My kids got the movie, Accepted, out of the library. It is not much. Minimalist plot summary: Goofy kid can't get into college, starts one of his own and succeeds. In watching the movie accepted, it is obvious why “hero,” Bartelby, has not got into college. Stupid parents beget stupid kids. It is one long unending not so funny vulgarity. I don't know what it is about golf and college movies, but it appears de rigeur that there be an anti Anglo-Saxon jibe about anti-semitic blackballing. Hey, it's almost 2008, someone has to get the script writers of worthless movies a life.
So why do I waste time on something I think is complete dreck. The truth is, I'm not sure it was a comedy. Oh, it definitely wanted to be a comedy with nonstop lame jokes. Unfortunately, there was just a tad too much reality. The plot line of kid sets up college that is all things to all youth, well, is that not a lot of what college is sold as?
Lets take a look at a admissions web page for one of New England's popular colleges where cool kids go for a serious but fun four years (at least),
Imagine yourself at Middlebury College, with four years to try new ideas and explore the subjects and pursuits you feel passionate about. Four years to explore a liberal arts curriculum so diverse and interdisciplinary that it would take over a century to experience it all. Four years to act in a student production, do research with faculty scientists, join a relief mission to a third-world country, hike the Long Trail, or play left wing on the hockey team. Where would you start? No matter where you choose to begin, Middlebury offers abundant opportunities for learning and growth—and opens doors to the future you envision.
Ah well, I'm sure no catalog ever said something like, you will spend hours in the library doing term papers and we expect you to toe the line and if you don't, maybe voke ed is for you.
In a prior post, I told how I was required to read Newman's The Idea of a University the summer before I attended a papist undergraduate institution. To my utter shame, I remember so little of it. I vaguely recall some of it in that an undergraduate curriculum at a Liberal Arts college should be knowledge for its own sake. Well, I guess the fellow in the film was pursuing the goal of blowing things up with his mind for its own sake, but that is hardly a liberal art. No matter, we want you to grow and learn at Middlebury while we open doors for that future you envision.
South Harmon Institute of Technology, the name of the college in the film (yes, they meant that acronym) also wants you to grow and learn. The standards are undoubtedly looser than Middlebury's but the idea is really little different.
Now, do not get the idea the voice of humility is decrying this. After all, if we have a real system of liberal education, maybe one hundredth of one percent of the population might qualify. That is not on. The country would not stand for it and the thought of an aimless horde of seventeen year olds being unleashed on the country to search for work they are unqualified to do and probably does not exist is scary to say the least. No let them ferment for a few years and take jobs that the country needs like drug counselor or campus security worker.
Indeed, we have been marching toward this for well over a hundred years. No, it is not something that started with the post WWII GI Bill. Christopher Lasch, In the Culture of Narcissism wrote that The president of Princeton was hoping the success of the football team would lead to interest and applications to his college among Kentuckians well over a century ago. Princeton, that bastion of privilege, where the BA is a ticket to membership in the elite actually had to sell itself to rubes in the hinterlands?
The growth of college has probably been the most successful rent seeking enterprise in world history, putting the pre-christian pagan priesthood that it has much in common with to shame.