Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/06/27

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Subject: [Leica] declining quality
From: msmall at (Marc James Small)
Date: Sun Jun 27 14:40:57 2004
References: <>

At 06:13 AM 6/27/04 -0700, Leonard J Kapner wrote:

>If I recall correctly, the original intent of the academy in Plato's time
>was not higher education for all. It was to prepare society's leadership for
>the reigns of responsibility to govern democratically. 
>Over the centuries that mission has adjusted with society's change. With the
>advent of public sponsorship of university finance in America in the early
>20th century, the mission was broadened to include access for all. 

It has been effectively argued that Thomas Jefferson started this idea with
the creation of the University of Virginia ("What is a Wahoo?" they all
ask, and all respond, "a type of fish" and UVaians leave in disarray,
embarrassment, and the appropriate shame.)  If not then, it certainly was
in effect with the Land Grand Act of 1862 which established public,
tax-supported institutes of higher learning in all of the territories,
later extended to existing states so that, for instance, Virginia
Polytechnic was entitled to Land Grant benefits from the 1880's onwards.  

Many states did long have an open-admissions policy which is a wonderful
concept so long as standards are maintained.  However, it cheapens the
accomplishments of those there on merit to award social passes to the open
admissions folks on the grounds that they were "disadvantaged" or
"culturally challenged".  We are ALL disadvantaged in one sense or other;
we are ALL culturally challenged, as this is a multi-cultural society and
we all have to deal all the time with those from other backgrounds than we
have:  this was true of my parents and grand-parents and
great-grand-parents and it is true today.  

Social Engineering is silly both in concept and in practice.  None of us
are equal in ability and accomplishment:  many a wonderful politician,
writer, scholar, artist, or musician has ruined a grand career through
drugs or alcohol or mental illness or the like;  BD Colen is a better
photographer than I am, while my knowledge of the history of photographic
concerns in the past century blows his knowledge into the weeds -- but I
MIGHT be a better darkroom meisterwerker than he is!  We are only created
equal, and the US affords equal opportunity to all, with some caveats.
(That is, if you want your son to be admitted to a really exclusive private
school on scholarship, ensure that he can both speak standard English
intelligently and that he withholds expressing any radical political
thoughts until after he has been graduated.)

Increasing the number of higher-education graduates is bound to cheapen the
effect of a degree.  If 1% of the population hold a Bachelor's Degree, then
the possession of such carries a large import.  If 50% possess such a
degree, then, obviously, the impact is markedly less.  But the problem is
deeper than this:  if we move from 1% as college graduates to 50%, there
has to be a lessening of standards.  The resulting graduates of the new
system will be less knowledgeable, less informed, less able to analyse and
comprehend.  (A minor comparison:  there was a time when the Virginia
Military Institute and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute both produced
around 400 graduates a year:  in general terms, the US Army seems to have
preferred the VPI grads, who generally rose to higher grades before
retirement and who earned greater awards.  Forty years ago, VPI turned
itself into Virginia Tech, a school of something like 12,000 or 15,000
students, while VMI stayed the same, as did the ROTC Corps at VPI.
However, today's Army welcomes VMI graduates while it tries to move these
"Virginia Tech" guys into the Reserves along with the Penn State and UCal
Berkeley grads.

Stay small, and quality results.  I would point out that Yale is 1/10 the
size of Havard to speak of the maintenance of quality were it not for the
Clinton and Kerry experience, though, of course, the Yale Graduate School
honored itself by granting me an MA in 1974 (hence, I am an alum and am up
on much of the latest gossip -- let us just say that John Scary was
regarded as more than a bit weird while he was at Yale but, hell, anyone
looking at him today knows this;  the question is whether he is weirder
than Bush.  Me?  I can safely vote Libertarian, as Bush will certainly
sweep Virginia so my protest vote will only serve to remind the Republicans
that they have forgotten their deep committment to individual liberty, as
they have for most of my adult life.)


>What would the camera market be like today if everyone who wanted to make a
>photograph were guaranteed access to a Leica and the government subsidized
>the manufacture and distribution of them at taxpayer expense?
>Ah, well... I hope and pray Ralf is recovering well from his moment last
>-----Original Message-----
>[] On Behalf Of Frank
>Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2004 11:40 PM
>To: Leica Users Group
>Subject: Re: [Leica] declining quality now why are these
>illiteratesevenadmitted to college
>I agree with you. I am in the UK. I believe the education "industry" is 
>the most important industry of all. It prepares the most important 
>resource the country has, its people.
>I take issue, however, with the view that more and more people should 
>have a University education.
>Our government seems to have a target of 40% of the population having a 
>University education, in the '50s it was around 5% I believe. Since the 
>average intelligence of the population has not much changed this 
>results in a dumbing down of entry requirements, course content and 
>eventual Graduate capability. The degree has less value. The education 
>requirements of job seekers has changed over the period but not enough 
>to prevent people today, who have a degree, doing exactly the same job 
>that they would have done in the past without a degree and on the same 
>pay. This results in massive financial hardship for young people.
>I could go on....
>On 27 Jun, 2004, at 00:44, Leonard J Kapner wrote:
>> Sorry for the intrusion, but this whole issue makes me see red.
>> When academic administrators are rewarded for managing to a set of 
>> numbers
>> rather than to the independently inspected quality of their product, 
>> we get
>> this kind of "felgerkarb" result.
>> Higher education is the only industry in America (other than politics 
>> and
>> used car sales) that flourishes, despite the almost universal 
>> condemnation
>> of the quality of their contribution to the nation's economy.
>> What is wrong with us??
>> Maybe I'm just wearing a red filter today...
>> Len
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In reply to: Message from Frank.Dernie at (Frank Dernie) ([Leica] declining quality now why are these illiterates evenadmitted to college)
Message from ljkapner at (Leonard J Kapner) ([Leica] declining quality now why are these illiteratesevenadmitted to college)