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Will Your Child Be Taken for This Ride? College in America.

Written by Gary North on July 10, 2013

Somewhere, there are hundreds of parents who have sent their children to the University of Illinois in order to get an education. They let them choose sociology as their major. Their children now spend their days repeating the most important phrase for sociology graduates: “Do you want fries with that?”

Today, other parents just like them are repeating this decision. It costs them up to $35,000 a year — and rising. It costs them up to $49,000 a year if they are out-of-state. That is if their children graduate in four years. Some won’t.

The average student in the United States takes 4.7 years to complete her B.A. (About 57% of college graduates these days are women.)

The University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign) is the premier campus of the tax-funded university system in Illinois. This means that if any taxpayer in Illinois refuses to pay taxes to operate this school, he will be fined, and if he is really recalcitrant, will be arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to prison.

One of the sociology professors at the University of Illinois, is not a full professor. He is an associate professor. He earned his Ph.D. in 1995. It has taken a long time to get to associate professor. He may never make it. But I think he will. He has mastered the specialized language of sociology.

I respect this. I never could learn how to do it. I had graduate-level courses in sociology, but that was under Robert Nisbet. He never mastered the lingo of sociology, either. He got into the field early, before World War II, when you were still allowed — even encouraged — to write in English.

Let me give you an example of a recent academic paper that our U of I sociologist wrote. He is hoping to become a full professor. He therefore still writes academic papers, hoping for a promotion. In the conclusion to one of these papers, which means the final word in which he is making his most important point, we read the following point. Your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to determine what the paper’s topic was.

In structural terms, what I presented here is another case of strength of weak ties and structural holes arguments. Yet, in the context of mobilization, its theoretical and substantive implications are made more vivid, showing how networks matter and how the micro-macro Mobilization linkages operate (Burt 2000; Diani 2003; Gould 1991; McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001; White 1992). In accounting for collective action dynamics from a relational point of view, Granovetter (2002: 53) distinguishes three kinds of configuration of social networks and their corresponding potentials. One, fragmented social structures deficient in bridging ties, are likely to find collective action difficult, failing to mobilize politically. Two, those that are densely connected, though amenable to a high level of cooperation, are even less likely to be effectively coordinated from a center. Lastly, in the structures characterized by cluster-and-bridge configuration, the presence of a limited number of actors towards whom most interactions converge greatly facilitates the transformation of an aggregate of largely isolated groups into a connected and coordinated movement network, as it opens up channels of potential communication and mutual recognition (Diani 2003: 118; Simmel 1955). This is where Granovetter (2002) expects to find the greatest potential efficacy for large-scale social phenomena. Revere and Warren found themselves in precisely such a setting, and they acted to couple the decoupled (Breiger 1995: 126-127; White 1992). In mobilizing for the American Revolution, this was the other–and, as I have argued, far more important–ride.

What was topic? Do you know? Are you sure? (Do you care?)

(To find out, click the link.)

Continue Reading on www.garynorth.com

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17 thoughts on “Will Your Child Be Taken for This Ride? College in America.

  1. It is either about community organizing or about Paul Revere. That is my guess because at the end there is a reference to Revere and Warren and the American Revolution and a ride. Other than that, it is gobbledegook, and I have a Ph.D. in psychology, and have read my share.

    Poor fellow, his life lacks meaning.

  2. One more thing: Western Governer's University (WGU) is accredited and you can take all the classes you can pass for about $5.8k per year. Take all the classes you want, all online, you can keep a full time job and get your degree nights / weekends. Like North says on his website, there are deals like this all over, you could finish in 3 years if you work hard. Disruptive technology in education.

  3. Has anyone ever worked out the lifetime ROI for various degrees won at different levels in different major subjects?

    Wouldn't that make an interesting info-graphic?

    My guess is that all engineering and hard science degrees at all levels would yield positive and high ROIs compared to all other degrees which would yield neither.

    Another way to approach this question would be to simply interview a large sample of folks doing the scut work at MacDonalds to graph the specific educational attainments of burger-flippers.

  4. Jam Akin says:

    The professor went back to Korea in 2010 where he is now on staff at Seoul National University (see link below) presumably writing less dense prose in Hangul. Need to do a better job at fact checking Gary.

  5. I received an AA degree in 1967 from a junior college, while working 60 hours a week at two jobs to pay my own way and then joined the Army at age 19, serving from 1967-1972, before being medically retired with 50% disability. I was able to finish college in another year and a half, earning the BA degree in 1973, and the being graduated with a MA degree two years later, thanks to Vocational Rehab from the VA, still working part time, most of those 3 1/2 years, since even with the tuition paid, the disability pay was not enough to live on. The BA had been in sociology, as I had wished to be a sociology professor at a college or university, however, I did end up switching to city planning for graduate school, which was and is a better field to be employable. I know tuition is much higher than it was at that time, and so is the pay scale for unskilled workers. I know a lot of local kids who follow the route I took, junior college first, while working, and then a four year college after that. Because of the way our military currently treats its personnel, I do not recommend joining the military for education benefits, you are too unlikely to survive, either physically or mentally, to be able to use those benefits. You are better off finding a college near you where you can live at home, work at least part time, and get a degree that has employment possibilities. If all you want to go to college for is a four year drunken party, you likely won't graduate anyhow and you might as well save the money you will go in debt to party and party at home with friends.
    Oh and that paper reminds me of my Master's Thesis, which the professor told me was too banal and I had to go buy a reverse dictionary to find enough 50 cent and dollar words to replace the nickle and dime words, because she told me if anyone can read it and understand it, it is not professional enough. This guy must have had a similar adviser. After revising my thesis to make it acceptable, it would bore anyone who tried to read it to sleep in less than five minutes. Got a wonderful grade.:)

  6. One thing about basket weaving… you learn to do something useful, that can feed you and your family if you work hard and create things people want.

