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Putting students first

Dr. Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville, has strong views about where the priorities of a university should be.

What a blessing to teach college for over 33 years. Educating folks on government and politics is my life’s work, and it has been such a joy teaching students at the University of North Georgia since 1999 where there are so many fine professors, staff, and administrators.

But recent disturbing trends have harmed students across the country. Indeed, on too many campuses there is an obsession with homogenization, bureaucratization, research, and money. As acclaimed University of Georgia Professor Emeritus Dr. Parker Young notes, “Any college worth its salt is a true free marketplace of ideas.” Yet there has been a huge increase in campuses with constipated “hate speech” codes or climates hostile to free inquiry. In the Orwellian guise of protecting “diversity,” too many higher education administrators restrict basic speech rights and, often invoking “social justice,” too many professors substitute agitprop for teaching many sides of issues.

So what should be the most free places in America are often the least. As the legendary liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black warned, “the freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.”

Universities should provide an outstanding education and vibrant campus life that spur students to grow intellectually, emotionally, and morally. We should not just teach them propaganda but help them reason critically. They need to question everything – including their professors – and always think analytically for themselves.

Yet there is also far too much emphasis on uniform “assessment” at college. In ever more freshman and sophomore classes, administrators make professors give the same assignments using the same “rubric” to grade papers, a la high school. So much for hiring the best teachers to each create their own class assignments and grading methods. But so many bureaucrats crave the very standardization which has so stifled innovation and achievement in k-12 schools.

Education should help students learn, mature, and achieve the most meaningful lives possible. Instead, often administrators see students as little more than dollar signs, numbers, and means to get their offices, departments, or schools more funding, recognition, and power. Indeed, many administrators don’t teach and know little and care less about good instruction and the need for schools to create a challenging, yet nurturing environment for students navigating a vulnerable time in their lives. But all college and university workers should recall who pays our salaries.

Sadly, too often students get real world lessons in Machiavellian campus politics. In fact, U.S. Secretary of State and Harvard University professor Dr. Henry Kissinger concluded that “university politics are vicious”. In short, when administrators or professors put personal professional interests ahead of our students, we undermine the very purpose of education.

Alas, the biggest lessons I learned as a graduate student at a large “prestigious” (see: “publish-or-perish”) university were how NOT to teach and NEVER to treat people. Classmates and I got daily doses of just how cold and uncaring too many bureaucrats and faculty could be. Yet ever more administrators push precisely this publish-or-perish model.

When a professor knows he has to get published in X number of officially approved journals by Y date, time spent with students detracts from researching and writing – and keeping his job. So a closed office door with its window papered over and the light on inside tells students to go away. While some professors are inspiring teachers and researchers, the combination is uncommon. But too many universities covet the prestige (U.S. News & World Report rankings!) and government funding that follows an emphasis on research. Again, students’ education is sacrificed on the altars of reputation and money.

The surge in on-line courses further compromises instruction since posting lessons on a computer is a poor stand-in for in-person lectures and real-time discussions. There’s also far more cheating with on-line tests. Yet many schools covet on-line classes to make more money since they don’t need buildings. One day a salary-free computer might “teach” 100 such classes.

Making everything worse are the outrageous costs of tuition and textbooks that have followed the huge increases in government grants and loans to students in recent decades. Colleges have responded by spiking costs ever more, causing far too many students to go deeply in debt.

I pray every university rededicates itself to providing the best instruction at a reasonable cost to the largest variety of students cherished in a warm, welcoming environment that celebrates a true diversity of ideas and free inquiry. May students always come first, and may all educators be Good Samaritans who make a special effort to see no student is lost due to institutional neglect.

Note: we last heard from Douglas back in 2009.

38 comments to Putting students first

  • Teresa

    As they say at smalldeadanimals.com:

    “What is the opposite of diversity?”


  • Athena's Scrofulous Greek Owl

    I’m pleased to see this article by an actual academic. I’m ecstatic to see an actual academic writing such an article under his own name! People like this are the light shining from still burning beacon of western Enlightenment civilisation.

  • Bulldog Drumond

    We need to clone this bloke and get him teaching at several unis at the same time!

