-KnightKevin Currie-Knight

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. His website is KevinCK.net. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

 

Steven HorwitzSteven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

RELATED ARTICLE: This State Offered Free College Education. Here’s What Happened.

Ten Bills, Ten Solutions to save America

Russ Vought, Political Director for Heritage Action for America, notes, “During the State of the Union address, President Obama called for 2014 to be a year of action. We agree, but Americans deserve action that will take the nation in the right direction. That’s why, with no clear goals or mandate from the Washington Establishment, we hosted the first Conservative Policy Summit.

On February 10th, Heritage Action brought together leaders to highlight conservative bills that would improve the lives of hardworking Americans. 10 speakers. 10 solutions.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/26d0H5Wl43M[/youtube]

Conservatives must lead through action. And we are. Heritage Action brought these leaders together on February 10th. The Conservative Policy Summit highlights the bills they have introduced, showing Americans a winning conservative reform agenda. Watch important discussion about our nation’s most pressing issues and learn about the conservative answers.

 

Privacy – Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
Social Welfare – Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) 
Health Care – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) 
Health Care – Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) 
Energy – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Housing – Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Transportation – Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA)
School Choice – Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC)
Higher Education – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Religious Freedom – Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Claude Covo-Farchi. The use of this image does not in any way that suggests that Covo-Farchi endorses Heritage Action or the use of the work in this column. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.