Not-so-junky de­grees

The Washington Post - - POWER POST -

As the chief aca­demic of­fi­cer at a re­gional com­pre­hen­sive univer­sity, I read the Nov. 26 front-page ar­ti­cle “On elit­ists, ‘cry­ba­bies’ and ‘junky’ de­grees” with dis­may. It is dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Amer­i­can higher ed­u­ca­tion with the ded­i­cated work of fac­ulty and staff I see ev­ery day.

We work dili­gently to help our stu­dents de­velop the knowl­edge, skills and abil­i­ties that will pre­pare them for their first jobs and re­ward­ing ca­reers. And, rather than hop­ing our stu­dents “hang out and protest all day long,” our In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Af­fairs and Civic En­gage­ment pro­vides train­ing for stu­dents, fac­ulty and com­mu­nity mem­bers so they have the skills for con­struc­tive di­a­logue on dif­fi­cult and di­vi­sive top­ics. We strive to en­sure that our stu­dents be­come in­formed con­sumers of in­for­ma­tion and ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ers. Com­pre­hen­sive univer­si­ties are of­ten the arts and cul­ture hubs for the com­mu­ni­ties in which they are lo­cated. Let’s not un­der­value one of the United States’ most im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tions.

Karen L. Olm­stead, Sal­is­bury, Md. The writer is in­terim provost and vice pres­i­dent for

aca­demic af­fairs for Sal­is­bury Univer­sity.

When it comes to

higher ed­u­ca­tion, con­ser­va­tives and lib­er­als have a lot to agree on. They just don’t know it. The Cen­ter on Ed­u­ca­tion and the Work­force at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity — one of those elit­ist pri­vate univer­si­ties con­ser­va­tives talk about — has pub­lished any num­ber of re­ports in re­cent years on ed­u­ca­tional al­ter­na­tives that do not re­quire a bach­e­lor’s de­gree, on the value of tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion, and on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween types of de­grees and earn­ing power.

Un­for­tu­nately, con­ser­va­tives would rather draw their in­for­ma­tion from con­ser­va­tive web­sites that nour­ish and pro­mote a sense of griev­ance and make fun of sup­pos­edly ridicu­lous col­lege cour­ses such as “un­der­wa­ter bas­ket weav­ing.” Ac­tual re­port­ing does not seem to be their forte. It took me two min­utes to dis­cover that “un­der­wa­ter bas­ket weav­ing” was taught at Reed Col­lege in Port­land, Ore., decades ago as a par­ody mock­ing ex­actly the same things con­ser­va­tives are now mock­ing: use­less, trendy col­lege cour­ses. In short, it was a joke. “You might think that af­ter 40 years, the joke would wear out,” the col­lege mag­a­zine wrote back in 2011. Ap­par­ently not.

I de­spair for rea­soned dis­course. Tracy Thomp­son, Bowie

The ar­ti­cle

“On elit­ists, ‘cry­ba­bies’ and ‘ junky’ de­grees” re­ported that Don­ald Trump Jr. was paid hand­somely to ridicule col­lege classes in tree climb­ing. I’m en­rolled in the land­scape tech­nol­ogy pro­gram at Mont­gomery Col­lege in Mary­land, which in­deed teaches tree climb­ing. It’s a great course that helps stu­dents be­come cer­ti­fied ar­borists and earn good salaries.

I sus­pect Mr. Trump would find even more hi­lar­i­ous the pro­gram’s cour­ses in how to grow grass, yet th­ese cour­ses put stu­dents on a path to earn six-fig­ure in­comes from turf-maintenance con­tracts. Mr. Trump would per­haps ap­pre­ci­ate th­ese classes more if he knew the ed­u­ca­tional back­grounds of the peo­ple who care for the grass and trees on Trump golf cour­ses.

El­iz­a­beth Kleemeier, Takoma Park

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