  • In this otherwise excellent post, I would critique only

    The surge in on-line courses further compromises instruction since posting lessons on a computer is a poor stand-in for in-person lectures and real-time discussions.

    What he says about easier cheating in online tests is true, but students can come to campus occasionally to sit invigilated tests – and to visit the professor’s room in person, and they can also visit online to ask questions in tutorials.

    One-line courses have some potential to escape, even to diminish, the power and mere numbers of administrators. Simply bankrupting all but the deeper-pocketted universities by online competition is one strategy to achieve the professor’s goals – or, by the threat of it, to persuade existing universities to give a damn about them.

    There are things to learn about running online tutorials. I presented some of them here. Expanding on what I wrote there, an obvious tutorial (or lecture) rule would be that turning on your camera, like turning off mute, should mean you are thinking of asking a question -like holding up your hand or looking obviously about to speak when present in person – and not otherwise be done.

  • bob sykes

    Newly hired junior faculty often have interviews with department chairs and college deans about expectations. A number of years ago, one such novice was told by our dean that the expectation was simple: bring in at least $300,000 per year of externally funded research. There was no discussion of teaching quality, nor of advising graduate students, not even of publications. It was a straight dollar criterion.

    When I started at my job in 1972, the university emphasized teaching. Research was desirable and rewarded, but it was not the only thing. By the time I retired in 2007, research dollars were the only thing. Teaching, service, even publications, were threshold items. A certain (often vague) minimum was necessary simply to keep the boat afloat. But they were not considerations in hiring, tenure or promotion.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bob sykes
    A question for you, since you evidently know what you are talking about… If, as you say, the focus is on bringing in research dollars, then I must presume that the faculty is bringing in big research dollars. If that is the case then why is the cost of a university education going through the roof?

    My oldest is about to start college, and I really wrestled with this subject. He is an exceptionally bright kid, but at the cost of a university education I honestly wonder if it is worth it.

    I am sure it isn’t worth it for the vast majority of people who go there. In fact, I often think that the process of separating them into a bubble of insanity, separated from real world concerns is actually damaging. Do I really want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have my kid indoctrinated to reject and hate everything I believe?

    BTW, I know Scottish Uni is free, and English Uni is cheap, but to give you Brits an idea, a typical four year college degree here costs about $160k, and from a highly prestigious school, twice that.

    But I am curious — if you had a bright, capable high school senior, would you recommend them going to college?

  • Plamus

    I pray every university rededicates itself to providing the best instruction at a reasonable cost to the largest variety of students cherished in a warm, welcoming environment that celebrates a true diversity of ideas and free inquiry.

    Kudos to Dr. Young for the admirable sentiment, but I would ask if he (I looked up the profile, and will impudently assume *his* gender) sees a plausible path “from here to there” not for every, but just for a single large private (e.g. Emory, also note) or public (UGA) university. Neither school mentions “free” or “freedom” in their defining documents, and at UGA free speech appears to be tightly regulated by a policy that says, among other things:

    Expressive activities must not:

    ii. Significantly disrupt University activities inside or outside of buildings (including classes);

    vi. Represent a threat to public safety, according to the discretion of University Police;

  • Kerry R Stewart, Ph.D.

    I have taught with Douglas for 20 years. His views on the need to protect liberties are always well thought out and presented in such a ways as to allow the student to make their own decisions. He encourages analytical thinking, extended research by the student to get information for themselves, and a love of freedom and a desire to protect those freedoms that are slowly being eroded by governments in general.

    I am proud to call him my friend and colleague.

  • staghounds

    Those in the education business have always talked like Dr. Young, but you can go all the way back to Socrates to find that in practice they generally focus their actual work on molding their raw material to a preferred shape.

    That’s what the customers want.

  • Dr. Douglas Young

    Thank y’all so much for your kind comments and especially for not only taking the time to read the essay but thinking about it seriously enough to share your own observations and experiences with universities. As frustrated as we are with the present state of “higher” education, perhaps we should recall Mark Twain’s declaration that “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Best wishes always, and may each of you make a marvelously melodic May!

  • Those in the education business have always talked like Dr. Young

    No, not really, a great many have always been quite explicit that they want to create New Socialist Man or alternatively worker cogs for British Steel/General Motors. And I once had a (university) professor once straight out say to me “we are in the diplomas business”. And at public school (that’s private school to you, Yanks 😛 ) I was told several times “we are in the business of getting you to do well in exams so you can get a good job”.

