Local Commentary

Editorial: The Many Ills of Higher Education

State Sen. Richard Saslaw’s highly charged outrage expressed before the Falls Church City Council over the heinous rape and cover up allegations at the University of Virginia this Monday was both refreshing and appropriate.

His determination to meet the problem not with words alone, but with a commitment to powerful new legislation marks a welcomed departure from the usual approach to such matters, and he’s got the clout to get it done, knowing that Gov. Terry McAuliffe will sign the toughest bill that he can get through.

It is telling that the bill Saslaw is working on targets not the alleged perpetrators of sexual violence, but the long-standing tradition of covering such incidents up at the University (see story elsewhere this edition).

As this horrible situation becomes public, it drives home a deeper issue that more and more people are talking about nowadays: Namely, the value of a college education, itself, is being more and more called into question.

This is especially relevant given the skyrocketing increase in the cost of a college education, and the way that student loan debt is strangling an entire generation of our best and brightest, deterring their ability to excel after college and thus putting them at a relative disadvantage to the emerging talents of other countries.

In the age of the Internet, do the “brick and mortar” schools continue to define the future of education in the U.S.? The University of Virginia sheer debacle belies a horror show environment for women on that campus that has been veritably institutionalized for decades. Why do we feel the need to pay the high tuition and subsidize the cost of only further perpetuating such a disgusting culture?

Then there is the role of professional sports at colleges and universities, sucking a lot of the life blood out of a vibrant educational environment.

Data shows that the highest paid faculty at most major colleges and universities are coaches of their major sports teams. The big business that college sports has become is an insult to real education, and is why we consider college sports a “professional” enterprise, even if the athletes don’t get paid. Everyone else involved does.

This, of course, speaks to the equally scandalous expose at the University of North Carolina from last month, when top athletes recruited to the school turned out not to take any academic courses whatsoever, but fraud was perpetrated massively to allow the athletes to remain academically eligible.

Indifference to how such sports are causing mostly young men to develop distorted physical shapes and to mash their capacity for intellectual pursuits by bruising the brain on a regular basis are adding to the perception that universities are not only failing to meet their educational goals, but are actually harmful.

Who needs it? An option would be to attend a community college for two years and thereby to limit four-year programs to two years at the big bad university. At most.

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