As the chief academic officer at a regional comprehensive university, I read the Nov. 26 front-page article “On elitists, ‘crybabies’ and ‘junky’ degrees” with dismay. It is difficult to reconcile this characterization of American higher education with the dedicated work of faculty and staff I see every day.
We work diligently to help our students develop the knowledge, skills and abilities that will prepare them for their first jobs and rewarding careers. And, rather than hoping our students “hang out and protest all day long,” our Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement provides training for students, faculty and community members so they have the skills for constructive dialogue on difficult and divisive topics. We strive to ensure that our students become informed consumers of information and rational decision-makers. Comprehensive universities are often the arts and culture hubs for the communities in which they are located. Let’s not undervalue one of the United States’ most important institutions.
Karen L. Olmstead, Salisbury, Md.
The writer is interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for Salisbury University.
When it comes to higher education, conservatives and liberals have a lot to agree on. They just don’t know it. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University — one of those elitist private universities conservatives talk about — has published any number of reports in recent years on educational alternatives that do not require a bachelor’s degree, on the value of technical education, and on the relationship between types of degrees and earning power.
Unfortunately, conservatives would rather draw their information from conservative websites that nourish and promote a sense of grievance and make fun of supposedly ridiculous college courses such as “underwater basket weaving.” Actual reporting does not seem to be their forte. It took me two minutes to discover that “underwater basket weaving” was taught at Reed College in Portland, Ore., decades ago as a parody mocking exactly the same things conservatives are now mocking: useless, trendy college courses. In short, it was a joke. “You might think that after 40 years, the joke would wear out,” the college magazine wrote back in 2011. Apparently not.
I despair for reasoned discourse.
Tracy Thompson, Bowie
The article “On elitists, ‘crybabies’ and ‘junky’ degrees” reported that Donald Trump Jr. was paid handsomely to ridicule college classes in tree climbing. I’m enrolled in the landscape technology program at Montgomery College in Maryland, which indeed teaches tree climbing. It’s a great course that helps students become certified arborists and earn good salaries.
I suspect Mr. Trump would find even more hilarious the program’s courses in how to grow grass, yet these courses put students on a path to earn six-figure incomes from turf-maintenance contracts. Mr. Trump would perhaps appreciate these classes more if he knew the educational backgrounds of the people who care for the grass and trees on Trump golf courses.
Elizabeth Kleemeier, Takoma Park