Peter Morici: How universities threaten prosperity and democracy

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  • JakeShewmake St. George, UT
    Nov. 30, 2017 3:39 p.m.

    No Names,

    Are you aware that Washington County School District was just given an award from the Utah Tax Payers Association for being the district in the state with the lowest construction costs on new buildings?

    If you and your wife really are volunteering in the district, then I salute you. The reason I invited you to volunteer in my classroom is because I read your constant comments and your perceptions of what our schools and our school district are doing is extremely different than my perspective. I figured if we had a chance to speak in person, we could likely find some common ground.

    You seem to long for yesteryear when the United States was a manufacturing based economy in which people could find good paying jobs with pensions with almost no advanced education. However, the public cared very little about whether or not schools educated every child. It was just assumed that some children were not teachable and that was ok.

    We do not live in those times and ALL of our children deserve better. Yet, many still believe we need more manufacturing jobs, and coal industry jobs, etc. I do not want my children working in those jobs. How about your grandchildren?

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Nov. 30, 2017 10:26 a.m.

    To "Misty Mountain" lets make this easy. Assuming that critical thinking is a key to success in college, lets see what the studies say.

    According to the researchers at the Huffington Post "Homeschooled Students Well-Prepared For College, Study Finds". Not only are they well prepared, but outperform their public schooled peers once they are in there.

    You can also see that homeschooled kids perform better on the standardized tests than the public schooled kids.

    Plus, newer studies show that they are better socialized than the public schooled kids.

    If you look into the outcomes of homeschooled kids you find that on average they do better than the public schooled kids.

  • 4601 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 30, 2017 9:43 a.m.

    marxist - Salt Lake City, UT

    "I am a retired college prof. I can tell you this is a one sided screed. It is so one sided I wouldn't know where to begin an evaluation."

    That is the problem. College professors who teach marxism as a legitimate, evidence-based concept are equivalent to teaching that the world is flat.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 7:56 p.m.


    Between the wife and me we get about 15 hours a week volunteering in the classroom. We help with both the low performing special needs and the gifted and talented special needs as well as the run of the mill middle ground.

    Why do you assume that anyone critical of current public education doesn't spend time in the classroom?

    In addition to our current time in the classroom, we are both products of Washington County school district back when the district offices were in a trailer across the street from West Elementary, public meetings were held in the lunch room or high school auditorium, our schools had swamp coolers rather than AC, and no Taj Mahal was needed for district offices. We had teachers who were professionals and understood that teaching was a seasonal, part time job with good benefits. They didn't complain about their pay, they were glad to have such good jobs.

    When I hear high school AP calc teachers tell their students that charter school transfers understand difficult concepts better than neighborhood school students because common core math has crippled neighborhood students, and test scores bear this out, I know we have real problems.

  • Misty Mountain Kent, WA
    Nov. 29, 2017 3:15 p.m.

    @Redshirt wrote,

    "FYI home schooled kids are more capable of critical thinking."

    And your source for that statement is...what?

    "My religious leader says".. might be all the proof that you, personally, need. But not everyone sees that as proof.

  • SuperEllipsoid Magna, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 12:56 p.m.

    This guy hoists so many straw men, vacuously defines so many "liberal" hobgoblins, and wanders so enthusiastically down so many irrelevant tangents, that he is an unwitting 'Exhibit A' of the idea that educated people sometimes lack critical thinking skills.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 12:54 p.m.

    To "Hutterite" can you explain how sports have dumbed down curriculum? As the letter explains students no longer have to write and think critically, but just have to regurgitate what the professor explains.

    To "Utah Girl Chronicles" that is good that you learned the mechanics of writing. However, that is not what the letter is talking about. Can you write and think critically? Could you write a convincing essay supporting a point of view you personally oppose? In the past students could that, but I doubt they could now.

    To "JLindow" if you look at what "Higher Order Thinking Skills" are, you find that they gave a nice name to a poorly implemented idea. The HOTS encourages kids to engage in reasoning BEFORE mastery of the basics. That means you are teaching algebra BEFORE they have masted basic math. Texas educators wanted to get rid of the tried and proven methods to go with a "feel good" method.

    To "Karen R." here is the dilemma home schooled kids have. They can have the indoctrination of the public schools, or they can have the indoctrination of their parents. Why should they trust the public schools? FYI home schooled kids are more capable of critical thinking.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 10:40 a.m.

    Ever since the federal government made it their business. That is a business for them. Like every study, look at the sponsor. No child left behind without debt.

  • JakeShewmake St. George, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 9:43 a.m.

