tv After Words CSPAN December 22, 2014 12:00am-12:53am EST
mr. deresiewicz argues the most sought after universities the country fall short of providing the key components of a good education every student should have. lessons in how to think critically, be creative, and maintain goals in life after their university education. this program is about an hour. >> thank you for this insightful book "excellent sheep" which has been provocative in higher education students and among families and students. the nation should be grateful to you for it. i have a series over questions about it. >> guest: okay. >> host: i'll start with the more difficult one. it appears you didn't receive tenure at yale.
>> guest: right. >> host: you did wonderful work. you didn't acknowledge that in the book. why not? >> guest: that's a question that has come more often from fellow academics who wonder whether this book is a product of sour grapes. this comes from people in the ivy league. i didn't want to make my story part of it anymore i needed to. the book is really for general readers, for students, for their families. perhaps the retrospect wife have been a good idea to get that out of the way, and i'm glad you asked me so i can get it out of the way. no one of any sense who is a junior faculty member at jail expects to get tenure at a place like yale. i'm not angry at yale for not giving my tenure. i left academia because i wasn't able to get a job somewhere else and they main reason is job inside academia are drying up because schools are high are adjuncts rather than professors. so it's a larger problem that is part of the things i talk about in the book. >> i'm simple the tuck.
>> guest: i'm glad we could clear it up. >> host: that's the circumstance for many, many professors. interestingly, i'm at georgetown so it's a catholic university and i had a particular interest in that des moines main, and -- domain and you only mentioned one catholic university in the country, and i'm wondering if you think they're elite, don't know the domain or don't have the statement student body that yale or the ivy leagues have. >> guest: it's not that. i mention a fair number of schools in the course of really talking about what students have written to me and what fellow professors have told me about things at their school. but it's to a certain extent it's a bit arbitrary who i mention and who i don't. it's not they i think the elite conversation universities, which georgetown, notre dame, bc,er clearly among. it's not i think things are
radically different there because it's all one system, and the main aspect of the system is the kinds of students that are being produced before they even get to colleges. it's about the admissions process. as you know i have half a paragraph in the book where i say i think that in some ways, religious colleges, and that would include the prestigious afghan universities, think better because they're still paying attention to the higher purposed of a higher education. i should say that lip about religious schools seems to be one of the ones most annoyed, ivy league professors, not most readers, but people like steven pinker who are just incensed at the idea that the word're religious" and the word "good" could be in the same sentence. >> host: i would tend to think that'll schools and catholic and jesuit schools have a value added in what they do, and i think at our place that there are -- we -- i'm trying to shape students for life. and i tell parents, for example,
you have given us a gem, as any of these elite schools have, and we polish and give it back to you with a conscience, a responsibility to give back, and the ability to lead, and that's what we do. what i want your students to be, sons or daughters, are better versions of themselves when they leave there. they'll also be smart. they were smart when they came in and have a georgetown degree or yale or harvard degree. that's given for these students. its what happens at the margins and the center of themselves, which is even more important that the credentialing. that's not what i'm interested in. but i realize families are interested in this and students are interested in credentialing as well but we have to open their imagination to something beyond that. >> host: listen, i think the most disheartening thing for me about the reaction to the book is i said, as you can -- as simple paraphrase, i said, many of our most elite schools are not giving students what i call a real education, which is what you just described.
and the response has often been from within those institutions or people who recently graduated cannot, yes, we do give a real education, but who wants a real education these days? don't be a sucker. this is about jobs, about career, about return on investment. accomplish the kinds of things you just talked about. it's about life and not just about your job. this is increasingly difficult argument to make, and it's one of the main reason is wrote the book to push back against this intensely pragmatic and i would say self-defeatingly pragmatic idea of education in general and higher education in particular. >> host: i think for example liberal arts schools are designed -- professional schools are designed to teach you how to make a living. other schools teach you how to live a life and why life is worth living, a larger question. i can give you story of a student of ours who was an art history major and was presented before one of the boards at
georgetown, alumni and parents and so forth. and was being pressed by one of the board members, why would -- what are you going to do do with that? with art history? she expressed how it's enriched her life completely, probably stay with her for her life, an esthetic sense. very eloquent, and he pressed her again, what are you going to do? she said if have to as a professional fall back on my second major, which is neuroscience. [laughter] >> host: that's often the kind of students but certainly we see. my own view is i agree with you completely. pursue your passion in college. but don't do it -- i think you should pursue your passion but i'm a pragmatist, too. so, for example, you can be a history major or an english major but also i put in a minor in business for college students. a minor. so that you can know how to read a spreadsheet -- no matter what you're doing, even what i do, i'm other dean, i'm doing management and seeing budgets. i'm an academic by training.
