Skip to comments.Choosing a College
Posted on 09/16/2004 5:32:57 AM PDT by The Great Yazoo
Choosing a college Thomas Sowell September 16, 2004
When a student at New York University committed suicide recently, it was the 6th suicide at that same institution this year. The suicide of someone in the prime of life, and getting an education that promises a bright future, should be much rarer than it is. But NYU is not unique by any means.
Back when I taught at UCLA, one morning on my way to my office I saw an attractive and well-dressed young woman lying quietly in the bushes next to the building, apparently asleep. But the presence of police nearby alerted me to the fact that something was wrong. She had jumped from the roof of the building to her death.
When I taught at Cornell, it averaged a suicide a year.
Selecting a college for a young man or young woman to attend is more than a matter of looking up the rankings and seeing where the chances of admission look good. How the atmosphere of the college matches the personality of the individual can mean far more than anything in the college catalogue or the pretty brochures.
Some young people are not yet ready for coed living arrangements and the pressures and dangers that can lead to. Some are at risk on a campus with widespread drug usage. Some students can get very lonely when they just don't fit in.
Sometimes there is no one to turn to and sometimes the adults they turn to on campus have nothing but psychobabble to offer.
Late adolescence and early adulthood are among the most dangerous times in people's lives, when one foolish decision can destroy everything for which parents and children have invested time and efforts and hopes for years.
Too many know-it-alls in the high schools and colleges urge or warn parents to get out of the picture and let the child decide where to go and what to do. A high school counselor once told me that I would be "kept informed" of the decisions that she and my daughter were making as to which colleges to apply to.
Apparently there are enough sheep-like parents these days to let "experts" take control of their children at a critical juncture in their lives. But these "experts" suffer no consequences if their bright ideas lead some young person into disaster. It is the parents who will be left to pick up the pieces.
Too often parents are pushed to the sideline in the name of the child's need for freedom and autonomy. But what is presented to parents as a need to set their children free as young adults is too often in fact abandoning those children to the control of others. The stakes are too high to let that happen.
From the moment a student sets foot on a college campus, a whole apparatus of indoctrination can go into motion, in the name of "orientation," so as to mold each young mind to politically correct attitudes on everything from sex to "social justice."
Colleges used to say that their job was to teach the student how to think, not what to think. Today, most colleges are in the business of teaching the student what to think or "feel."
Many colleges -- even many of the most prestigious -- lack any real curriculum, but they seldom lack an ideological agenda. Too often they use students as guinea pigs for fashionable notions about how to live their own lives.
As for education, students can go through many colleges selecting courses cafeteria-style, and graduate in complete ignorance of history, science, economics, and many other subjects, even while clutching a costly diploma with a big name on it.
Students who make more astute choices from the cafeteria of courses can still get a good education at the same colleges where their classmates get mush. But seldom is there any curriculum that ensures a good education, even at prestigious colleges.
Parents need to stay involved in the process of choosing a college. They need to visit college campuses before making application decisions -- and remember to take their skepticism with them. They also need to ask blunt questions and not take smooth generalities for an answer.
An indispensable guide to the atmosphere on various college campuses, and the presence or absence of a real curriculum, is a 971-page book titled "Choosing the Right College." It is head-and-shoulders above all the other college guides.
Among other things, it tells you which colleges have a real curriculum, rather than a cafeteria of courses, as well as the kind of atmosphere each campus has. The latter is always important and sometimes can even be a matter of life and death.
As a retired educator I could not agree with T S more. No lomger are young people taught HOW to think but are led and Forced into WHAT to think and FEEL
I used to think there was something cockeyed about the notion of going to college just so you could "get a job." I think, now, that I was wrong. Jobs are important, especially for middle class people. Colleges need to re-think the idea of the so-called "liberal arts" education in light of the fact that "liberal arts" is fast becoming Newspeak for "political indoctrination." Besides, a person gets twelve years or more of expensive public education in order to be taught the things he needs to know in order to become an informed citizen. I think a new paradigm of higher education is in order, that places less emphasis on degrees, and more on specialized education to prepare individuals for careers in specific fields. Without all the mandatory courses that fill out the curricula of today's undergraduates, a person could probably do in two or three years what it now takes him four or five years to achieve.
We opted for "Home University" in a way.
We use the dual enrollment program at our local college.
So starting last year when my son would have been in the 10th grade, he began taking all his classes at the local college (used to be community college, but now is a 4 year institution).
He can take up to 15 hours per term and they count as high school and college credits.
This particular college runs co-op degrees with all the other state universities through one of their campuses. So when he has enough credits to move into his Junior college year, he'll be 18, and will decide whether to use one of their co-op programs, or transfer to our local state university (which is about a 35 minute drive.)
We have informed him that he will live at home until he gets his bachelors degree (probably this provides incentive for him to work harder at school so he can leave home earlier,LOL).
Once he has his bachelors, he'll be 20 and we'll pay for him to go anywhere he chooses for post graduate work, if he wants to go in that direction.
So , in a way, he is not "home" educated, but he is housed at home. The kids he hangs out with are the kids at church, whom we know, and he is not having to live in a college dorm, being subjected to all the "stuff" that that entails.
Call us "overprotective" or "controlling", maybe. But I've seen kid after kid go away to college at 18 with disastrous results.
At a very great expense, my girls will attend Hillsdale or University of Steubenville. By that time, my homeschooling will be overwith and I can get a job to finance them.
"Home University" already exists for those who want it. It's the University of Phoenix.
We do have an additional blessing though. In our state, the last two years of High School can be spent at the local Community College. This gives the students an Associate's Degree at 18. They stay home and go to the first years of college. Works for me!
