Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Free College? TANSTAAFL, buddy.

Some political candidates these days are suggesting that, like certain European countries, we should make college "free" to students. That idea's been around for a while, the MOOC and Open University concepts have been floating around higher ed for years. While the concept may eventually be made workable, something that becomes obvious even from a casual inspection is that all this 'free' education is not free.

The cost burden has simply been shifted from the students to others. Usually, that other group is you and me, the tax-payers. If the current candidates get their way (a big if, I say) it will be no different. Federal money (all of which it gets from us) poured in 50-gallon drums into the pockets of universities still has to come from somewhere. 

Here's another thing, too. 

What happens to a thing when you make it free?  The people who have access to the thing conclude that you now believe that the thing is of little or no inherent value. If the holder/creator of a thing thinks it valuable, that person will sell it to you - exchange value for value. This is, with almost no exception, the way humankind has operated since the days of barter.

When you take something formerly of value and declare it to be free, you are in effect stating that it is no longer of value.

A thing that is of no value to the giver, is of little to no value to the receiver. Please explain to me how much the typical student enrolled in our 'free' and compulsory education system value the experience they are required to have.

I look at college students at my own school and note how many of them are more interested in their hobbies and parties and smart phones than they are in the incredibly expensive undertaking in which they find themselves. It was the same when I was in school myself - many acted as though going to class and getting an education was the last thing on their minds.

So don't make college free!  Make it less expensive (I've my own theories on that) but not free.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Western Civilization and Prosperity

Continuing on with my recent theme about Western Civilization, here's a TED Talk on the question of why the West has been so very good at creating prosperity, in comparison to the rest of the world. It's not geography, it's not even culture exactly.

Ferguson lists six factors which exist in the West more than elsewhere that contribute to prosperity:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

So you're into opera now?

Maybe. I've recently signed up to get The Critic's Notebook, "Weekly recommendations from the editors of The New Criterion on what to read, see, and hear in the world of culture."

This week they recommend that I get tickets to the Metropolitan Opera to watch Maria Stuarda, which I'm guessing is about Mary Stuart, queen of England, better known as Mary Queen of Scots. 

Obviously this is from before she gets her head cut off.
I am not a fan of opera; but I'm not opposed to it either. The Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera is about as close as I get to opera most of the time, but I (and you) should be willing to give it a try.

Here's a video still from the Met's website:

I can't get the video to work, so follow the link at the top and scroll down to it. Or try this YouTube video.

Because Western Culture is worth celebrating.