so, i haven't given up that core who i am but having other skills is helpful but not something i think the liberal arts should pursue full time in undergraduate experience. >> guest: i want to be clear, i'm a practicing in 'tis, too. -- pragmatist, time. don't want students to think the world will hand them a living because it owes them a withing. there's difference between compromise and capitulation. figure out what you care about the most and then figure out-hopefully with the help of colleague, how you translate that into a career that can sustain you. it's also important for students to know that it's not just about the first job, and if you look at people who have been successful, especially people successful and done interesting things, it's almost never a linear path and that's why i say even in nearly practical terms this pragmatic purchase i
self-defeating. you want to have people be able to navigate a career and you don't get soft skies from a technical major you get to learn how to be the kind of person and thinker that a real liberal arts education gives you. someone i heard recently described a liberal arts education is cross-training. it's about -- only america does this. right? only we allow students to take classes -- insist that students take classes across the curriculum so they're learning different ways to think and they're bert at each of those ways because they learned all of the others iagree. contributes to a certain agility. mental agility and flexibility and i distinguish between a job and a career, and a career will last -- actually have more than one career remember most people have more than one career. may be in multiple careers. certainly have multiple jobs. if the measurement is exclusively your first job, and the salary attached to it,
probably not an accurate measurement. if you measure liberal arts people ten years and 15 years out they seem to do equally well with people who are trained in other skills usually. >> guest: i believe there's a study that says that but the gap closes. >> host: it does close. i think -- for me, these are four years where you can explore a range of issues that i think in my own view have intrinsic value, not simply pragmatic value, and that will inform you and shape you as you you are. we couldn't agree more on that. one thing we try to do, you also talk in the book about how practical and driven for credentialing students are, and not reflective often, and i think that's true. they get -- they're on a treadmill to just get to the next thing, and fill the resume out. we try to have them -- contemplation and action. you step back and we have a
retreat center in virginia, april away from the campus and it doesn't mean a religious retreat. there are religious retreats available, one called escape. it's simple police getting air and reflecting on why how in college? what does it mean? independent of the pressures from your peers right there, you have a small peer group with and you someone to guide the conversations. but also away from your family and away from what you -- why -- those weekends are transformers for many students. they figure it out. i need to do this more often. i need to reflect. >> i believe they're transformative. i think it's great you guys are doing it. i do wish i mentioned that in the book, that i had known about and it talked about it. what i do say is i don't have a lot of practical suggestions to make because i don't know you as an individual. >> host: of course. >> guest: but but the one thing is you need to step away, either a gap year before college or whatever it is, it's precisely the act of getting away from the
peer pressure, the parental pressure, the incessant busyness that comes with the drive to credentialism, the hoop, jumping. now, college in general used to be, should be, is supposed to be, that in itself. college in general is supposed to be the four-year time-out. but it's been so pervaded by these pragmatic pressures, by this credentials arms race. insofar as i blame the colleges for that, it goes back to the admissions process and how it creates a child in in adolescence about jumping through the next hoop, and then second darely, unlike what you udescribed at georgetown, many colleges -- and i think many especially elite colleges -- don't do anything to disrupt the momentum of the hoop jumping. i think they think that because our kids are so smart, and of cures they must be smart because their s.a.t. scores are high, must be smart because we let them in.