    Having taught writing at Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College, Murray High School, and Pine View Middle School over the last 22 years, I can tell you that Mr. Morici has absolutely no idea what is happening in classrooms here in Utah nor do many of the people who continually post to every education related article in the Desnews. No names, instead of spending so much time reading the paper and posting replies suggesting you know every ill facing this world comes from our education system, I invite you to come volunteer in my classroom at Pine View Middle and help me teach kids with disabilities how to read. I am being sincere. I could use 15 people to come and spend an hour reading with these terrific kids. USS Enterprise you are invited as well. We need to help these children with more resources and stop criticizing the incredible professional teachers and support staff in Utah who are doing more with less than any other state in the U.S. We need people like you to stop using your energy to criticize and start helping us teach these kids. I assure you, teachers in Utah are indoctrinating kids in Utah with just two things: hope and confidence. Please join us!

  • Thomas Jefferson Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 9:22 a.m.

    I have no idea where the author gets his ideas but that wasnt my university experience at all. I do agree that too many people are going to college and it is far too easy to get in. But we are always hearing about how to 'run things like a business' and that idea seems to have worked its way into the higher education system. More customers is good for business, right?

  • Thomas Thompson Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 8:52 a.m.

    The author makes some reasonable points and I was with him right up until he seemed to suggest that the failures he identifies are all part of a vast liberal conspiracy. He's wrong about that. Whatever deficiencies there are in our present educational system have almost nothing to do with mere politics; the problems go much deeper than that. It comes down, frankly to a lack of motivation in the students. Today, many of them value an educational credential without at the same understanding that it costs more than just money to get an education that actually teaches you what it was intended to teach.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 7:45 a.m.

    I am a retired college prof. I can tell you this is a one sided screed. It is so one sided I wouldn't know where to begin an evaluation.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    Nov. 29, 2017 5:59 a.m.

    College is a little late to be teaching critical thinking skills. A brief search online provides plenty of evidence that secondary-level educators believe this is part of their job, beginning in middle school.

    Political correctness isn't just on the left. One place it's seen on the right is in the home school movement designed to shelter kids from ideas and perspectives that their religious parents don't want them introduced to. These parents are right to be concerned, though. Their mythology doesn't fare well when critical thinking is applied.

    I do agree that those colleges still marketing a liberal arts degree as a good foundation for launching into today's marketplace are selling kids a bill of goods.

  • bluecollar Kearns, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 5:37 a.m.

    "The Common Core asks students to read stories and literature, as well as more complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies. Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read. This stresses critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career, and life." (from Common Core States Initiative Standards).
    Peter, it seems to me that the Common Core Standards would in time resolve the issues you have brought up in your article.

    I completely disagree with the statement: "...theology of political correctness — namely, most social ills and differences in citizens’ circumstances can be traced to the conspiracies of the elite and sex and gender discrimination — is infused into the curriculum and enforced by Orwellian controls on speech." I really don't believe universities enforce Orwellian controls on speech. And to pose that universities are to blame for social ills and elite conspiracies, etc.; I would have to see the data that backs up those statements to even consider them.

  • Copybook Headings Draper, UT
    Nov. 29, 2017 5:16 a.m.

    The Washington D.C. has a vested interest in having our public schools and universities turn out a not insignificant percentage of students who couldn't frame a cogent argument about anything of consequence if their life depended on it. They're easier to demagogue. It's harder for them to figure out just how badly they're being ripped off too; not just by colleges making millions off of worthless degrees, but by their masters in Washington who are putting them in the kind of debt in which only indentured servitude or war will provide relief.

  • Light and Liberty St George, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 10:29 p.m.

    I throw most of what I'm told to teach and focus on teaching students fundamentals, work ethic, and the ability to defend what they write. This means I don't allow foolish, unsupported, emotional, politically correct nonsense in grading them. I don't allow them to show their ignorance or intolerance with shallow or unsupported opinions (that means they keep their mouths closed and learn from the masters). If they can't name simple basic concepts, oh, like how many branches of government are there, better get in line and learn it. Too many teachers, and too many districts, are afraid to teach fundamentals and afraid to to stare a student in the eyes and tell him/her to 'get over him/her self' and start acting like a respectable student prepared to learn. And oh, afraid to make it fun as well! The biggest problem are parents who are more ignorant and intolerant than the kids. Once kids know someone is in charge, they usually are capable of learning. Yes, it is shameful to see what is happening on college campuses. Only those who can't think critically are afraid of an opposing opinion. Thought is a threat to indoctrination.

  • casual observer Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 9:41 p.m.


    " race, one language, one religion." How does that follow? Such over-reaching and hyperbolic rhetoric obfuscates the issues.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 9:22 p.m.