  • bobby b

    “Expressive activities must not:

    vi. Represent a threat to public safety, according to the discretion of University Police;”

    “Your speech is cancelled as it represents a threat to public safety. It provokes violence.”

    “Violence? By whom?”


  • bobby b

    “The surge in on-line courses further compromises instruction since posting lessons on a computer is a poor stand-in for in-person lectures and real-time discussions.”

    I well remember eldest son describing his first few lectures in 1st-year chem class at a highly-regarded university. 130 students in a theater, listening to an uninspired (and uninspiring) grad student with unrecognizable pronunciation drone on down front from his notes for 55 minutes.

    There are classes and situations that are worth experiencing in school. Forty-odd years ago, when I went to college, they were the rule. They are becoming rarer.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . a great many have always been quite explicit that they want to create . . . worker cogs for British Steel/General Motors.”

    Nothing wrong, for many, in a life working – being productive, creating value – as a cog for General Motors. There’s value in a tech or engineering or finance education and the presence of vocational value doesn’t somehow cheapen it.

  • Paul Marks

    Thank you Professor Young – an excellent piece of work.

    Sadly in a system dependent on government backed “student loans” your noble aims are likely to be defeated.

    There is also the basic fact, of which you are doubtless aware, that the Collectivists are just better at “academic politics” (indeed at “office politics” generally) than we are.

    John O’Sullivan was said that any institution is not formally dedicated against the left inevitably comes under the control of the left – and I would go further…..

    Even organisations and institutions that have the express purpose of opposing Collectivism become dominated by Collectivist ideas and practices – unless they have a clear understanding of pro liberty principles.

    Such statements as “we are pragmatic” are essentially suicide – organisations or institutions that think of themselves as “pragmatic”, “going with the times” (and so on) are very easy for the left, for the Collectivists, to take control of.

    Specifically in American academic history I would point at two men.

    Richard Ely – who defined “Academic Freedom” as the right of an academic to push for “Progressive Social Reform” meaning ever bigger and more controlling government – but NOT the right for an academic (or a student) to argue for the ROLLING BACK of “Progressive Social Reform” – Richard Ely was determined that such “Reactionaries” be excluded from academic life, even going so far as to try and exclude the leading free market economists of his time from associations of economists.

    The other man I would point to would be Professor (later President of the United States) Woodrow Wison.

    Woodrow Wilson tried to redefine freedom as government control – his “New Freedom” turned the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States on their heads. Much as the “New Liberals” in the United Kingdom reverses the meaning of the word liberalism – so that it now meant the state as “liberator” by ever more government spending and regulations.

    Professor Wilson argued that the goal of education should be to make students as “unlike their fathers as possible”.

    It never seemed to occur to him that the principles and beliefs of these fathers (the people who created the United States) might have any value.

    In short none of this just appeared from no where in recent years – when we deal with the totalitarianism of modern academics and university administrators we are dealing with the development of the ideas of such people as Woodrow Wilson and Richard Ely.

  • Nothing wrong, for many, in a life working – being productive, creating value – as a cog for General Motors.

    Not relevant to the context of the comment, bobby 😉

  • Paul Marks

    A favorite theme of the speeches of President Calvin Coolidge was that the people who regarded themselves as the most “modern” “Progressive” and “cutting edge” were actually, often without understanding it, trying to drag back the modern world to the despotism of such men as Louis XIX (the “Sun King”), or even tyrants such as Diocletian and other late Roman Emperors.

    And, President Coolidge would continue, those people who considered themselves the most “tolerant” and “open minded” were the most savagely intolerant and closed minded to any expression of thought they considered “Reactionary” and against Progressive-Social-Reform and Social-Justice.

    And before anyone replies with the attack that Calvin Coolidge was famously “uncultured” – President Coolidge did not, like President Kennedy, have to put up an elaborate facade of understanding Classical leaning – President Coolidge actually could understand it, making his own translations of the Ancient Greek texts.

    Nor did President Coolidge have to rely on “interpretations” of the great figures of American history – as he had read their speeches, letters and journals for himself.