then we don't need to do any of that work of getting them to be reflective about their education. they take it for granted and that's a huge mistake. >> host: i agree. i think that is value added. we have to do that. we have to force them into that kind of a thought process. that kind of reflection that kind of conversation with others, about what is the meaning of all this. i think it's the foundational question, and we have to go back to it again and again. it's not always easy and there are also diffused in their interests, doing many, many things. internships and they're volunteering and they're taking five courses and they're in three groups and head two of the groups, and this is typical. what would you say for the strategy when you're talking to families, and it's easier to do it at our place than at yale or other places. i'm not sure -- of the double-major. i offer advise students, pursue your passion in college you said in the book, pursue your passion. people don't do it as much anymore. you should because there are
four very privileged years you can never get back and never have chance to these reflection again and the kind of reading and writing you'll do in college. but pursue your passion, in one major, and do a mom and dad's major for the served major or the one that will set you up for a professional career. i'm fine with that. being an english major and biology emergency. you want to be a doctor and want to be well-rounded, well-read doctor. what do you think of that. >> guest: sometime i'm not against it. it's become very common. kids say one for me, one for my parents. i'm a little skeptical about it. again, it can be the right choice, but i think it misunderstands the role that this passion or interest is supposed to have. i don't think it's something that you should just do on the side because it's a neat thing when you're 20 years old but you're going to -- it should be the foundation of what you do in life. again, compromises will have to be made eye. maddie mices, i'm sure you have.
the world will demand that of you. i think we need start from a place of, i actually try to get away from the word posterior passion" because it's become such a cliche and students feel like i don't know what that feels like. i prefer the word by purpose "because that unites the inner with the outer, what do you care about and what do you see out there in the world that needs your attention? to the extent it's possible -- this will differ for different kid -- different circumstances -- that is what should motivate what you study in college and what you do afterwards. i don't like the bifurcation, that's where we get in trouble, where we think that life is over here and work is over there. the idea is to find the kind of work, if you can, that's going to reflect what you care about most deeply. and there are also surveys, and i think common sense tells us, that's going to lead to the most successful, even in vocational terms, kind of existence. if you want to get out offed and do what you're doing and it's meaningful to you, the
psychologists will tell us that the two -- connectedness to others and this sense of purpose, which for us, in the 21st century, generally means purpose for work. >> host: this is true. something that is purposeful and meaningful work. the remuneration is good or maybe excellent but doing something that is worthwhile. doing good well in a sense, we hope. shifting a little bit -- so many ideas in the book, my haven't is filled with things i want to ask you. one is the great inflation issue -- i think at all schools across the board but not necessarily every school. i think certainly the elite schools clearly heavy grade inflation, and our own place, students are even complaining about it. ironically. >> guest: really. >> host: yes, they are. they're saying we want a clearer differentiation between who is really outstanding and who is good.
and we're not really getting that from our grades. the grades are very high for everybody. how do i know if i really am outstanding? how die know i'm meritorious more than the next person or i stand out in any way if we're all teased on a comb on the gpa school. as a consequence if they're gpa goes down they'll be the first one to complain and say we didn't mean that, affect me. but it's an interesting argument because increasingly a large number of students are gaining lattin honors at ivy league schools, very high personal. many of them are married. come in with highly qualified, but restraining that at bit and students are actually saying -- some are saying that's a good idea. others are saying might be left out and won't be competitive for graduate school or a profession. your take? >> guest: well, such an interesting thing. because as you know, princeton
went back -- tried this and despite the fact that apparently there was no evidence this was advancing students, the students were so freaked out by the possibility it was they insisted they go back to the old inflated grade, the average gpa north of 3.5. what is especially interesting about what you said about your students its resonates with the sense i had as a professor and it had speaking to students since then that they want honesty. they know that the system -- they've become so cynical about their education, because it's always been so much like a video game, like just get to the next level. and because they know -- one of the things that is driving grade inflation this ridiculous's in, this -- the way extracurricular expanded to fill all the available space, where l in college or high school. how do students deal with that? how do you deal with the fact you're doing ten different things, sports, musical instrument, whatever, and you
still have to carry a course load. you put more and more pressure on your teachers in high schools or professors in college to inflate grades. but this is part of what contributes to the cynicism, and the sense that students get that they're not getting real feedback and don't really know where they stand. i found students to be surprisingly grateful for honest feedback which i try give them. >> host: which is good. the best professors are very good pedagogues, inspiring teachers and all, but they're also demanding, and i found the students who find they got the b from this person, the only b they got, they think it was the best course they had. or the easy a is okay but -- >> guest: you hear that from people who have been out of school for ten years, that's the professor they remember. again, it's an exception, and as you say, great inflation is an increasing problem and it speaks to the fact that learning is not at the top of the agenda in
college anymore. >> host: can be a problem. >> guest: people also talk about the mutual nonaggression pact between students and professors, right? >> host: right. >> guest: they present -- >> host: collusion mook professors. >> guest: because prefers are incentivized not to teach but to do research. tai takes much less time too give someone an a than to give them a b. if it's a b you have to explain it to them and then you have to help them get better. >> host: that's right. and that's the key part. that's the important part, helping them get better. for example, the whole notion of a rewrite, which is a good idea else that's how you learn. here's your mistake, try this again. but it takes a lot of time takes an investment in the student and say if that's your primary mission, there to enhance student learning, yes. but most places have a dual mission of enhancing student learning and also producing first-rate scholarship. it's a challenge.
