Post Academic

The Return of Broke Ass!: Sex, Drugs, Janitorial Services

How long has it been since we’ve written up a broke ass piece?  When we did, it was all about broke ass schools and how they can’t pay for anything, like stuff schools need from faculty and departments.  It seems like broke ass schools have passed the savings on to students and post academics, who’ve resorted to all the means mentioned above in the title to make ends meet:

Broke Ass, Now with More Ass!: Dateline, China — This story from the L.A. Times tells how female college students in China are working it, making a living from basically being kept women with drama school types charging up to $25,000 to B-schoolers getting $5000.  The article, however, doesn’t look at the phenomenon from the angle of gender dynamics so much — actually, the piece reads pretty anti-Chinese women,focusing on describing them as “ambitious and frostily pragmatic” and using “paid sex as a strategy”,  rather than emphasizing how the men are horndog sleezebags.  Overall, the underlying point of the article is to use this situation as yet another example of how the Chinese don’t do capitalism the right way and that maybe it isn’t for them: As author Megan Stack puts it, “In China, everybody seems to be selling something these days.  Advertising crowds the skyline and the roadsides.  A closed country has opened up in a span of decades, and is experiencing an economic boom that has introduced new desires and an ‘anything goes’ mentality.”

Before Georgetown became a big ol' meth lab--we think ("Georgetown University and Canoe Club 1910s," Public Domain)

Was Meth Lab One of Your Freshman Dorm Options?: Back here in the good ol’ United States, our students make pocket money the old fashioned way, by manufacturing drugs.  Last week, two Georgetown students and a University of Richmond student were arrested for creating a drug lab in a frosh dorm room on the Georgetown campus.  The reaction seems to be two-fold, that no one should be shocked that heavy-duty drug use happens at a hoity-toity school like G’town and that meth labs are kinda commonplace on campuses across the country, like at U Central Florida and SMU.

Overqualified and Underemployed?  This Is News?: A few of my Facebook friends posted this opinion piece from the Chronicle — reader beware, it’s basically one of those anti-college screeds about how higher ed doesn’t pay off written by an econ prof who runs his own center — that notes there are 5,057 janitors in the U.S. with Ph.D.s.  What I wanna know is whether or not working custodial actually pays better than being a marginally employed freeway flyer?  And does it have better benefits too?

What’s up with the anti-college screeds? Part 2

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on August 17, 2010
Tags: ,

So we might have gotten into a little kerfuffle with our previous anti-college screed, which involved the author of the article we were snarking on, James Altucher, finding our little blog and responding in the comments thread.  But, hey, if he’s fair game, so are we.  This time around, we’re asking for even bigger trouble, because I’m going to comment on an author whose book I haven’t even read–don’t tell me that, as an academic, you didn’t refer to or engage a text that you never cracked open, whether as an undergrad, grad, or prof!  Anyhow, I’m going to deal with Claudia Dreifus’s anti-college screed based on a Q+A she did with More magazine, so I’m basically going to launch into a polemic based on this.  I guess I could play it safe and just say that I’m responding to this interview, and not the book she’s promoting, called Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids–and What We Can Do About It, co-written with Andrew Hacker.

It wouldn’t quite be fair to say that Dreifus is as extreme as Altucher, because she doesn’t suggest *not* attending college, advocating, instead, cuts to make college more affordable and suggesting that parents find good fits for their kids.  Couldn’t argue with that, right?  But that doesn’t really make contrarian headlines, either.  The interview, titled “Is College Worth the Cash?”, begins with a provocative quote from Dreifus:

Don’t send your kids to a status symbol. That’s what an Ivy League undergraduate education often is. At Yale and Harvard, undergraduate teaching is too often an afterthought; at the University of Pennsylvania, the classes can be as large as at many public universities. You’re really paying for the name.

Egad–say it ain’t so that UPenn might be in any way like a “public university”!  So, from the get-go, we might want to bracket the question of “Is college worth the cash?” with one asking if a “status symbol” Ivy League or equivalent worth the dough?  We should preface these questions by noting that Dreifus should know, seeing as she is herself an adjunct prof at Columbia, and probably not the poor kind of exploited, can’t-find-a-tenure-track adjunct, methinks.

But like James Altucher’s gadfly-esque piece, Dreifus’s interview begins with the same faulty premise: That the most expensive education at an elite Ivy League institution is the best measure of the worth and value of a college education, when that’s actually a possibility applicable to a very small constituency of students.

More below the jump…


What’s up with the anti-college screeds? Part 1

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on August 7, 2010
Tags: , ,

"Against the river" by Me, My hero, and I (Creative Commons license)

OK, this might be a case of pot meeting kettle, but we’ve noticed that there’s a rash of anti-higher education screeds happening these days.  For the record, I don’t think we’ve ever explicitly said not to go to grad school to get a M.A. or a Ph.D. or a J.D., though it is true that we’ve written that doing so might make you puke or die or not get a job no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you put into it.

But really, we’ve never gone so far as to say that you shouldn’t even go to college by questioning its economic value, as James Altucher of Daily Finance and journalist Claudia Dreifus (who–get this– is an adjunct prof at Columbia!) have suggested.  This shouldn’t really count against me, but, at one point in my freshman year, I did think about what I could’ve done with the $100,000 in tuition money going to Stanford University, since I told myself I could’ve done all the reading and writing on my own.  The best argument my friends could come up with to convince me I was wrong was camaraderie–and that I needed a degree to legitimize me, of course.  Hey, Stanford, how’s that looking to you now!

But I digress.  We’re gonna cover these pieces one at a time, starting with Altucher’s piece, “Seven Reasons Not to Send Your Kids in College”, today.  His argument seems to be purely financial, although it’s certainly guided by an anti-establishment streak.  He begins with the premise that his intended audience–parents of future college students of a particular affluent social status–could have an extra $1-$3 mill in the bank, simply by not sending their kids to college.  Of course, you could probably save even more if you never bought new clothes, went out to a nice restaurant, took a vacation, did anything beyond basic subsistence, too!  This leads to Altucher’s money quote: “But in my view, the entire college degree industry is a scam, a self-sustaining Ponzi scheme that needs to stop right now.”  Strong words, as many Tweeters have remarked, from a holder of a B.S. from Cornell and a M.A. from Carnegie-Mellon in computer science.

Indeed, you start to wonder whether Altucher is pulling some kind of Jedi-mind-trick satire on you, though such a suspicion is dispelled when he launches into his seven reasons against college…

See Altucher’s “reasons” below the jump…