07 September 2011


"Education is a better safeguard to liberty than a standing army." In their annual ranking of U.S. colleges and universities, Washington Monthly Magazine announced the following top ten schools:

1. University of California at San Diego (UCSD, see image above)


3. UC-Berkeley

4. Standford

5. UC-Riverside

6. Harvard

7. Case Western Reserve

8. UC-Davis

9. Jackson State University

10. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Perennial favorites like the University of Chicago (25), Columbia (26), Princeton (31), Yale (39), and Northwestern (67) were well out of the running for the top ten. The reason lies in the criteria for selection. Traditional metrics have included "graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, acceptance rates, standardized test scores, class rankings of incoming students, and student/faculty ratio." Washington Monthly takes a different (and I believe constructive) tack. Their sole criterion is contribution to the public good, broken down into three categories ~ "social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and service (encouraging students to give something back to their country)."

The article's author takes exception to the change in emphasis, but I support it. American public and higher education has been declining in recent decades, producing less literate graduates or none at all. Falling back on traditional measures for quality schooling clearly will only perpetuate the problem, as U.S. students fall further and further behind their counterparts in Asia and Europe, particularly in the sciences and math. It appears to me to be a step in the right direction to recruit economically disadvantaged (but otherwise intelligent) students, to produce rigorous, innovative scholarship, and to encourage public service. "Ask not .... "

Well, we Americans may have our economic and political problems, but when it comes to being cool, in the eyes of the world we are the coolest. A social networking poll asked 30,000 respondents in 15 countries to rate the coolest nationality. After the U.S., Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, England, the Netherlands, Mexico, Argentina, and Russia rounded out the top ten. At the bottom of the list (in descending order) were Germany, Canada, Turkey, Poland, and Belgium. Obviously a descriptor like "cool" is highly subjective, but hey, we'll take what we can get.

Speaking of getting ~ and bringing us full circle back to the deficiencies in American education ~ thanks to Sheril Kirshenbaum for the link to a bar graph (see below, click to enlarge) showing annual federal spending per person on five budgetary recipients:

~ Medicare and Medicaid ~ $2,746

~ Social Security ~ $2,364

~ National Science Foundation ~ $22 (yes, $22 per year)

~ Department of Defense ~ $2,981

~ 10 years of 'terrorism wars' ~ $7,486

What does this say about our national priorities? Two social service categories account for 32.7 percent of the total. Science research funding accounts for 0.001 percent of the total. Two military categories account for 67.1 percent of the total, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hemorrhaging 48 percent of the total by themselves. Without those wars, and with a more streamlined military attuned to the needs of the 21st century, we would have no budget crisis. We could be paying down our national debt rather than bickering over raising the debt ceiling, nearly pushing the nation into bankruptcy in the process. The numbers don't lie.

No comments:

Post a Comment