>> guest: this has been a contradiction in american higher ed for a very long time. there are forces, we could talk about them, academic job market forces making it worse and worse. and as students shift their attention away from their curriculars to their extracurriculars it becomes more and more of a problem. no one is really -- no one's primary interest is what is going on in the classroom. the professors rant to be in the library or the lab. students want to be in their club or internship. so, we need to think about this. >> host: that's probably -- there are still people who care about classrooms but i know -- but the direction is that way. and speaking of that, curricula and all, what do you think of the efforts to change curricula through technology and all that's happening in that wide demand. you don't address it too much in the book but i'm sure you have
opinions. >> guest: i have a few choice paragraphs. i try to cover a lot of ground because i want to describe what think is a large system that needs to be -- the parts need be inventoried but i can't talk about everything. i don't want to try to talk about everything. look, as a general rule, surely there are ways that technology can enhance learning. as another general rule, i think americans prefer to solve problems with a machine than with a human being. we prefer technology to teachers or psychologists or sometimes even parents. education is a human relationship. it always has been. i really think it always will be. i don't think we'll ever be able to teach people as well by turning them loose on a computer program than we will one-on-one in small classrooms with teachers who are rewarded for teaching.
people think they can solve the cost problem in coverage. governors, politicians, think they can solve this problem with mooks, massive open online courses, with technology, efficiencies of scale. i think it's a huge mistake and as i'm sure you know, the completion rates on mooks are dismal. they're in the single digits. even among the people who finish mooks, they tend to be older people who already have college degrees. >> vast majority them already have degrees. it's not the dem mottcracyizeation of professional education and making it more accessible. >> guest: not about the hidden outer mongolian getting to m.i.t. and it's not because they're doing it for personal enrichment. they've been to college so they know how to teach themselves. the points of college is to learn how to teach yourself. >> host: this is very true. >> guest: you can't do it by yourself. >> host: a slight shift again.
i had a transfer student women was talking to at georgetown, wonderful young woman, and she had come from a school that was, should i say -- this sounds arrogant -- not elite but a very ordinary kind of place. she was very bright. she had gotten into several very good schools, including georgetown and columbia and shuck, but didn't have the money, and we gave all the financial aide we could give but wasn't another enough. so we went to another school thinking a good student can get a good education anywhere and the found it not to be true in the place she went to. she come to us and it's been a much richer environment, also for the peer group she is with, and that they're actually serious about education, they are ambitious, they work hard, do their reading, all of that, conscientious, makes a difference, the environment, if you want be academically inclined it's a good thing.
the other culture wasn't. elite schools have something to offer to students. >> guest: listen, i don't disagree with that. i am not going to romanticize or idealize public higher education as is exists now. to me the ultimate solution is to ree re-fund higher education to make the commitment we once made to have high quality, low or no cost higher education, public higher education. but given the state that things have reached at most public universities because of the relentless defunding, kid have trouble graduating in four years because they're closed out of classrooms. classrooms are giant lecture halls. aren't even graduate student teaching assistants. the elite private schools are well-resourced institutions and can offer students the opportunity. i would even say they always offer student this opportunity to get a great education but in
a lot of schools, and soundses like georgetown isn't one of them but a lot of the ivy league schools are like this you have to fight to get the kind of education that the school is supposedly set up to give you because your peers by and large are not interested in what is going on in the classroom and your professors and i large do not want to take the time. people have written about people at harvard -- people at uva have written about this, one of the public ivies. you have to fight your institution. and i'm simply saying that's ridiculous, and second of all, there are schools where that's not the case. i single out an an i -- liberal arts colleges, colleges that don't have a large university edifice where the emphasis is more on teaching, and they still defend liberal arts. they're also now public honors colleges. more and more of them, that try to replicate the model on a large public campuses. to me that's what a college should look like.
