Monday, March 19, 2012

Sort of political: Remind me why we are paying for these people's education?

It was about the worst case I have seen in recent years of bad ad placement. The ad on the bus was from the Ontario Federation of Students and it said that "Education is a right". By which they meant post secondary education.

What made it bad placement? The fact that the bus was fully of drunken, howling, destructive university students. One of whom, a girl in a torn singlet and nothing else, had passed out. (Except for a moment when she roused herself, looked out the window and gave someone the finger. I couldn't see anyone in the bagel shop she gave the finger to looking our way so she was either a) cursing a former employer or b) angry at the pink elephants running alongside the bus.)

It was ten o'clock in the morning. They'd gotten hammered at Saint Patrick's Day breakfasts. The old rule was no drinks before the sun crosses the yardarm—getting so hammered you lose consciousness by ten in the morning is quite an achievement.

Usually the argument for funding education is that these young people represent our future. Living next to a university and seeing students every day, the thought that this is my future makes me shudder. (At least they didn't riot and throw bottles at police here as students did elsewhere.)

By the way, anyone else notice that having girls become a majority on university and college campuses hasn't exactly improved things?

On that subject, approximately 70 percent of current students will be graduating (assuming they graduate) in fields where there is little employment opportunity. That has actually gotten worse as the number of women at university has increased. The vast majority of that 70 percent are women. And it has gotten worse for a very simple reason: the fields that do offer reasonable employment opportunities require mathematics and women tend to either not pick degrees with a mathematics requirement or tend to drop out of such programs.

If you'll permit a further digression, most people who graduate with STEM degrees end up in jobs or eventually move into jobs that don't actually require the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills they get at university. So why are these degrees so useful? Because it's hard to inflate grades in these fields because they require objectively measurable skills so the related degrees actually provide a reasonable measure of the student's intelligence and work habits. A student with straight As in Anthropology, on the other hand, is just as likely to be nice, easily malleable and responsive to her professor's attempts to indoctrinate her into their political views but not very smart as anything else. Employers know this.

CBC reporter Kady O'Malley tweeted on Sunday that the watching girls doing the walk of shame the next day was something else. It's one thing to be going home in the same clothes you wore to the dance club the night before and another thing altogether to be going home wearing "Saint Paddy's" gear when it's no longer Saint Patrick's Day. One combo I saw on a hung-over girl climbing on the bus at seven AM featured skin tight green running shorts with panty-hose and sky-high heels (a bizarre combination that seems to very popular this spring) and a tank top that with "Kiss me I'm Irish" only the "Kiss" has been crossed out and replaced with another suggestion of what you could, and someone obviously did, do to her.

Final digression: I found myself wondering if this sort of phenomenon isn't related to the hypergamy issue. If women already outnumber men on campus and if being seen as too successful further hurts women's chances to get a hook up (never mind a date), then one possible solution is to dress and behave in a way that reassures every man that you are just a stupid ____.

But, to finally get back to the point, why are we funding this? Yes, you can read about wild behaviour by young men at universities going all the way back to the middle ages but their education wasn't paid for by the taxpayer. Do we really need to be giving young people who could be learning on the job a four year vacation from reality so they can behave like irresponsible jerks on the grounds that this will make them better citizens? Our future?

This needs to stop.

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