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Thomas Friedman and the Higher Education Bubble

December 18th, 2011 - 12:00 am

That Thomas Friedman would spout stupidity and anti-Semitism surprises me no more than the appearance of a gumball after I put a quarter into the machine and turn the knob. But one line in the New York Times‘ calumnist’s (sic) Dec. 13 tantrum against Israel was worth a double-take:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.

Why on earth is the “real test” at the University of Wisconsin? For liberals, the only people who count are the smart people, because it is an article of faith that  social engineering can fix all the world’s problems, and a logical conclusion that only smart people qualify as social engineers. It doesn’t matter what the dumb people think. They are the ones who need to be socially engineered. To Friedman, it is irrelevant whether Americans at large support Israel by a 4:1 margin or better, and that support for Israel is growing steadily, as the Gallup Poll consistently shows:

Middle East Sympathies, Full Trend, 1988-2011

That poll includes dumb people, so it doesn’t count. To Friedman, what matters is what university audiences might think. The insularity of the liberal mind is astonishing. It brings to mind the anecdote about Emperor Ferdinand of Austria (deposed for incompetence in 1848). He went hunting and shot and eagle. The bird fell to his feet, and Ferdinand said, “It’s got to be an eagle — but it’s only got one head!”

The American university system exists for the most part to produce the social engineers who will fix all the world’s problems. During the 1960s, those of us who had the misfortune to attend the better colleges were taught that our mission was to make the world perfect, through the Great Society, arms control, internationalism, disarmament, and so forth. When the Vietnam War and the urban riots of the 1960s showed that the liberalism of our elders had not fixed the world’s problems, we abominated them, and pursued even more radical versions of social engineering. The radicalization of the universities produced a generation of clever people unsuited to productive activity in the real world but skilled at bloviating, and they became the tenured faculty of today. And their salaries, privileges, and perks continued to grow to the point that $50,000 in annual tuition barely covers them. Overall CPI is up 70% since 1990, but tuition and fees have risen by 300%.

tuition-cpi-college

Source: Moody’s

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