where students feel supported by the institution and their peers for once to get a real education, not like a sucker, because you should major in econ and go to wall street. >> host: the advantage potentially -- the small liberal arts colleges that do that, i admire them, and the elite ones get the best students. but the advantage might be for a student who goes to a research university with a liberal arts college, they get both in a sense. they get access to high quality research and a high-power institution in that way and they hopefully get the personal attention and the teaching that is required in the college environment. it's a balance but some places try to do both. >> guest: institutions differ i think of the university of shuck which has a great reputation for intense intellectualism and think about the fact the university of chicago seems to be parting from its mission, and -- >> host: be care. ail my mall matter. >> guest: you should be
concerned. i hear this about other places. brown, hear there, also, there's an institutional convergence, an insuspensional holm holm mon generalization, driven by -- where more and more colleges are looking more and more like each other, and they're con verging on that -- converging on that research university model in the worst sense where it's all about research. humanities get shrunk, until it's small enough to drown to in the bathtub because science brings in the money, or suppose lid brings in the money and so forth. >> oo chicago, i wents for graduate school, and it was at that time two-thirds graduate and a third undergraduate. a high are-powered research institution, sees itself that way. but more resources in undergraduate education and better josh in recent years but i think how better be focused when you go there. maybe true at the other stool. >> guest: i don't know if we want to talk about hawk too much
in particular. i see itself differently. always had a deserved reputation for a very intense intellectual experience, like graduate school for undergraduates. >> host: exactly. >> guest: that's what they seem to be moving away from because a lot of kids don't want it, and they change their admissions policies and drop their acceptance rate very far and they're very happy about it, but seems like the etoth to thes tht made its own unique place is getting lost. >> host: to be unique is not a ease you to do. you can be distinctive still and certain plays are but unique is not a term we would use for higher education bus we look a lot alike. >> guest: maybe you can explain that's better because your at the management end. it would see you would want to have a differentiate it product. >> host: absolutely. georgetown, because we're jess
would you tell and catholic and washington, dc, not berkeley or brown, we also have an imbedded value structure that we're very clear about, and one of the phrases at the school is, men and women for others, we expect you to give back. it's part of the culture. this is to give just -- to the common good is what we expect of them. when they come in as freshmen and leave as seniors they understand what that means. as a consequence one of our biggest employers is teach for america. you do service for two years and some stay in education define and others go on to other things. it's a good thing people are actually doing something worthwhile. but post graduate world, would you advice -- sometimes, for example, i advise students who want to pursue a passion, particular passion, we have -- this is happening more and more for media industry. they want to go to hollywood and be screenwriters. >> guest: right. right. >> host: that's okay. i say go for a couple of years are put parameters ryaned and it
you're gifting cover fee for a director eight years later you have to get out, but at 22 you should experiment. be free do things, not feel con vained you have to good immediately to get your mba or jd, as some students feel. >> guest: again, depths on what circumstances dictate and and maybe your student debt load will dictated. listen, you haven't experienced the world yet until you get out of college. so, how are you going to figure out what you want to do in the world until you have some exposure to it. agree with that, especially talk bath law degree, business degree, i think much better done when you're a little bit older iagree. maybe taking a little bit of a risk is a good that at some point. it's okay. you don't want to take the risk when you're 35 and have a mortgage and a family and responsibilities. but when you're 22, you can -- >> guest: essential. ' part of the problem is these kids have been taught to be risk avers from the very beginning because they know that they have
to get that perfect gpa to get into the name-brand college. risk aversion is one of the things that people who have been -- not the first person to write about this. >> host: i know. >> guest: it's one of he main things people have identified for a long time, and i think it's something we really need to worry about. one quick thought. we're preparing students for an increasingly unstructured job market, economic world, with an increase living structured educationful right? so this is not sieving them well. >> host: what about the professorat? how do you thing that's changed in the last 20 or 30 years in the professor area? >> guest: a great serve. contains its own melancholy. i think the most important thing to say about that is that at this point, only 25% of people who teach in college are professors.
