“Downton Abbey? Cannot be that good if I never heard of it! You boys should watch Scandal or Revenge“, said “Roni” in a nasally shrill, obnoxious Long Island accent while adjusting her bleached platinum hair and flashing her tasteless jewelry. With her artificially bright orange tan and vulgar attire, she was the perfect example of someone losing a one-sided battle against mid-life crisis. The problem is that this loud, low-class late middle-age lady is the law clerk for a local Supreme Court justice who decides felony cases ranging from larceny to murder. She is responsible for writing all of his opinions and giving advice on matters of law and precedent – directly affecting the outcome of thousands of cases. Sadly, most lawyers I have encountered in my nascent career as an attorney are not far removed from “Roni” in their intellectual development.
As the novelist Elizabeth Bear wrote, “The writer’s life is full of glamour, variety, excitement, and typing alone in empty rooms wondering if there’s any water left in the kettle.” The same goes for criminal defense attorneys, only instead of lonely typing in empty rooms, there is much sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches waiting for your case to be called. For the minute or two you spend up at the bench, there is at least forty spent reading or whispering to other attorneys. In all the years I have spent in various New York City courtrooms, I have never seen an attorney read anything more intellectually complex than a Michael Connelly mystery novel.
This obtuse ignorance is not limited to young attorneys. I remember the bewildered looks I received when reading a Russian book on my Kindle. “Is that Hebrew?”, asked the aged former president of the local bar association when he saw the unfamiliar Cyrillic letters. And almost two decades ago, my family was invited to dinner by an American couple – the husband, a doctor and the wife, a teacher. The wife’s father was a distinguished judge from Baltimore who shocked the Russian guests by proudly declaring his absolute ignorance of Luciano Pavarotti and sneered that he would rather watch baseball than attend opera anyway.
The embarrassing anti-intellectualism of the American professionals is the fault not only of our so-called popular “culture”, but of the higher education establishment – a remarkably pernicious force, which exhibits the worst characteristics of both an organized crime family and the Soviet secret police. Akin to the Soviet commissars, Big Education, from the lowliest community college professor to an Ivy League university president, are largely shielded from criticism. Just like the Soviet security-military apparatus, the American education mafia is overfunded with little or no oversight. And anyone who dares to criticize Big Education is immediately branded as an “enemy of children”, a label eerily similar to the infamous “enemy of the people” one of the Stalin years.
American institutions of higher education, from rural community colleges to urban law schools have morphed into money-guzzling diploma mills. Most graduate school programs are simply extensions of undergraduate ones, with slightly more challenging classes and infinitely higher tuition. To put it bluntly, American institutions of higher learning are engaged in a vicious racket, with students and the federal government being the type of suckers, which are apparently born every minute in this country.
As maverick, politically-incorrect economist Aaron Clarey shows in his book Worthless, an undergraduate degree counts for nothing or nearly nothing in the harsh Great Recession world, unless it is in the fields of hard sciences or technology (the so-called STEM subjects). Recently, the media has been full of heart-wrenching stories about liberal arts or law school graduates saddled with tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and unable to find work in their fields. But the psychology major who works part-time in a retail store and the history major who works as a nanny are just the tip of the iceberg. What about the tens of thousands equally dejected graduates who are underemployed and forced to live with their parents while supplementing their income with such intellectually challenging pursuits as delivering pizza, waiting tables, and tending bar. The unmentioned effect of this is the pushing off of the already late marriage and child-bearing age in America. But when did the powers that be in this country care about demographic decline. What are we Israel or Japan after all? The less non-minority children there will be, the better for the establishment.
Further, a liberal arts degree means you spent four years taking electives that have nothing to do with your major. Predictably, these electives are chosen not on the basis of their intellectual rigor or application to your later career. No, they are chosen on the basis of an easy, inflated grade that will look good on your application to graduate school. When I majored in political science for my bachelor’s degree, I only had to take twenty-four credits (a measly eight classes) in it – exactly 20 percent of my total credit load. The rest of the 120 credits were made up of the kind of classes we college kids used to call “fluff” or “bulls—“: anything from basic physics to microeconomics to speech communication. My personal favorite were the mandatory three credits (three hours a week) in “Black/Hispanic/Asian/Pacific Islander Studies” (with “women’s” or “homosexual” studies probably added after I graduated). These “hyphenated American studies”, as Clarey calls them, are worse than useless. Not only do they lack any sort of employment-related value, but are exercises in anti-Western, anti-Christian, and often, anti-male multiculturalism and political correctness.
Most liberal arts graduates finish college with only a vague and surface understanding of whatever subject they got their degree in. History majors often pick and choose the areas of history they are interested in or which are taught by a non-demanding professor. This means that they graduate from college with little or no knowledge of ancient or medieval history, after having taken “popular” courses such as Latin American, modern, and Soviet history. So much for the “well-rounded” liberal arts student put on a pedestal by the education establishment.
The same situation exists in law schools, where classes are either surface overviews of certain areas or cover obscure areas that the professor chooses. Like in college, there is no emphasis on general intellectual development – the notion would be ludicrous to both students and professors. In fact, my young criminal law professor’s mention of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov during lecture led to much eye-rolling and derisive snickering. Far from being bastions of intellectual enrichment, colleges and graduate schools turned into politically-correct diploma-making factories.
In addition, there are simply too many “colleges”, universities, and even law schools. Here in New York City, a new “college” pops up seemingly every couple of months: ASA College, Berkeley College, Boricua College, Bramson ORT College, Monroe College, Plaza College, and the shabby list goes on. There are also the more respectable community colleges, which take anyone who graduated from high school or got a GED. Seems like anyone who is not a convicted felon could get a college degree nowadays.
There are 202 law schools in the United States – four per state and that is only if the ABA-approved ones are counted. About 46,000 people graduate law school each year and that is a lower figure than before the Great Recession. The vast majority of these graduates are previous liberal arts majors who could not find gainful or any employment after college and were enticed by the high salaries and work prospects, which were touted as excellent by the law schools. The reality is that most of non-Ivy League law school graduates are underemployed or not employed in a law-related field. Firms in places like Manhattan – previously a bastion of high-paid attorneys, are now offering positions that pay a measly 35-40,000 dollars a year.
So what is to be done? After all, many on the political Right are convinced that higher education is the way to go for their children. Certainly, fields like chemical and electrical engineering, accounting, actuarial science, and medicine (from physician to physical therapist to nurse) seem to be going strong. And there are always the skilled trades: plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics. The trades have a few advantages: higher starting salaries, less schooling, and great employment prospects. Tradesmen are also largely immune to the two-headed hydra of political correctness and affirmative action, which so many college students and graduates fall victim to.
The best option for a young conservative would be to go into a STEM field or a skilled trade, while self-educating himself with classical literature, old and recent non-fiction books, the online and mail-order courses that ISI and other conservative organizations offer, not to mention serious, scholarly magazines and journals (one in particular comes to mind). A well-read, self-educated young chemical engineer, physician, or even, plumber is much better off than an English, political science, history major or a lawyer who spent four years or seven years barely learning his subject in an environment filled with an anti-Western, politically-correct miasma. The former will not only be employed, which means he will be able to start and support a family, but will escape four years of largely useless, leftist brainwashing and the tens of thousands of loans that go along with it. As they say, the decision is a no-brainer.