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College Has Become a Consumer Fraud

Ronald Kessler By Monday, 17 May 2010 09:59 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

College catalogs are as enticing as brochures for shiny new cars. They promise intellectual stimulation, critical thinking, and preparation for a rewarding life. But like come-ons for underwater land, the claims of liberal arts colleges are bogus.

Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato began the liberal arts tradition of learning in ancient Greece. They advocated systematic reflection and a search for truth. The term liberal arts itself comes from the Latin word liber, meaning free.

Today, colleges impose rigid conformity. Rather than encouraging students to find the truth for themselves, they propagandize, usually with a far-left cast. Rather than encouraging open-mindedness, they promote stereotypical thinking and adherence to preconceptions and dogma.

In short, a college education — at roughly $40,000 a year — has become a consumer fraud.

The corruption of college has taken place over decades. That is why some of the most brilliant and successful figures dropped out of college or never attended in the first place.

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, left Harvard after two years. Socichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Co., left home at 15 and never got a degree, which he said would be “worth less than a movie ticket.”

Henry Ford dropped out of school at the age of 16. Edwin H. Land, who brought the world the Polaroid camera, polarized sunglasses, and 3-D movies, left Harvard University after his freshman year. F. Scott Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton.

William Faulkner dropped out of the University of Mississippi. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook from his Harvard dormitory, but after the social networking website exploded in popularity, he quit school and became a full-time entrepreneur.

To placate his parents, Michael Dell enrolled at the University of Texas. He began buying remaindered, outmoded IBM PCs from local retailers, upgrading them in his dorm room, then selling them. Eyeing the burgeoning inventory piling up in their room, Dell’s roommate moved the parts to the door and suggested that Dell move out.

Dell did—and decided to drop out at the end of his freshman year.

Others who dropped out of high school or college include Larry Page (Google), David Geffen (Geffen Records), Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin), Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren), and Jerry Yang (Yahoo).

In fact, one in five billionaires never finished college. Nine presidents, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry S. Truman, never earned a college degree.

To be sure, genius will never make its home in a structured learning environment. Thomas Edison rebelled against school and was told by his headmaster he would “never make a success of anything.”Albert Einstein could not read until he was seven. He hated school and dropped out at 15.

One of his teachers told him, “You will never amount to anything.”

But if colleges encouraged the kind of innovative thinking they profess to nurture, they would attract, rather than repel, brilliant minds.

More important, they would stop turning out cookie-cutter graduates who cannot think outside of the box.

Michael Dell and Bill Gates dropped out of college precisely because they wouldn’t — or couldn’t — tailor their thinking to the prevailing wisdom.

“I took one course that was remotely related to business — macroeconomics,” Dell has said. “One of the things that really helped me is not approaching the world in a conventional sense,” he said. “There are plenty of conventional thinkers out there.”

As practiced today, the very heart of the academic approach is flawed. In the political sciences, that approach entails postulating a theory and shoe-horning reality into it.

For example, Myra G. Gutin taught a course on first ladies at Rider University in New Jersey. In her book “The President's Partner,” she sorted first ladies into three categories: ceremonial (Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower), whose role was said to be mostly entertaining; emerging spokeswoman (Jacqueline Kennedy, Pat Nixon), who promoted issues important to them; and activist (Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford).

While such theories give academics something to write about, they distort rather than illuminate the truth. Like racial stereotyping, placing labels on people focuses attention on apparent similarities while shifting attention away from differences.

Instead of promoting conventional thinking, Gutin should encourage students to examine for themselves what each first lady was like. Michael Dell did not come up with his revolutionary concept for manufacturing computers to order by adopting the prevailing wisdom. Thinking outside the box requires looking at the world without blinders.

As a college student, I rebelled against that mind-constricting conformity. After crusading against formal education as an editor of the Clark Scarlet at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., I took my own advice and dropped out after my sophomore year.

My parents were not pleased. They were not exactly strangers to the academic world. My father was an associate professor of microbiology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and a professor of chemistry at City College of New York. My stepfather was a physicist at MIT. My mother, a concert pianist and composer, taught at the Juilliard School in New York.

But on the school paper, I had found my passion, investigative reporting. I had written an article exposing rampant discrimination against black students by local landlords. When I called a sample of those who had placed classified ads in the local paper, almost 40 percent admitted they would mind if my roommate was black and said they would not rent to me.

The Worcester Telegram picked up the story, and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination began an investigation.

Rather than regurgitating what my professors told me, I learned I could uncover original information on my own. Rather than using it to write papers that no one would read, I realized I could have an impact on society by exposing the truth.

After becoming a reporter on the Worcester Telegram, I went on to the Boston Herald, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, which I left in 1985. Published last year, “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Life of Fire and the Presidents They Protect” is my 18th book.

Editor's Note: Get Ron Kessler's book. Go here now.

I have never regretted my decision to drop out of college. Since then, college has become more doctrinaire. At least 90 percent of college professors are registered Democrats. That would not be a problem if they honestly sought to open students’ minds rather than brainwashing them.

While exceptional professors still exist, portraying Republicans as evil, Americans as Nazis, and capitalism as a way to subjugate minorities is the norm in too many college classes. Protected by tenure, professors replicate themselves, blackballing teachers who do not have ultra-liberal views.

If “the truth will set you free,” America is in serious trouble.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.

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College catalogs are as enticing as brochures for shiny new cars. They promise intellectual stimulation, critical thinking, and preparation for a rewarding life. But like come-ons for underwater land, the claims of liberal arts colleges are bogus. Socrates, Aristotle, and...
Monday, 17 May 2010 09:59 AM
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