>> host: ten-underred. >> guest: the rest of post graduates or a large class of full time nontennured. this is a shadow -- this away that schools have gotten around tenure without saying they're abolishing tenure. a lot of these people are great teachers. i would say especially the full-time. you're an adjunct, teaching at three or four places, getting $5,000 a course, doesn't matter how committed you are to teaching, it's hard to be a good teacher. these longer term contract employees often the best teachers on campus but they're still not rewarded -- salaries are still low. job security is low. institutional validation and prestige, everybody knows there's a second class citizens. i think it's time that we got serious about the idea of a teaching faculty in parallel with a research faculty.
either-or. you're hired pro-moated and tenured either for your research or your teaching or some combination of the two, not just research as it is now. we already have this second faculty but we need to give them -- we need to pay them and respect them equally to the research stars. >> host: i would agree. we need to accord them the respect and give them the visibility for their career, give. the a commitment from the institution to some degree, and they will be more deeply committed to you and they often are deeply committed to you. this other part -- i would like to -- i think they should be doing both. i think if it's strictly a research faculty. >> two-tiered structure and a two-tiered university and sometimes those are the research stars they never see a majority of the students. >> guest: they're that's right. >> host: classes are small, hard to get into, graduate only, and therefore students who know
they're there don't have access to them wife. like -- my ideal a is you teach at the undergraduate level, introductory, and elective and teach at a graduate level do both and not one or the other. only doing that, and saying others can take care of that. it won't take care of itself. you need bright research active cutting edge people in the classroom with our college students. >> guest: right. but the economics, the institution structure has been pushing in the other direction. why are there -- what is causing the adjunctive fix indication of the faculty. it's a cost saving measure for universities. as i understand it, the segment of the academic budget that's grown at the slow is rate is instructional costs. in other words, they're not spending that much more on teaching than you were 20 years
ago. the football stadium. the football coach, the football team. the fancy dormitories. the debt on the money you had to borrow to pay for these things. hates to do with this move to consumer model. students are customers who have to be appeased. what's going to appeal to an 18-year-old to get in to bring his tuition dollars to our campus. these are long-term structural problems and problems people have been aware for a long time and tall they do is talk about them. >> host: this is administrator in me. also providing a large infrastructure for people. basically providing a city where a profession doesn't ware require -- exception of the military -- you have to house your people and feed your people and entertain, all the things a university is required to do these days. so it's a big -- >> guest: doesn't have to be -- >> do leapt to be elegant. >> guest: you need to have dorms. >> host: creates a culture for people to be?
>> guest: jew need dorms and cafeterias. the question is, what -- >> host: exactly. how elegant and all. >> guest: it's not as immediately obvious to the eye when you have the equivalent of a dowdy dormitoriry -- tomorrow door in the classroom, aned a junk professor is not around. >> host: but some people in the public don't understand what it costs to run a university. i know they say there's runaway costs and we go beyond inflation for our increases sometimes, but it's a very resource intensative enterprise to run, most schools spend more purr students than they actually charge in tuition, even though most people don't know that. >> guest: people also don't know. >> a loss leader. >> guest: people also don't know that real costs for students have actually been flat at private universities for ten years. tuitions have increased but the actual sticker price they're
paying has been almost flat for ten years. it's continued to rise significantly at public universities because we're defunding them. >> host: we are and i get that. some public university presidents will say, work at a state regulated but not a state supported university, and that is changing very much since the land grant university time. unfortunately, because we have very high quality public universities in america, many of them, and they're underfunded and it's difficult to do it. so, thereafter, it's cared on the backs of out of state students paying the higher tuition. >> guest: to me this is the most important issue. it's the fact that we have transferred the burden of paying for higher education from the taxpayer to the student and family. so instead of taxes we have student debt. and if people want to see who is responsible for the trillion plus dollar in student debt they should look in the mirror. >> host: taxpayers won't agree with you. >> guest: of course not because they want something for not. we're not spending on our physical infrastructure and we're not spending on our
intellectual truck. what would think we're going to get? people knee make the connection what happens as taxpayers and what happens -- >> if you police in state with a fine -- if you live in state with a fine public university and it's competitive and you pay taxes and then your kid can't get into that university because it's now become elite, that's another issue. you've paid and it now your student doesn't have access to what you paid for. >> guest: i hadn't thought about that. i would argue -- i would question the idea that there are any schools -- any states that are supporting the public universities to the extent they should. look at the university of california, which was -- >> host: it's facing severe hardships financially. >> guest: yes. >> host: and raising tuition. other state instructors, too especially large structures that are very capital intensive. hard to keep them going. that's why we have the elite
