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Top Educator Admits He Has No Handle On the Problem, Insists He Knows How to Fix It

Posted on July 20 2010 11:00 am
Norbert Michel is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. Michel has a PhD in Financial Economics from the University of New Orleans, and he teaches statistics, economics, and finance courses. Visit Michel's blog at

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In this week’s Inside Higher Ed, Garrison Walters drops (what should be) a proverbial atomic bomb.  Walters, executive director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, doesn’t just want to improve higher education, he wants to change our entire culture.  With only a modest increase in funding, of course.

The main challenge facing higher education, according to this distinguished gentleman, is that our culture does not properly value it. This while other nations, such as Japan and those in Europe, do. You would think Walters, being a college administrator for so long, has a long list of studies to back up such a claim, wouldn’t you?

Well, you’d be wrong. OK, one study then? Nope. Not even one. Walters admits:

I’ve not been able to find good comparative data on the U.S. vs. other nations on attitudes toward the value of education.

If Walters was not in such an important position, this sort of craziness wouldn’t matter.  But everything in the article fits the conventional wisdom of today’s college educators and administrators.  To begin, we tend to have a much higher opinion of our mission than we should.  Walters, for instance, laments:

…the line of minimum necessity has long since crossed into higher education; now, if all you have is a high school diploma, you’re a knowledge economy dropout.

The reality is that thousands of jobs did not leave the U.S. because our 5th graders and college students didn’t value education.  Likewise, those jobs did not move overseas because other countries’ students did value it.  This will sound heretical to many educators, but earning a college degree – in any field –  will not guarantee anyone a job in our “knowledge economy.”

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