  • bobby b

    “Not relevant to the context of the comment, bobby 😉”

    Sorry. Surrounded as I am by worthy land-grant colleges and universities, I get a bit annoyed when their staffs seek to elevate their own self-images by denigrating the vocational value (and indeed mission) of their institutions.

  • Paul Marks

    There is a confusion at the hear of the university position bobby b.

    At least in Britain universities tend to try and justify themselves by pointing to supposed economic benefits they bring.

    The bring no such benefits – not in the liberal arts, and not NORMALLY in the sciences either

    As you point out, economic gains tend to come from vocational training. And, quite possibly, that is best NOT provided in a university context.

    The objective of the liberal arts is more the cultivation of the individual person – and that may or may not be best done in a university setting.

    I believe what Professor Young to be saying is that the liberal arts colleges are not even trying to help create what used to be called a “liberal gentleman” – someone with both knowledge and (even more importantly) the ability to think critically (not just trust what they are told). A person with independent judgement.

    If the liberal arts universities are no longer supporting the cultivation of independent judgement (the ability to stand against the crowd – when there are rational and considered reasons to do so) then the very reason for their existence is gone.

    For almost two thousand years the principles (principles – not always the exact words) of such works as “The Consolations of Philosophy” by Boethius, “On Obligations” by Cicero, and the “Meditations” of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius were the common legacy of the educated person in the West. Now they are dismissed as the work of “dead, whist, cisgender, males” by the “educated” people of our own time.

    This is cultural death – and it will, in time, lead to mass physical death.

  • bobby b

    Paul Marks
    May 14, 2020 at 12:25 am

    “As you point out, economic gains tend to come from vocational training. And, quite possibly, that is best NOT provided in a university context.”

    Typically, in the US, we’ve drawn a distinction between (I’m making up my own terminology here) the “gentleman’s school” and the land-grant school.

    The gentleman’s school did everything that you list. It taught people “how to think”, it educated about the past, it introduced systems of thought, and it created intellectual blank slates, ready to go out in the world and be worthy.

    The land grant schools – well, here’s Encyclopædia Britannica‘s description:

    Land-Grant College Act of 1862, or Morrill Act, Act of the U.S. Congress (1862) that provided grants of land to states to finance the establishment of colleges specializing in “agriculture and the mechanic arts.” Named for its sponsor, Vermont Congressman Justin Smith Morrill (1810–98), it granted each state 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) for each of its congressional seats. Funds from the sale of the land were used by some states to establish new schools; other states turned the money over to existing state or private colleges to create schools of agriculture and mechanic arts (known as “A&M” colleges). The military training required in the curriculum of all land-grant schools led to the establishment of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, an educational program for future army, navy, and air force officers. The second Morrill Act (1890) initiated regular appropriations to support land-grant colleges, which came to include 17 predominantly African American colleges and 30 American Indian colleges.

    Before you scoff and say “ah, vocational schools” – The University of Minnesota system is a land grant school. Many of the best-known US universities and colleges are land-grant schools.

    The Act made our educational system into one that gave practical help and support to our society beyond teaching philosophy and arts and gentlemanly thinking – these schools’ missions revolve around providing practical help and education to their surrounding societies. Especially in agricultural areas, these schools supplied critical training and research in areas that matter to us.

    But many academics would rather their product be specifically “valueless” – i.e., they scoff at practical education as “vo-tech school” – like high school shop class. They would rather be part of something loftier, and so they do their best to divorce their role from their founding mission.

    All of which I type just to explain why I bristle at Perry’s seeming disparagement of that mission. And, all of which would have been more meaningful if that was what he meant.

  • All of which I type just to explain why I bristle at Perry’s seeming disparagement of that mission. And, all of which would have been more meaningful if that was what he meant. (bobby b, May 14, 2020 at 3:10 am)

    I agree – everyone is correct here. Your point is valid and well worth remembering. However the OP’s many virtues include being one of the (sadly, few) academics who does not need to be reminded and was not addressing that, as Perry correctly remarked. Paul Marks (May 14, 2020 at 12:25 am) wrote a good summary of the issue the OP was addressing, in distinction to your point.