schools, isn't it? >> guest: and it's also why there's such a crazy stampede to get into the elite private schools. >> host: this is true. as long as the elite private schools can provide -- beyond the georgetown -- so that the kid who comes from a somewhat disadvantaged -- economically disadvantaged background has access to this education which for me is a moral value. i think shame on us if georgetown is not open to all students, and not simply the economically elite. >> guest: well, its, but at the same time these schools have low admission rates so families know if can get the kid in, then it will be taken care of, but that's the whole point. can you get in? i don't think we have the same pressure that parents say they could send their kid to uva or berkeley or whatever for nothing, and not just -- or for a thousand dollars a year, and not just uva or berkeley mitchell slogan now -- i believe china had a slogan of 100
harvards, we need to build 100 berkeleys. we need to have two or three of those in every state. so we don't have every high school kid in america comp peteing to get into one of 12 schools. >> host: some of them to, for instance, you can go for free. >> guest: if you get. >> host: en. do you is -- endowment is so rich bit you also want standards for in the schools. >> guest: that's why i don't want to have to rely own those schools. let's be clear. for the low income kid who can get into print ton or harvard it's amazing it's like three or four percent of their student body are kids from the bottom quarter. >> host: it's small. >> guest: not talking about a lot of kids. >> host: we're trying continue crease our first generation students. we have a program for an additional scholarship and not only a scholarship, penter toship program so when they come they're mentored by students and alumni, in socialed etiquette in
negotiating an environment that is very different from the one from which they came. they're bright enough to do well, but there oar -- other cultural issues that are very challenging and we need to provide for that, and only if you do that can they be successful. if you don't, they flounder on other domains. >> guest: absolutely. >> host: you want them to have a good experience, positive experience, and a rich and full experience. but you have to provide a lot for that and i think we should. i think we have a responsibility to do that. >> guest: i agree. i want to emphasize, it's admirable you're doing that other. mailses do that. we can never educate the bright low income kids -- enough of them at the private schools. we need to be -- i mean, it's just a question of scale. we. >> host: we need to expand the capacity in america for these kind of students. >> guest: and i think that's going to mean public
universities. there are hundreds of thousands of smart poor kids who never get to college at all. they need to be able to go to their state institution for a nominal cost and get a good education. into some have taken the route north a bad one, of doing the community college route and two years and a much reduced cost and then transfer to the flagship university. a good policy. a good idea. >> guest: yes, i agree. i. >> host: economy of scale. >> guest: a few locations, tulsa is one of them and perhaps tennessee that are trying or have already installed a policy of free community college. so, again, it's free -- the beginning of returning to free public higher ed. going to cost a lot of money but, what do we want to spend our money on in this society. >> host: what are we willing to invest in. american higher education has spin slipped in enter national rankings, although still
desirable. >> guest: just like our he health care system. if you have private, it's the best in the world but our college completion rate used to be first, and now it's 12th. we need to take that seriously. >> host: if you look at how many years it takes to complete college, georgetown it's four years, virtually everybody. but at ago schools it's five and six years, part of that is not access to the right classes, part of that they have work while they're there and it's burden. >> guest: there are funding issues. >> host: yes, about are both issues-not enough classes for everybody and certain -- and that's institution's issue and then the economic issues. >> guest: the fact there aren't enough classes is also a funding issue, right? >> host: yes and no. well, maybe. if you allow a major to be the major exclusively and you don't direct people to other majors, of course, never be enough room for econ majors right now. everybody is -- there's like a lemmings, going in that
direction, and it's a fine discipline and all but not the exclusive discipline in college. >> guest: not what everybody should be studying. >> host: exactly there should be a wide variety. >> guest: right. it's important. if we're going to talk about that. it's important to emphasize it's not just humanities that have been suffering because everyone is being told to take the pragmatic majors, econ, engineering, computer science. basic sciences, a huge drop in majors in sciences, physics, chemistry, geology. this is going to cost us and it's because students are being steered by all kind pressures, including our president, saying don't major in art history of beings steered into econ and business and engineering. >> host: the national foundation have defunded a lot of the research done for basic sciences, and very competitive so it's hard to main good science faculty to support the research they're doing. that's difficult. we have seen a significant
