Are Colleges Still Relevant?

January18/ 2000

… To paraphrase that magnolia-mouthed quote machine Ernest “Fritz” Hollings … “there is too much consumin’ going on”.  That was Ol’ Fritz’ theory on Economics….  BobLee has been dealin’ with higher education a lot lately what with Kid going off to college and his campaign to make Erskine Bowles President For Life of all North Carolina Education matters.  How relevant are America’s colleges circa 2006 … Boola Boola Siss Boom Baaah?

We all tend to measure societal elements by our own experiences.  “How I did it was GOOD” … how “you” did it was probably all right, but not as good as how “I” did it.  “It” can be “growing up”, “going to college”, “raising a family”, “driving a car”, or “cooking a brisket”.  Since I don’t know a “brisket” from a socket wrench, I avoid discussions of the culinary arts.

I pay attention to “Higher Education” beyond “win – loss records.  Uh oh, I just lost some of you who didn’t think there was anything to be concerned with about colleges EXCEPT won-lost records.  Apparently there is but maybe too many of us have not been paying attention for way too long.  We assume “college” is pretty much like it was when we went”.  Unless you “went” within the past decade … IT’S NOT THE SAME.

As I was leaving Carolina the big furor was over “visitation”.  A person of the opposite sex could visit in your dorm room between noon and 1 PM on Tuesday but Dean Kitty Carmichael decreed the door had to stay open the width of a matchbook.  It’s my understanding that rule is no longer the standard.  DUH!

Apparently circa 2006, college students of the “opposite sex” are the forgotten children since heterosexuality is now banned in favor of “any combination other than …”.  Dean Carmichael had no idea what she started with her matchbooks.  Further discussion of the socio-sexual aspects of colleges make me feel yucky and icky.

I still believe “going off to college” is the best “rite of passage” available to young people that does not involve Parris Island SC and lots of push-ups, marching, and being yelled at.  That one is still likely the very best and the government pays for it..

Lots of you have asked why Kid Swagger selected the Univ of Missouri since your concept of “college” is (1) Carolina and (2) “wherever people go that aren’t smart enough to get into Carolina”.  Well Kid “got into Carolina” but declined their polite invitation.  We’ll get into all that in a later column.

Missouri met the two requirements Mizzus and I felt were important … “a liberal (small “l”) arts school in a “college town”.  UNC and Mizzou are each that … as is UVa, UGa, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama and a whole bunch more.  Raleigh with 365,000 residents does not merit “college town” status … sorry about that Wuffies.

I believe a “college town” is a nice transition for the 18-22 crowd.  It allows them a period of faux relevance that will quickly disappear when they enter TRW (“the real world”).  That “faux relevance”, of course, is the life-sustaining oxygen for our lovable friends “the faculty squirrels”.

Since Kid has no abiding passion to be a veterinarian, engineer, architect, etc her current interest in Journalism makes Mizzou an excellent choice.  If that direction changes for whatever reason she has numerous “get educated” options at Mizzou.

Going back to “when I went to college” …  undoubtedly the “required” General College those first two years was where I “learned the most stuff”.  I’m sure I would have eschewed foreign language, math, and those science courses (with “labs”) if I had had dozens and dozens of Oprah-esque New Age “feel good” options available.  A kid is like “water”seeking the path of least resistance if that path is available.  I and my UNC classmates had to slog thru “General College” like it or not.  Alas, it’s not required any more.

I don’t single out UNC except that it is a commonality with many of us.  As I look thru a current UNC catalogue, if the title of a course gives no clue what the heck one is suppose to learn in it, figure “stuff” is not likely the answer.  I am a whiz at Jeopardy, as is Kid, and much of my Jeopardy recall was taught to me in UNC’s General College.

That “factual knowledge” also leaks out in my daily conversation, certainly in these columns.  And in my ability to assimilate current events and their relative place in history.

I always figured the “purpose of college” was to challenge students … push them beyond their comfort zone.  Apparently now it is to take away the challenge so no one “feels bad”.  “Feeling bad” is not a bad thing.  Neither is a bloody nose or hearing the word “No”.

Erskine has an ally in his quest to Save Higher Education in North Carolina … Judge Howard “Howdy” Manning.  Judge Manning just told the principals of 17 under-performing high schools to “do a better job or find another job”.  KICK BUTT HOWDY!  The courts gave Judge Manning an ax handle and he is aswingin’ it.

