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Just finished the book. The amazing Sam Harris has yet again provided his unique insight into Morality, Religion, and Science. While this book is less about Religion, it is never too far away from his argument. You do not need Religion to be moral. We can not be afraid to admit that Science can provide a moral compass. We have become a society that allows any possible belief to be valid and worth discussing and worse, we are so afraid to say something is truly wrong or right. Murder not in self defense is always wrong. Molesting children is always wrong, yet we have a Religious sect in America called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) which was run by Warren Jeffs. We can not call this a Religion when they oppress woman, children, molest and engage in sexual intercourse with Children, often discussed murdering people in the name of God if they did not conform to all of the FLDS rules. We can not allow any group to be wrapped under a Religious blanket and be untouchable. The pure scientific method is always looking to search for the truth even if it is answer we do not want to hear. Science does not torture, kill, intimidate people in order to conform to it's world views. All Religions do that to some degree and of course vary widely with regards to that. We do not need Religion to be moral...science can give us moral values as a compass as a baseline. it does not take away from disagreements on many topics and important issues. The thing is we have to move beyond the basic issues of right and wrong, and in Sam's new book we can do that.
Buy this book today and you will not be disappointed (unless you have a very closed mind and then you will be disappointed).
Several experts have warned that higher education is experiencing a bubble, much like the crises that deflated the dot com stocks and housing values over the past two decades. Student loan indebtedness now exceeds a trillion dollars, and the typical college student graduates from school with debts approaching $100,000. If you purchase a $100,000 house, you have 30 years to pay off the mortgage, and in the meantime possess a place to live that has resale potential. That is not the case with student loan debt.
Jeffrey Selingo is editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and this places him in an ideal position for knowing what is going on in this critical aspect of life for young Americans. Surprisingly, he observes that only one in three college students are "traditional," i.e, in the age bracket of 18 to 24 years old. The vast majority of the students are "working age," trying to obtain additional training or degrees to gain or maintain jobs. Increasingly, courses are taking place online, so students can learn wherever and whenever it is convenient to do so.
Selingo opens his book with the story of Samantha Dietz, a first-generation college student who had earned high honors in high school for academic performance. She received numerous offers for admission to top tier universities. She accepted a generous offer of aid from a university, unaware that the school had a meager 38% graduation rate. Near the end of her first semester, she was notified that state funds had been cut so her costs would go up. This outstanding student decided to drop out of school rather than racking up a mountain of debt.
In order to attract more students (to beef up their bottom line), higher education institutions are spending huge amounts of money for entertainment, housing, restaurants, recreation and even quasi-professional sports franchises. In what way, for instance, does a climbing wall contribute to student learning? Nearby Michigan State University just spent millions of dollars installing a giant video-enhanced scoreboard in their football stadium, and is now planning a $20 million upgrade of the stadium itself. In what way can these expenditures claim to create more capable graduates?
Among the latest trends is the pursuit of medical schools and/or law schools in every major university. In the meantime, existing medical schools are suffering from a lack of funding, and law schools are already producing far more lawyers than the market can absorb.
What are we gaining from all of this spending? In 1995, the United States ranked first in the percentage of adults ages 24 through 36 with college degrees, among the 17 nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Currently, it has dropped to 12th place in the rankings. Meanwhile, deterioration in standards and grade inflation have rocked almost every university, including Harvard. As a result, college graduates have not demonstrated the knowledge and skills demanded by the Twenty First Century job markets.
Richard Vedder has written that higher education needs to move quickly into online options, or face "creative destruction." Selingo does not necessarily agree with this, although he does see considerable advantage accruing to institutions that expand into this area. Hybrid classes, where students meet face-to-face periodically but do much of the work online, are especially attractive. The author highlights 18 "Colleges of the Future" where institutional leaders are experimenting with new, more efficient and effective, methods for delivering instruction.
Whether or not Higher Education is on a bubble that will burst like the housing market did in 2008 is still an open question. If schools can adapt quickly to reducing costs while improving student outcomes, this painful correction may be avoided. I am not sure I would be willing to bet on it, but Selingo's book should be on the reading list of every legislator and college administrator.