In what is certainly one of the more depressing interviews ever published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Bryan Caplan (George Mason University) discussed his new book, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.
You can read the gut-wrenching details for yourself, but let’s just say that higher education, as currently structured, doesn’t fare very well in his analysis. Of course, Dr. Caplan is a Professor of Economics, a discipline not known for the cheery disposition of its practitioners. That being said, this gentleman’s vision is especially bleak, even when compared with the views of his dyspeptic colleagues.
Like a gigantic, frozen cow pie dropped from a Black Hawk helicopter into the middle of a tranquil Maine pond on a hot summer’s day, the ripple effect of Caplan’s critique is generating collateral damage on campuses across the country. On Tuesday, for example, 32 humanities faculty at the University of Buffalo rented a school bus, affixed a banner that said “We are deeply sorry for taking our students’ money,” and drove off the cliff at Niagara Falls. The sole survivor inhaled a lethal dose of toxic dry-erase marker (hidden in her parka) before rescuers could intervene.
At the University of Virginia, a sociology professor walked onto the school’s fabled Lawn (actually, it’s called The Lawn), assumed the lotus position, softly declared his remorse for having pursued an academic career, ingested a dozen habanero peppers, and then spontaneously combusted as puzzled students looked on. As one frisbee-tossing sophomore remarked, “THAT WAS BEYOND COOL!”
Finally, Wesley Splenn, an arts lecturer at Dartmouth College, encased himself, naked, in a Winter Carnival ice sculpture of a baby puffin in order to draw attention to the existential void that is higher education. That night, over 200 students held a candlelight vigil to honor the frozen Splenn, but all those tiny flames produced the unintended consequence of melting the sculpture and saving his life. He was both annoyed and undeterred (sort of). “I’ll try again next year, unless Dartmouth offers me a tenure-track position, in which case all bets are off.”