    I believe the land grant colleges derive from an educational attitude that comes from the beginning of the republic when one of the founding fathers said education would be for the labouring and the learned, with the former naturally focussed on a utilitarian benefit from it and the latter as properly focussed on learning without regard to the utility of it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Excellent article indeed.

    Indeed, it is almost sad that such statements are even necessary at times such as this, but there it is.

  • GregWA

    Seems the “vo-tech” or land grant education builds on and develops common sense whereas post-bachelors science and math degrees (not engineering) do the opposite: I know a lot of PhDs with little common sense. Even a few engineers. Many of them don’t know which end of a wrench, screwdriver or even shovel does what; some do. I prefer an advanced degree to include hands on education: how to build things, how things work, not just where’s the on/off switch. This should actually be started at the high school and undergraduate level (should be student shops with craftsmen/teachers in both venues).

    Loved Paul Marks’ point that if the universities have ceased their mission of a general education in the founding ideas of our society, in developing critical thinking, their reason for existing has ceased. One reason they’ve strayed is that everyone now goes to university (in the US), well, an awful lot more than did 40 years ago when I got my BS. And most of them have no business being there–just there to party, it’s the thing to do. The bar for getting in is awfully low. From the universities’ point of view, money, the student loan racket, is the only reason they’re there.

    I’m really hoping that the surge in online communication spurred by COVID will put pressure on the big universities and reduce their funding and scope. I can dream.

  • James Hargrave

    And too often nowadays it is about diplomas, from courses which do no instil learning and have no utilitarian value either. The last time I heard an impassioned plea from the head of a university in support of (a liberal) education was in Roumania (the Rector of Bucharest University)!

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – it will not astonish you to learn that I believe the Act of 1862 to be unconstitutional. This is because I believe the words “general welfare” at the start of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States as the PURPOSE of the specific spending powers that are then listed for the Congress. I do not believe there is a catch-all “general welfare spending power” which is, sadly, what the courts have ruled.

    But I certainly do NOT scoff at Vocational Training – far from it.

    Near the end of the film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” the character played by James Stewart is a Senator coming back from Washington D.C with lots of money for the new State, for good things – such as vocational training.

    I totally agree with the AIMS of the James Stewart character – I want a prosperous society and lots of opportunities. But I totally disagree with his METHODS.

    “But Paul – that puts you on the side of the evil Liberty Valance”

    I guess it does – even though I do not like the character.

    It would also have been good if John Wayne’s character had openly called him out – rather than shot him from a ally way.

    Such things as vocational training can be provided without Big Government.

  • NickM

    I think a lot depends on the University. I got my BSc from Nottingham which was very politically apathetic. Even the politics students… This suited me fine. I went to learn physics, maths and, yes, have a good time. Mission accomplished. Having said that… If I recall correctly Nottingham’s main campus has one statue. Who? It should be of Jesse Boot who gifted the land (a very handsome gift) and was the reason Nottingham had the finest pharmacy department in Europe. Not that mattered to me per-se. Anyway, I was taught by folks like this. A really great bloke. Maybe a statue of him might also be in order. Instead they have one of DH Lawrence – author of unreadable twaddle. Now, DH Lawrence did attend University College, Nottingham (as it then was). He is on record as having said some very nasty things about my alma mater and he left without a degree but with the wife of a professor of German. Apparently he didn’t find her attractive and called her ugly but she enjoyed anal sex – or as Lawrence desceribed it, “sex without friction”(!?!). He really was a class act. I think the statue is outside the education department. You really can’t make this up.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think it is worth thinking about Universities from a more economics point of view. What are the incentives? Why do Universities even exist? What makes a highly reputable university have that high reputation?

    It seems to me that Universities are primarily judged on their research contributions. As I mentioned my oldest son is heading to University this year, and so for the past two years I have been working with him researching schools. In all that time I don’t recall any university bragging about the quality of their teaching. I hear a lot about the number of Nobel laureates working there. I hear a lot about prestigious professors who’s ideas changed the world, or who their world class alumni are. I also hear a lot about how great their gym facilities and restaurants are, or how fast their wifi is, or what a great bunch of clubs they have. And, of course, with this being America, I hear a lot about how great their football team is. But, like I say, I never heard about their teaching quality.

