Sep 3, 2022Liked by James Fallows

thank you for the insightful article!

"In reality, they brought out the worst rather than the best in all participants in the college-admission process"...these are the people who are supposed to be teaching ethics to students. No wonder society suffered the lack of ethics we see now.

For most of us in the Boston college circuit, it was a magical place of ideas and great professors:

richard feynman


“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all.”

“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.”

“What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school... It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see my physics students don't understand it... That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.”

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

“The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”

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Great post, as usual!

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Well said about community colleges. I would also like to put in a plug for regional public universities, of which your Ball State is a medium-size example.

America's 400+ regional publics drive more mobility into the middle class and beyond than any other type of college. To give one example, taken from a 2017 Times article--CUNY propels six times more lower income students into the middle class and beyond than all eight ivies, Chicago, Duke, Stanford, and MIT combined.

Regional publics, like state flagships and to a lesser extent, community colleges (which don't depend as heavily on state funding), have been increasingly starved of funding since the states, during the Reagan administration, began treating higher ed as a private, as opposed to public good. The schools have had to hike tuition beyond reasonable reach of many lower- and middle-income students and families, and enrollments have begun to decline. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, and to boot, there is a looming "demographic cliff," a consequence of the Great Recession.

Regional publics are arguably the country's single best defense against declining intergenerational mobility and growing income inequality (community colleges are a solid #2). The media have largely ignored the schools growing plight, focusing instead on the sexier subject of elite colleges' access deficiencies (vs. regional publics' access capacities). Rankings contribute to the problem, too, by diverting attention from the generally positive outcomes for regional public grads, who tend to remain in their communities and thus help perpetuate a virtuous circle.

Regional publics' communities have a lot to lose as the schools contract. That process could be hastened by students defecting to mega-online universities, like Southern New Hampshire and Western Governors. That's kind of like giving your business to Amazon instead of Main Street. Advocacy by business and civic leaders may represent the schools' best shot of reversing the funding trend, and making tuition affordable.

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Hi Jim -- great to see you pushing community colleges.

>>why community colleges remain so essential for opening opportunity to Americans, and yet have been so badly battered by the stresses of the pandemic era. In her piece in the same issue called “Breaking the Cycle of Privilege,” Laura Colarusso explains how Bunker Hill Community College, in Boston, has devised some answers.<<<

After retiring I have taught at Roxbury Community College, the other CC in Boston (besides Bunker Hill CC), and also an HBCU. It is the right place for so many students to start their higher ed career. Almost all of our students pay no tuition -- they are all covered by Pell Grants. We have so much back up for our students, most of whom are the first in their family to attend any college, ranging from tutoring to health care to placement if a student becomes homeless (which certainly happens).

Students can complete their first two years of college incurring no debt. Isn't that amazing....And we make it as easy as possible to transfer to the UMass system.

Teaching at a CC is a great way for folks like us who have been given so much in life to give back to others -- and to learn a great deal in the process.

best, Randy Foote

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Yes, starting school before Labor Day, especially grade school, is un-American and bordering on the immoral. It may be even worse than the election of the former guy.

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