Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Clemson controversy is a symptom of a larger problem
Controversy is swirling around allegations Clemson manipulated survey responses to get high academic ratings by US News and World Report. The State is reporting that Clemson President Jim Barker rated Clemson the number one school in America. That is expected of a university president. What is not expected is the fact that Barker low balled other colleges and universities. Other published reports have a former Clemson official stating that was how things were done at Clemson.
Indeed, Clemson, who now sits at #22, has a stated goal of making the Top 20 public universities in America as rated by US News and World Report. No wonder they are pulling out all the stops. That is the Clemson way.
There is nothing wrong with wanting win. However, it is a bit unsettling that an institution funded with taxpayer dollars seems so obsessed about what a magazine thinks. It is a symptom of what is wrong with American education and to an extension, American business today. Educators often do not seek to actually produce achievers in the world, but just to be seen by someone as doing such. In that context, weighing your vote towards your university in a magazine survey seems the right thing to do.
It is at the heart of what makes American business non-competitive. Simple sales positions, once filled by high school graduates with drive and determination to get the job done now require M.B.A.s. It does not matter if the M.B.A. can get the job done; he or she has a piece of paper that says that they can. The high school graduate who knows his product well, and knows how to deal with people, he is no longer considered today.
The irony is college presidents like Barker talk about competing in the world economy and jockey to get their magazine of choice to recognize their institutions as the place to go to college, but they have created an atmosphere in which the people who actually built the American economy into a juggernaut could not be a part of today’s economy. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, even Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, all of those legendary names would be left out of the new American economy. Yes, even Bill Gates would have trouble if he was starting out today.
The academic elite have shut down a large part of the American dream. There was once the notion that a man could go to work in a factory, and if he worked hard and learned his business, he could rise up to run that factory. Today, he only could if he got a piece of paper from a college that said he could. Now, Barker and those like him want business to depend on where that piece of paper came from. Rewarding people in business for things not directly related to actual business performance is what has caused the great American economic engine to sputter. It is disgusting that we taxpayers seem to be paying for it.