 Have you ever noticed that positive changes within education NEVER come from the academic administrators but rather from “meddling outsiders”.  No nonsense men like Erskine Bowles and Howard Manning that will not tolerate slovenly excuses and will DEMAND administrative accountability.  “Individual Accountability” … Lordy Lordy I do LOVE those two words!

I’ve made a standing offer to Erskine to put me in as “the head guy” on any UNC campus.  Pay me on “commission” based on the quality of graduates I generate.  I will run’em all thru two years of “old fashioned” English composition and Literature, US History and World History (I will pick the textbooks), Math (without a calculator!), a foreign language, courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.  The periodic tests will be hard and the final exams will be “a bitch” requiring regurgitation of “facts” as well as the ability to write coherent essays.  The only “curves” in my classes will be on the coeds, not in the grading scale.  A “right answer” is a right answer regardless of how many choose the wrong answer.

For the final two years I will work in conjunction with nearby community colleges.  If a young man (or young woman) wants to be a “tradesman” he/she can choose between a long list of honorable trades.  A skilled tradesman makes an immediate contribution to society and should never be unemployed if he is diligent and hardworking.  If he/she would rather be a Dilbert “corporate prairie dog” hiding in a cubicle downloading porn and posting on a message board that path will, alas, lead to mediocrity and unhappiness.

Note:  The happiest men I know are “Renaissance Tradesmen”.  They are book-learned and possess innate curiosity to learn more. Every day they fix something, build something, or produce something.  Whether they are mechanics, cabinetmakers, landscapers, et al, at the end of the day they are “tired” from their labor and “proud” of their production. …. TIRED AND PROUD – A Damn Fine Combination!  

   Meanwhile Dilbert the corporate “prairie dog” is constipated and hates his wife, his life, his boss, and his school’s athletic director.  So, what do YOU want to be when you grow up?

If a young woman opts for “traditional girl occupations” such as teacher, nurse, or (perish the thought) “secretary” (or even “Mommy”), she can so choose without risk of harassment from the hairy-armpitted harpies.  I will allow loonie liberal organizations on “my campus” so long as each has a corresponding “right wing” fanatic organization.  Keep the playing field level and let’em slug it out for the minds and hearts of America’s youth.

When a faculty member is not “in a classroom”, they will be replacing AC filters, mowing grass, fixing plumbing, or slinging “mystery meat” in the cafeteria.  They may do so while wearing a tweed jacket, smoking a pipe or even wearing an “I Love Castro” t-shirt.

If a student opts for law or medicine that is fine.  If a student has no clue then he/she will go into an extended “learn even more stuff” curriculum … not a contrived collection of “Oprah New Age Crap” courses.  No one “graduates” with a degree in “drugs, sex, and partying”.  If one manage to work those activities in around the core curriculum, fine.

No one will graduate from BobLee’s University until he/she has played Chancellor Swagger one-one in Jeopardy and at least caused me to break a sweat.

 NOTE:  I think I’ll hire Alex Trebek as my Provost… 



 Who was “The Sheriff of Nottingham’s” equally nefarious boss?


 BLS sez … It’s OK to be a Vegan, just do so quietly, please.


   Harry Carson invented “the Gatorade dump”.  Now let’s figure out who invented the “foam finger”.

  A long time SSays reader questioned my “civility sermon” in light of my treatment of Derm’s “Ho’s” and assorted wuzzles.  I decided on Day Four of Derm Mess that “common sense” and “civility” was going to be as useless as “negotiating with terrorists”.  When the casting call went out for Amos ‘n Andy 2006 and the public auditions began, I gave myself a tetanus shot, put on my HazMat coveralls and decided to “play by their rules” … which is “Most Outrageous” wins the day.  I have to admit, it’s been kinda fun. ….. and It Ain’t Over by a long shot.

   The N&O did a GREAT Derm Mess To-Date story on Sunday.  Their meticulous timeline puts Mikey Nifong somewhere between “Dr Evil” and “The Sheriff of Nottingham” among history’s most celebrated dunces.  …. Am I the only one who’s noticed how much the N&O has improved since my consulting stint down there?   
   WPTF’s Kevin Miller is leaving for Nashville next week.  A Good Guy and an ally of BobLee’s in saving Western Civilization.  Bon Chance, mon ami!
   Want to e-mail BobLee?
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