Victor Davis Hansen on Truths we dare not Utter

Doctor Hansen has a list of five, but I shall only focus on one of them, as it is largely the source of the other four, and of our seeming inability to discuss them.

Truths We Dare Not Speak
By Victor Davis Hanson
Works and Days Pajamas Media

4) The Ivy League is a Naked Emperor

By Ivy League I do not mean just Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, but the entire concept of high-priced elite schools like a Stanford, Duke, or Columbia as well. We know a BA from such institutions does not ipso facto any longer, as it once may well have, guarantee knowledge or competence. We know the race/class/gender craze has watered down the curriculum, and ensured therapy and empathy trump recall of facts and adherence to the inductive method. And we know that one’s first two years will probably mean instruction largely by graduate students and lecturers.

Had we national exit requirements, I am convinced those leaving a Hillsdale College or St. Thomas Aquinas or St. John’s would do better than the average Yale BA.

A motivated undergraduate student, who picks the right professors and classes, can get as good an undergraduate education at San Jose State as at Stanford. Certainly, the four years are not worth $200,000 in room, board, and tuition– if education is the goal.

But wait! If, in contrast, networks, influence-accumulation, and contacts are the objectives to ensure a child remains, or enters into, the elite class, then the investment in such undergraduate schools is very much worth it–but should be considered analogous to a debutante ball, the social register, or the Grand Tour.

Does anyone believe that the present professional classes of Ivy-League certified technocrats in the administration understand the law, the economy, or the government any better, by virtue of their university educations, than a does a country trial lawyer, a military officer, a CEO, or any of the others who were educated elsewhere, or received training in the rather rougher arena of the real world?

I am fortunate for a wonderful graduate education in the PhD program at Stanford, but I learned more about the way the world works in two months of farming (which saved a wretch like me) than in four years of concentrated study.

In short, the world does not work on a nine-month schedule. It does not recognize concepts like tenure. It does not care for words without action. And brilliance is not measure by vocabulary or SAT scores. Wowing a dean, or repartee into a seminar, or clever put-downs of rivals in the faculty lounge don’t translate into running a railroad–or running the country. One Harry Truman, or Dwight Eisenhower is worth three Bill Clintons or Barack Obamas. If that sounds reductionist, simplistic, or anti-intellectual, it is not meant to–but so be it nonetheless.

Note that it is this “educated class” (to use David Brooks turn of phrase) which has got us into the mess we now find ourselves. For those who value results more than a clever turn of phrase or obscure literary reference, the grade this “educated class” has earned in governance is not a passing one.

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