    Read that entire section again. Texas is not attacking critical thinking skills. It is attacking indoctrination re-labeled as critical thinking skills.

    In the immortal words of the Bard:

    "What's in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other word would smell as sweet;"

    Indoctrination and attacks on parental authority and values in K-12 public schools stink just as much no matter how deceitfully they are labeled. You might also notice that this article refers to problems nationwide, including in areas where Republicans are more scarce than are Democrats in Utah.

    Critical thinking skills would make it obvious the difference between a party platform dealing with K-12 education in Texas, and a nationwide problem across the nation.

    Tribalism, on the other hand, will work very hard to blame all problems on members of the other tribe.

  • JLindow St George, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 8:54 p.m.

    "College graduates, whatever their major, should be well equipped to engage in 'critical thinking.'... Modest Plymouth State in New Hampshire did pretty well in a recent assessment, whereas the University of Texas at Austin, often viewed on par with the Ivy League, scored poorly."

    I refer you to the education section of the Texas Republican party's 2012 platform:

    "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

    Critical thinking skills are under attack, but you mis-identify the attacker.

  • Lets check the facts Santa Fe, NM
    Nov. 28, 2017 8:25 p.m.

    This article was spot on

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 8:21 p.m.

    "America is unique among nations, because it was founded on the idea of the fundamental sanctity of individual liberty and freedom of thought, and not as a place defined by a specific ethnic, language or religious identity."

    And yet, the current commander in chief and his followers want to make America great again by condoning one race, one language, one religion. How does that fit in with what you write, Peter?

  • tesuji Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 6:56 p.m.

    This is the silliest thing I've read on this site. The author laments a shortage of critical thinking skills, and then bashes liberal arts. Liberal arts are precisely the classes that teach students critical thinking, as well as communication and analysis.

    Blanket statements like "universities are a threat" just absurd. Saying all professors are liberal PC Nazis just isn't true, either.

    Colleges and private schools are moving toward teaching students more real-world skills. And real-world skills are not just current tech skills. Tomorrow's workers will need to be able think creatively, know how to learn new things, and to work collaboratively. We need to support education more, not tear it down. Ignorance is not the answer.

  • Spangs Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 6:53 p.m.

    This guy lost me when he started complaining about the conviction of rapists.

  • Utah Girl Chronicles Eagle Mountain, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 6:47 p.m.

    Much of this is hogwash. I have a degree in English and I could not tell you what an indirect object is or correctly diagram a sentence if you held a gun to my head. That wasn't a failure of my university. I simply don't think those things are important.

    The dumbing down of America is exploding at full blast these days and right-wing "college elite" talking points do not push the ball forward. We have a president who speaks at a fourth grade level and the rest of the world knows this. That's not hyperbole.

    From my experience as a college student, everyone who attends college has the right idea. People want to better themselves. If their college or university fails them, that must be from students not taking advantage of all the possible opportunities. If sitting in academic classes for four years is a waste of time then you're a potted plant.

    Yes, professors "mail it in" sometimes and university politics can get thick. But these are precarious times where truth is becoming irrelevant. Articles like this downsize people's hopes and aspirations of what they dream of being. As an educator, the writer should be ashamed of himself.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 6:15 p.m.

    "America is unique among nations, because it was founded on the idea of the fundamental sanctity of individual liberty and freedom of thought, and not as a place defined by a specific ethnic, language or religious identity."
    Founded, perhaps on those ideas. But individual liberty and freedom of thought have long since been couched only in terms of coinciding with a specific religious identity.
    As for universities, whatever threat they pose to prosperity and democracy may arise not from their provision of a liberal education so much as from the fact that the academic agenda has been hijacked by sports.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Nov. 28, 2017 6:15 p.m.

    The problem is that with easy access to federal money, students have become money makers for universities. And so rather than have proper admittance requirements, and expelling those who fail to measure up, the colleges have eroded requirements and rigor in favor of having bottoms in seats paying tuition. That the borrowed money will be very difficult to repay without marketable skills is the students' problem, not the schools'.

    The fact is, large segments of the population have no business being in college. Some lack the interest. Many lack the raw brainpower needed just as most of us lack the raw physical ability to be Navy Seals or NFL linebackers.

    It is criminal to admit a person to college and encourage him to borrow to pay tuition when that person is demonstrably unable or unwilling to perform at a true collegiate academic level. Dumbing down classes so as not to discover who is unable or unwilling is willful negligence.

    "Any work that is honest is honorable" my grandfather always said. There are many very good careers available whose training is something other than college.

    Why K-12 schools are not teaching critical thinking skills is another, sad question.