Former Ivy League professor Louis Menand:
Soon after I started teaching there [in a public university system], someone raised his hand and asked, about a text I had assigned, “Why did we have to buy this book?”
I got the question in that form only once, but I heard it a number of times in the unmonetized form of “Why did we have to read this book?” I could see that this was not only a perfectly legitimate question; it was a very interesting question. The students were asking me to justify the return on investment in a college education. I just had never been called upon to think about this before. It wasn’t part of my training. We took the value of the business we were in for granted.
Taking the value of any business, service, or product for granted is a short road to trouble. Indeed, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel (who correctly anticipated both the dotcom and housing bubbles) identifies higher education as a bubble waiting to pop. I happen to agree.
(Note that this isn’t a mark against the idea of education; it’s a mark against what the education system has become.)