From 29 January's installment, "Some writing specialists excuse bad writing on the hopeful supposition that a gap exists between cognition and expression--similar to the way a stroke victim can have a complex thought, but cannot properly verbalize it. That is, students who write badly nevertheless know what they want to say, or what they have read, as well as anyone else. I have concluded that no evidence supports this postulate. Having no other means to discern congition than through its expression, one must take as a given that expression is cognition. ... The individual who cannot see things clearly cannot think about them clearly. ... My lecture hall comes equipped with all those media-wonders that higher education budgets now lavish on classrooms. ... Keeping the characters straight is an elementary gesture, formerly expected even of sixth-graders, and second nature for any habitual reader. ... The examples of defective prose that have paraded past in the previous installment of this series have exhibited pure epistemological confusion. ... They involve an unwillingness or inability to keep the good guys and bad guys straight in relation to two contending perspectives: for Homer, the Trojans are enemies, while for Virgil they are the heroes, and for him the Greeks are enemies. ... In a response to the depiction of individual moral crisis in Saint Augustine's Confessions, a different type of failure comes into view. ... The Confessions demand that a reader participate with the author in judging actions morally rather than pragmatically and insist that they turn the faculty of moral criticism on themselves. ... Oral people, as those scholars have noted, recognize prohibitions, to be sure, but they never perform moral analysis. Indeed, they see analysis as obfuscation and can show hostility to it. ... Augustine was also, as the Confessions tell us, susceptible to female attractiveness, and spent a period of inveterate brothel crawling and inexhaustible fornication. But Odysseus seeks to win back the material wealth and chattels that the squatters in his palace would steal from him. In contrast, Augustine, in spiritual revolt against worldliness, rejects power and riches for the sake of his intangible soul. This essential difference the student entirely misses. It is as though the student cannot hold the resemblance and the difference in mind simultaneously. ... The inability to make a straightforward statement along such lines as Augustine rejects self-indulgence and adopts self-control as a mandate of his conversion is much more than a funny instance of incompetence. It is a crippling intellectual deformity that will prevent a student who distantly glimpses a moral problem from adequately seeing or articulating it. ... He will lack the very notion of a deliberative resolution. ... Perhaps the only thing we can do is laugh, laugh at the irony of a society that was once the most literate that ever existed now reverting to the spiritual savagery of tribal existence. ... I see in the resentful incapacity of so many students a not-so-dim 'Shape of Things to Come' whose characteristics will be theirs: perceptive obtuseness, expressive coarseness, extreme limitation of language and therefore of concept, radical unfitness to judge complicated technical or moral problems, complete disconnetion from any meaningful past and, to borrow a term from Oswald Spengler, in a conditon utterly 'historyless.' The world will soon be dominated by such people. ... Petulance will characterize it universally. ... Many older, genuinely educated people surviving into this not-too-distant future will find the new world infantile and exasperating. ... When the educational system rejects cultivating intellect as its primary goal and dedicates iteself to fostering fellings, opinions, and baseless pride, it will discharge at the end of twelve years young people for whom the Jamesian 'buzz' of phenomena cannot resolve into a comprehensible image".
"As parents pack their youngsters off to college, they might ask themselves whether it's worth both the money they will spend and their children's time. Dr. Marty Nemko has researched that question in an article aptly titled 'America's Most Over-rated Product: Higher Education.' ... Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million students who took the ACT college entrance examinations in 2007 were prepared to do college-level study in math, English and science. Even though a majority of students are grossly under-prepared to do college-level work, each year colleges admit hundreds of thousands of such students. ... Nemko says that the worst of all is that few of these former college students, having spent thousands of dollars, wind up in a job that required a college education. It's not uncommon to find them driving a taxi, working at a restaurant or department store, performing some other job that they could have had as a high school graduate or dropout. .. First, only 40 percent of each year's 2 million freshmen graduate in four years; 45 percent never graduate at all. Often, having a college degree does not mean much. According to a 2006 Pew Charitable Trusts study, 50 percent of college seniors failed a test that required them to interpret a table about exericse and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, and compare credit card offers. About 20 percent of college seniors did not have the quantitive skills to estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station", Walter Williams (WW), 27 August 2008 at http://townhall.com/.
Is Bertonneau talking about our current president? I'll say again, many college graduates could not have intellectually survived my fifth-grade class.
WW is a professor of Economics at George Mason.