    A good way to stop the scam is zero government financing – make the universities tote the note & go down with it if they scatter their seeds on concrete.

  7. EHeassler USN-Ret. says:

    You beat me to the gobbledegook description. What you see here is the end result of non-scientific and soft-scientific academics attempting to justify their existence by making the relatively easy subject matter difficult or impossible to understand. All they've done is let the cat out of the bag that they don't have an effing clue what they are talking about and that their subject is immaterial to the accomplishment of anything other than their continued receipt of paychecks.

  8. kenny9876 says:

    This kind of academic hogwash pervades higher education these days, and you and I are charged handsomely for its production. But here's the dirty little secret. Hardly any of this drivel is read by anyone. In fact, it's not written to be read. It's written to pad resumes and get promotions. A citation study conducted in the 1990s revealed that 93% of the articles in the arts and humanities are not cited once in the five years its publication. It was only marginally better in the social sciences, but much better in the hard sciences, engineering, etc. Herein lies the problem. Much of the cost of higher education is a result of the subsidization of research, most of which serves no educational or societal value, particularly in fields like sociology, anthropology, minority "studies, art history, psychology, history, English (e.g. "the continued hegemony of white male-dominated stereotypes in the contemporary discourse," blah, blah, blah…). Because the research is on the so-called "cutting edge," and addresses arcane and obscure subject matter of interest chiefly to the author or a rarefied circle of "scholars," it's rarely read even within its own academic discipline, and certainly not by a mass public. Yet, it is on the basis of this research-dominated culture that teaching, particularly of undergraduates, is neglected and often passed off to graduate students. The average professor teaches no more than 4-5 classes per year, and less if they can get away with it. Plus, the definition of a “semester” has been evolving, to as little as ten weeks in some instances, but averaging 15-16 weeks. Assuming a 16 week semester x two, that leaves 20 weeks to do all the research you want (i.e. 52 minus 32). Most keep no regular office hours, all the better to avoid students entirely.

    I recently received a newsletter from the History Department at my alma mater, Purdue University. It was loaded with the research projects, books, articles published by faculty, the vast majority in obscure fields of interest that serve no purpose other than the often idiosyncratic interests of their authors, which students and the taxpayers of Indiana subsidize handsomely. There is NEVER any questioning of the value of their research. It's simply taken as a given that if the professor teaches his or her assigned classes, he or she is allowed to engage in whatever research is of interest to them. It operates under the umbrella of what is called "academic freedom."

    Now, no one is questioning the right for any faculty member, or individual for that matter, to research any subject that interests him or her. They are free to do it anytime, on their own dime. But when the teaching load is reduced substantially and research subsidized, we have a problem, particularly when the research is of little or no benefit to society at large. And when the research and teaching promote left-wing ideology and intellectually tendentious theories, we have an even bigger problem. Since colleges are ruled by their departments, few will question this dynamic because most want to move up the food chain, gradually jettisoning teaching in favor of research. Thus, graduates become the lackeys doing the teaching, and undergraduates, and their parents, the overcharged victims.

    Higher education is headed for a well-deserved fall. Hardest hit will be high-priced second- and third-tier private colleges without a “reputation;” and fields in the liberal arts. Schools with august reputations will continue to survive because the rich and naïve will continue to pay for “impressive” credentials, regardless of value added. Online education will be the chief beneficiary. Revealingly, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), has been conducting tests of civic literacy among colleges students since about 2000. Graduates of schools with even the best reputations (Harvard, Yale, Brown) fared poorly on knowledge of basic facts of American government and history. Harvard graduates did the best, with a score of 69% (D+). Others, like Eastern CT State University, less so—with a score of 40%–
    this on questions no more difficult than those given to prospective citizens. Also, the graduates of many schools exhibiting signs of negative learning, since their scores were higher as entering freshman than when they graduated. A lot of good $200,000 did them. But I’ll bet they can tell you all about “white male hegemony” or the dangers of “global warming.” The fact is, higher education has been oversold and, for most students, it is a bad bargain, leaving the average student with more than $25,000 in debt, and many with no job.

    Fries with that? Indeed!

  9. Does it take the average American teenager 4 years to learn how to say “Do you want fries with that?”

  10. Maria Booth says:

    How did you know the professor's name? I did not see it in Gary North's article.

  11. If you opened the link to his paper, his name is right there under the title. At least he got that right.

  12. Erik Osbun says:

    A sociology degree is a waste of money.

  13. The cost of higher education in America has been increasing at a rate reminiscent of medical rates. The problem in both cases has been the third-party payer. In the medical field, it's been insurance companies; in education, Uncle Sam and the banks. In either case, however, ultimately the costs have been borne by the taxpayer–with jeopardy to the patients/students as well. Both fields desperately need to be subjected to the discipline of the market. But politics being what it is, that's not likely.

  14. My guess is community organization around political activism, but the reference to the”revolution” is interesting. I can’t imagine that it’s really about the American revolution, there can’t be too many historical sociologists.

  15. Joanne Mortensen says:

    I wonder what all that money they collect is used for ? with these "Professors?" .. it isn't used to "Educate " I think they are hell bent on grinding out good little "Liberals"

  16. kenny9876 says:

    Quite right, David. Federal student aid, that rose significantly in the Clinton and Obama years, has become the chief driver in the inflation in college costs. It just gives colleges the ability to aise tuition/fees accordingly. The last I checked inflation in college costs was running at a rate of 7% annually, far above the rate of inflation.

  17. kenny9876 says:

    This U of I sociologist has nothing on the inscrutable jargon-laden drivel that English professors have been writing for years. It's enough to drive any lover of great literature to drink. Ironically, these people are in the nominal business of communication.