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Higher Ed Bubble Bursting – Probably a Good Thing

Should conservatives and others who support intellectual diversity and honest debate on college campuses really hope for the mainstream higher education system to collapse? Kinda, sorta.

There’s an argument to be made that higher education as it stands could benefit from a scorched Earth revamp —- but however tempting as that sounds —- it’s also important to take a cautious approach on that stance, and weigh its pros and cons, a prominent conservative scholar argues.

Peter Wood, executive director of the National Association of Scholars, stated in a recent Minding the Campus piece that the higher education system appears headed for economic collapse, and what’s more, the relevancy of a liberal arts education continues to decline.

Should conservatives cheer on that demise?

… it is perfectly reasonable for conservatives to look on the academic status quo with the attitude that little of real value would be lost if the flood waters continue to rise. The kinds of liberal arts education that mattered to Bloom or Buckley, or the kinds that matter to Barone, Leef, Kimball, Reynolds, and Clemens could easily survive that inundation because they do not depend on the mass market model that has made mainstream higher education so vulnerable. Careful study of important books, instruction by teachers who possess some measure of wisdom as well as learning, fellowship with other students who care about taking possession of the intellectual heritage of their civilization can and will survive, even if the college-for-everyone bubble pops.

That’s not to dismiss the warning flare from Professor Marks. If millions of students find themselves shunted to MOOCs or online-mostly programs, America will surely lose something precious. Colleges and universities, even in their current disarray, still represent the opportunity to spend a significant portion of one’s youth making lifelong friends of the great writers and thinkers of the past and discovering what it means to join the company of educated men and women. Those are opportunities that won’t be replaced easily, if at all, by online courses or a disaggregated system of piecemeal tests and credentials. …

None of us knows for sure what will happen next. But I wouldn’t blame the ark builders if we happen to be in for a season of soaking rain.

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