    So in a sense, Universities aren’t really incentivized to provide good teaching, or provide their students with a good education. Whereas they are absolutely incentivized to do research. So the present situation should be no surprise. In fact the way that students fund their education, through loans and grants, means that they often pick colleges based on the aforementioned quality of the gym, or how fast the WiFi is, whereas parents are perhaps more concerned with the prestigeousness of the college.

    In a sense though that prestige is key. What is a University, from the point of view of an undergraduate? It is a place to learn skills, obtain a well rounded education, have a good time, and ultimately, get a diploma. Those classes can easily be delivered in a much lower cost way over youtube (in fact many of the classes taught are already on YT), and the tutorial and testing aspects can easily be handled remotely. I guess having a good time is something that is easier to do without your parents around, but you can do that too. So the main thing that university is offering is the diploma. And for that, prestige is particularly important.

    Anyway, I am rambling a little. What I think the problem here is that the incentives are wrong. You pay the same irrespective of how good an education you get. You pay the same irrespective of the usefulness of your education.

    So I think a fairly straightforward solution is to align the incentives. For example, one fairly straightforward solution is this: offer a University education for free, but in exchange you agree to give the university 20% of your income for the first ten years after you graduate. Here we are trying to optimize the universities to provide what students really want — a well paying job. If a University education doesn’t up your income 20% then it is arguably a waste of time anyway.

    Of course this flies in the face of the ivory tower academy’s idea that education is about bettering your soul rather than bettering your job prospects. But I think most of the consumers would rather better their souls rather more inexpensively than that.

    It seems to me that this approach solves a lot of problems in education by better aligning desired outcomes with incentives. If I am not mistaken Purdue University in Indiana has been playing around the edges of such an approach. I hope they take it further.

  • NickM

    That wasn’t a ramble. But there is an issue with your 20% idea. What if you bugger off out of the country. University prestige is, in many ways, a self-fulfilling prophecy. A prestigious university can hire top folks. It can set higher standards for student admissions. It easily winds up that a good university is a good university because it’s a been a good university. And, here in the UK, there can be massive snobbery. My wife has an MA in translation and linguistics from the University of Westminster. But that’s a former polytechnic! Yes, it is, and not as prestigious as, say, UCL. But it is also one of only two UK institutions that do that course if your foreign language is Russian. I did my MSc (astrophysics) at Queen Mary, London. Why? Back in ’95-’96 QM had cheap digs. It also had funding. Even if I’d got funding at, say, Imperial I’d have had to find the rent for Kensington which was almost twice what I paid in Stepney. I didn’t even bother applying to some places because even with funding I’d have had to borrow a lot against a degree which is not a guaranteed earner.

  • NickM

    Vocational training is best done on the job and provided by the company you are working for because they know what skills they need you to have. Simples.

  • Fraser Orr

    Vocational training is best done on the job and provided by the company you are working for because they know what skills they need you to have. Simples.

    I don’t agree. Training employees is an investment, and you have no guarantee of an ROI except in some special circumstances. It is really about math. Lets say I run a plumbing company and I hire some kid out of high school. Lets say a full time plumber can generate $100,000 in business, and I have to pay him $50,000. However, a trainee plumber earns $25,000 and generates zero business (possibly negative business because he consumes the time of my productive plumbers.) So, I train him for two years, and it costs me $50,000 in salary. Now I have a plumber who I pay $35,000 keeping the extra $15k to recoup my training costs over three years. However, the newly minted plumber is worth $50k in the market place, so he quits and gets a better job, and I can’t recover my costs. So training in most cases, where there is no legal binding to work off the training, is a losing proposition.

    In days gone by when it was hard to switch jobs, or where there was an apprenticeship system that bound the trainee to the trainer for a while that was different. But in a situation of free movement of labor, it is not usually worth training people.

    There are exceptions of course. It is often worth training people in skills that you need that are not readily transferable, or where the cost of training is negligable compared the the value it produces.

    But in the trades? If I ran a company like that I would not train my team, I’d expect them to go to night school or some other method to do learn on their own dime.

  • bobby b

    May 14, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    “Vocational training is best done on the job and provided by the company you are working for because they know what skills they need you to have.”