uptick in stem students at our place, particularfully biology. very high right now. we had 2,000 -- 12,000 applicant ford 850 places. 2,000 of whom were for biology. >> guest: i think biology is something people want. >> host: doing very well and might be the foot me pred and also the path to a lot of -- no biotech. >> host: so that has not suffered so much. but some others, physics has declined somewhat but physics was never the most popular major in any campus. >> guest: but if you look what the call the physical sciences, science minus biology, there's been a huge drop, and part of it is because we're not funding basic vive, but that's not an answer. that's a problem. >> host: we need more people -- >> guest: it's about not making the investment that are going to keep us prosperous, strong and free, generation down the line. >> host: when are you going to
run for congress so you can change this? you and i will not be able to change that dynamic, i'm afraid. we would like to, but it's a political solution. it's an economic solution and a political solution. >> guest: i agree. >> host: we don't have the clout -- >> guest: no individual -- >> host: they president over the united states apparently. >> guest: i think five years ago, three years ago no one would have foreseen the movement towards minimum wage, towards raising the minimum wage get thing kind of traction it's gotten next last election, just passed in several red states. i thing free or low coase public higher ed needed to be put on the agenda right next to raising the minimum wage as a way of addressing the enormous problem with inequality that we finally woken up to is in this country now that the debt on obama on --
that means raising member minimum wage and making education accessible again. an organization called -- got a terrible name, redeeming america's promise. a terrible name because doesn't tell you what it's about. started bay former aide to vice president gore, and some other of his political friends, and this is their agenda, right? it's free public higher ed. so the movement is starting. i want more and more people to know about it. i'm a writer. i'm not going to be a politician or organizer. but organizing is what people need to do and again i want parents to make the connection between what happens to them as taxpayers and what happens to them as tuition payers and to realize they have a stake in resurrecting public higher ed. i think parents -- if anyone is going to make changes it's going to be parents acting as a group because they're fed up, as many of them are, with what is
happening with their kid, with the kind of crazy pressure that their kids are suffering under. there's a documentary called, race to nowhere, that has been circulating in communities for a long time. get shown at high schools-parents come and talk about it. it was made bay woman in the bay area who is actually a lawyer, and her inciting moment was when her fourth grade son was complaining of stomachache because he was so stressed about how much homework he had. she said, there's a problem here. she started to talk to 0 parents. that's what i'm talking about. that's where the change will come, if it comes at all. >> host: the stomachache comes in more economically advantaged neighborhood is think. other neighborhoods the stomachache will be over other things, because the stomach is empty. >> guest: absolutely. she is a lawyer. she is an upper middle class -- >> host: on the political side,
if you take your argue; what do you defund o. not fund and when you -- or not fund when when you reredirect funs to public education. i'd raise taxes. not the top -- >> host: everybody in america? >> guest: you know what? i'm just old enough to remember the reagan revolution. nobody in their right mind would ever have imagined that could have happened ten years before it happened. that we would drop top marginal tax rates from 72, 28 or 35. the one thing i'm certain about, with respect to the future, is that we can't be certain about the future. and things that seemed impossible today, like raising the minimum wage, will be possible tomorrow. there are plenty of thing i think we spend too much money on, whether it's prison or defers or corporate welfare but our tax rates are at historical lows. the top ten percent includes me and i'm guessing it includes you
and many of the people we know, is historic highs. we're talking bat transfer of a couple trillion dollars a year from the bottom 90% to the top ten percent. that's the tax target that i think we need to go after. and i don't think we'll ever have enough my for our needs until we do. >> host: i think people in public education will thank you. others will say it's an impossible mandate. >> guest: i know. >> host: it's a dilemma to fund everything at once. >> guest: yes. it is. >> host: you know that. at the same time, the private schools will continue to exist, still charge hefty tuitions, be robust, have high demand. i don't think that's going away. subtracts. >> guest: it's part of the two americas we're creating. people live in gated communities with private security forces, send their kids to private schools and universities and they go to yale.
i know this is a cliche but is this the country we want to live in? i certainly think most people don't because moats people are at the short end of the stick. >> host: most people are not in the privilege evidence position, that's for sure. some people with whom we deal are in that privileged position. their families are and kids are. >> guest: absolutely. >> host: all of those kids have right to be at these schools. they've worked hard and done well. i don't want to say oh, no, only take the person who is in some way disadvantaged 0 to be part of our ecosystem. that's not fair either. it's a balance. >> guest: let's be honest. you can't afford to because the business model of the private institution requires rich people. >> host: students and family no question about it. well, i want to thank you for this robust and stimulating stid inciteful conversation, and ail can say, i'm looking forward to your next book. >> guestay