The purpose of higher education is not clear. Traditionalists of course think it is learning where you came from in all respects and how you can stay in that place, more or less. More progressive people think it is to prepare you for the future, but the future they mean is not clear. Is it getting a high salary, a good job, enough money to pay off your scandalously large indebtedness thanks to the greed of higher education authorities? Real radicals think it is to change the country and the world. But in what ways? Students and professors in German universities for a half century (if not much longer) before Hitler wanted to change the country and the world indeed! They had a racial goal for the transformation of mankind.

Then the question arises: Who should get a higher education? Only those from the elite, so they can continue to be the elite? Even though elites decline? Look at the Bush family, the best example of the rapid decline of the Old Wasp elite into Texas populism. Or should there be a meritocracy that determines those worthy of a higher education? Meritocracy today is attacked as essentially aristocracy, but since there has never really been a society that could be democratic for long, all societies are aristocratic or oligarchic or, a nicer word until now, meritocratic.

What should be done with those not able to be admitted to higher education? Clearly they should be trained for useful work. Everyone should be trained for useful work: That is what higher education does for its clientele.

In my experience, talking about education on any level only gives one headaches. Education is not something to think about but something to get. It is not a subject and should not be an academic major. Teachers are taught all sorts of nonsense instead of how to give students what they need -- not what they want but what they NEED. An education major should not teach! He/she should clean the latrines.

Norman Ravitch *62
Savannah, Ga.