In 1933 1% of the population of Great Britain went to university. The intellectual life of the country, in which I include such informing elements as what was read, and written, in the press, was conducted at a level notably superior to that observable today, at a time, when more than half the population apparently attends university, and even gets a degree. Oh, everyone is now someone of high degree. It is even worse in the United States.
Why should this be so?
Mass pseudo-education is a mistake. It is ruining everything. It allows those who think they can think to think that, and they get in the way of those who, indeed, can. Half the time of an intelligent professor may be spent trying to deal with, and rebut, the nonsense put out by his colleagues, that he must wade through and take seriously, or pretend to. This takes time.
A shutting down of many of these schools, an end to the marketing that confuses vocational training and education ("Get a Good Education To Prepare For the Workplace"), the discouraging of university studies for most students and the intelligent replacement of universities by technical institutes that would unembarrassedly offer vocational training (including that in technology), could be accompanied by a closing of many colleges and universities. Perhaps university graduates would not be limited to, say, 1% of the population. But if the places are limited strictly on the basis of academic merit -- no demonstration of well-roundedness, nice-guyness, the joining-impulse, the summer work helping battered women or AIDS victims or working for "racial justice" here and there and everywhere, no miss personality, nothing but demonstrated academic ability, quickness of mind, would limit the numbers matriculating, and make that number close to the number graduating. Perhaps more than 1%. Perhaps 5%, or even 10.
Meanwhile, instead of mimicking the American example, where everyone waits and waits for the "college of my choice" for that just-always-over-the-horizon greatly-promised education that will make up for all the deficiencies that students endure in Grades 1 through 6, and 7 through 9, and 10 through 12 (fill in the numbers or names from your own system), years which for some, not all, can be more important, make a deeper impression, than those spent by some, not all, in university. But attention, glory, money goes to university professors, when more of it ought to go to teachers of younger students, and those who teach in the English and American secondary schools, ought to know that their work is held in high esteem, and ought to be difficult to attain, and to hold onto, in the way that teachers in lycees and licei and German or Hungarian gymnasiums were once meant to feel, and did feel, with academic results that were telling.
The hypertrophied attention to college faculty and those college years, tied up as it is with the belief that American higher education is the envy of the world -- if it is the envy of the world why, in so many fields, are half the graduate students in American universities foreigners, who did not take advantage of study in American colleges that are "the envy of the world"? In the first twelve years of regular schooling, training can be provided for all in language and literature, in the appreciation of some kinds of art, and in the rudiments of science or at least the methods of science, that will provide the sense of a shared culture, and offer the broad education of the kind a citizen a democracy needs, both to properly fulfill his civic responsibilities and his civilizational ones, and what's more, be better able to make his own life interesting, without relying on technological gewgaws to fill up his hours. And better students would no longer be sacrificed on the altar of no-child-left-behind ideologues, unwilling to take in the genetic facts of life, or the effect of what goes on outside of school, and that decides a good deal early on, though perhaps not quite as early on as used to be decided, at age 11, in English schools. Silk purses, sows' ears -- no can do. Less academic solicitousness -- other kinds of solicitousness, including putting pegs in the right holes -- for those who are indifferent or hostile or hopelessly or quasi-hopelessly dumb, and more academic solicitousness for those with a natural bent, a natural gift, might do a lot to insensibly cheer everyone up. Why must school be even more boring than it already is for those students upon whom everything rides, the very ones on whom the transmission of culture most depends.
The grader-in-chief in question should be quietly taken to task, and then to Tyburn -- resurrected like the hidden rivers, including the river after which Tyburn tree was first named, that the new Mayor claims he wishes to reveal -- and right there, quietly hung.
The Japanese, Koreans and Chinese are even more enamoured with academic entitlement than we in the West are, and it shows.
We have much to learn from them.
I am not convinced professors are getting attention, glory, and money (least of all the last). Most people correctly view professors as underpaid Leftist nincompoops whose stupidities have to be endured for four years. However, one has to go to college, because colleges have managed to foist a gigantic credentialling scam on society. Employers have to use college degrees as a proxy for the basic qualities of intelligence, competence, and responsibility that they're no longer allowed to test for themselves. If you allowed employers to give all prospective employees aptitude / intelligence tests, they would stop demanding college graduates, and college attendance would plummet dramatically.