>>Call us "overprotective" or "controlling", maybe<<
I'm going to call you "Smart".
My hubby's $$$$ rich family dumped him into Michigan Tech right out of high school (a three hour drive from them). They totally cut him loose.
He partied down and flunked out after two semesters.
(luckily joined the Marines and is a great man today!)
I had the choice at 18 - get a job, go in the army or go to college that you can afford...
If you hunt on the internet, you'll find an online version of a short book Sowell wrote some years ago on choosing a good college. He cuts through the US News and World Reports ratings nonsense, to give realistic criteria for choosing a high-quality liberal arts college. (His primary criteria was to look at average SATs. The best colleges have SATs of 1300+. Then look at social atmosphere, type of curriculum, etc; these differ dramatically among these elite colleges.) I went to one of the best liberal arts colleges, and I am a college professor now, so I know about these things -- and Sowell's descriptions and discussions are spot-on.
His GPA after 2 years was 3.95 (and that is with HEAVY courses such as Calculus, Physics, and Chemistry).
He was accepted to the United States Naval Academy - and now has 4 more years of college to go. But image a college institution that - when the students return from liberty before the curfew - are subjected to breathalyzer checks. It is an honor violation for Plebes (1st year students) of any age, or other students under 21 to drink ... and they mean it ... and they check for it! YES!!!!!
At least I know where my son is at 11:00PM (in Bancroft Hall - studying hard and getting ready for Taps/Lights Out.) The Academy is a GREAT surrogate parent for insisting on HIGH standards!!
The only caveat to this was if they could get a full ride scholarship somewhere.
After the first year the decision as to where they live during school is up to them. I'll help them with tuition and rent but they will pay for the extras themselves.
We have done a similar thing with our daughter.
She was home schooled, but we sent her to the local community college at fifteen. After three years of taking a wide variety of classes, she picked up 96 college credits and had a 4.0 GPA.
She transferred to Rice University as a Chemical Engineering major last and now, with one year down, she is in her Junior year now. She will graduate at 21, with six years of college under her belt. We live close enough to Rice that she is able to commute to school and she continues to live at home.
We think that living at home and having daily contact with her family has helped her keep things in perspective. Like your son, most of her old friends are people she has known for years from our church.
As someone else mentioned, as a Chemical Engineering major, she does not have much time left over to become involved in campus silliness. As good colleges go, Rice is not too liberal, although I am sure it is much more liberal than I would like it to be.
You mentioned post grad school. One of the nice things about my daughter's 96 credits at community college is that her grades will be included in the GPA generated by the folks who prepare the reports for schools such as law schools.
I went to college in upstate NY. We had 5 suicides that I can remember being talked about while I was there - 4 yrs. For all but the last one which was rather public, the school dismissed the deaths, swept it all under the rug and tried to 'dispel rumors'. We had running jokes (twisted jokes to be sure) about how exam season meant kids at Cornell (not far away) would be jumping off a bridge. It was sad.
In recent years, I've taken a couple college level courses through our local Ed council. The first was a free for all, 'everyone gets an A', kind of deal. I learned on my own, but I often wonder about 2 of the girls in my group who were 'underachievers' at best, how they're doing now. I almost didn't take the next one a year or so later. But it was with a different university. It was radically different in what was expected and consequences and grades. I really enjoyed that one.
I'm already considered 'overprotective', I couldn't imagine what bucking this next trend will do for that thinking...
I had so wanted to do this, also. I needed to relocate to do that, so it doesn't seem so likely anymore.
Sowell is always so right on. I read his book "Inside American Education" years ago and was pretty surprised because I didn't know what was going on in the colleges - oh, I knew about the liberal brainwashing going on, but not much of the other stuff (e.g. having grad students teaching such a large percentage of the time so the profs can go out and do research or whatever floats their boat).
But the timing of this article couldn't be more appropriate. My oldest son, though several years away from college, kept me up late just last night with countless questions about colleges, degrees, employment after, just endless curiosity. He's torn between targeting a school that offers a good program in his desired career or targeting a conservative school. Never know, he could get both!
I'm taking to heart some of the comments here. He has strong values, but I know how the pressure can get through adolescence if the parent doesn't stay involved in some way. Anyone have experience with the ROTC? He's been looking in to that.
It's a disgrace and it is starting to show up in the marketplace as functionally illiterate people with degrees that are indistinguishable from the degrees of the truly educated make their way into high positions. Our global competitiveness is at stake and it's being thrown away for a quick buck. That's the reality of academe today, and it is a crying shame.
There is no rush. Let them wait until their 20 or more before college.
I am having the same problem choosing a school, but in reverse. Once I complete my PhD, I'll be on the market. I do not want to be a conservative faculty member on a very liberal campus.
Because my field crosses over between tech and business, I'm not too worried about the department, most tech and business types aren't screaming liberals, but I sure don't want to be somewhere like Ithaca where just being on the campus would give me hives.
I think it's difficult for conservative faculty. You have to go where there are openings. Some of the places I'd consider living in like Montana or Wyoming, just don't have many colleges and if there are no openings the year you're on the market, that's that. I'd like to be an example for conservative students, I'd like to live a normal life and not have to hide my beliefs - especially as the leftists have no problem spouting theirs.
I expect some liberalism on a campus; it's the way things are. I just don't want to be drowning it it.
Try making the mistake of going to graduate school in the humanities and then deciding academia is too liberal to bear for the rest of one's working life. Now imagine trying to go out and find a job outside of academia when all you've done since high school is prepare for a career in academia. It's no picnic. If I had it to do over again, I think I'd go get a degree that would get me a decent job instead of a humanities, liberal arts-type degree.