    Training about which bolt to remove first when changing the UPS van’s transmission – training on how to use a bandsaw when making your birdhouses – training on how to put tab A into slot B while assembling routers – sure, they’re best done privately, by employers.

    The use of “vocational” was perhaps unfortunate. Here, it also includes things such as “how to raise healthier livestock”, and “new cold-ground seed germination techniques”, and “can hydraulic fracturing increase yields in the unique shale structures of the Permian Basin, and how?”

    Much of the world now eats better and stays warmer because of work done towards practical problems in the land-grant schools of the USA. Vocational? Sure. Also great for survival. These topics are of general interest to society, and we’re where we are to a great extent thanks to public-institution efforts.

  • NickM

    When I was an undergrad Nottingham University had a lot of Malaysian students. A lot – the past two Kings of that country were graduates. Anyway… Mostly the had their educationpaid for by the Malaysian State on the condition they returned and worked for the State (or State companies) for ten years. So, get a good degree, paid for fully, and then a guaranteed job and the country gets your skills. Everyone’s a winner! I see no reason why a private company couldn’t do much the same.

  • GregWA

    Paul, but the Duke had to do it that way, so Ransom (Stewart’s character) could learn that a gun is needed to solve some problems, to oppose evil. At least in the old West. If the Duke just shot Liberty at high noon in the street, sure as hell Sen. Stoddard would be arguing in Congress for gun control!

    But one thing is for sure, Liberty needed killing!

  • Fraser Orr

    see no reason why a private company couldn’t do much the same.

    Maybe, in fact I mentioned that in my comments. This is more the traditional model of apprenticeship. But to be honest, I think that it would be extremely hard to enforce something like that in today’s arrangement of employment law. But if you could make that work then it would then be worth paying for the training.

    FWIW, I have employed a lot of technical people in my life, so those are the sorts of people I am used to working with. They are like herding cats, and it definitely isn’t worth paying to train them except in some highly specific skills. I have certainly heard of it happening (usually in big wasteful companies), but it is pretty common also for people to do certification and training on the side, sometimes with minimal support from the employer, often with the promise of a kick up in pay once they get the qualification.

  • neonsnake

    The use of “vocational” was perhaps unfortunate

    I don’t think so.

    What, I believe, you’ve articulated, is that we don’t live under a perfect libertarian society. If we did, we’d have councils (much decentralized) that would vote for and agree that vocational training as an important thing.

    Nothing “un-libertarian” about that.

    It’s important to note the difference between your public vs private dichotomy. Full on private leads us back into fuedalism. Which, y’know, is what our kind originated as “against”, with all the full throated passion we should have.

    😉 😆

  • If we did, we’d have councils (much decentralized) that would vote for and agree that vocational training as an important thing.

    We would? I suspect Libertopia would view education & training as entirely within the purview of private schools, home schooling & on-the-job vocational schooling, with very few ‘councils’ voting on anything at all that was not related to collective threats 😉

  • neonsnake

    ? I suspect Libertopia would view education & training as entirely within the purview of private school

    That’s Havil-land.

    In Neon-Town, on t’other side of the valley, we have an elected council to make those sorts of decisions.

    Libertopia has room for many types of setup.


  • Paul Marks

    NickM – you may well have a point about on-the-job training.

    But I think there is a role for formal institutions of such training – as long as they are not government funded or controlled.

    “Statehood means fences” (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and this is presented as a positive thing – even in the National Review account of the film.

    “Fences” put up on the land of OTHER PEOPLE – the government helping arable farmers steal the land of cattle ranchers.

    Then the land which is being used for arable farming (when it is not suitable for that purpose) becomes a “dust bowl” – and there are demands for yet more statism to “prevent this happening again”, when the government made it happen the first time.

    A land of little farms under the benevolent rule of the government – with children sent to government schools to sing the praises of said government (literally – for the “Pledge of Allegiance” does not even mention the Constitution, and that is not accident as it was written by two SOCIALISTS Edward and Francis Bellamy) – no that is not going to work, at least not universally.

    Let different forms of farming (cattle or arable) develop naturally – in places where the soil and climate is suitable for them.

    No taking of land (by force) and other such.

    No surprise – I do not like the film “Shane” either.