Monthly Archives: April 2012

Is College Worth It?

It’s interesting to me how various story themes emerge and then make the rounds of blogs and other Internet sites and then find a home at the national mainstream media. Here’s one. Is a college degree worth the cost and effort? And does the answer to that question hinge on whether there is a job waiting at graduation?

Here are two interesting op-eds from the NYT.

First, by Frank Bruni, “The Imperiled Promise of College“:

FOR a long time and for a lot of us, “college” was more or less a synonym for success. We had only to go. We had only to graduate. And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors and everything we heard and everything we read, we could pretty much count on a career, just about depend on a decent income and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn’t a piece of paper. It was an amulet.

And it was broadly accessible, or at least it was spoken of that way. With the right mix of intelligence, moxie and various kinds of aid, a motivated person could supposedly get there. College was seen as a glittering centerpiece of the American dream, a reliable engine of social mobility.

I’m not sure things were ever that simple, but they’re definitely more complicated now. And that was an unacknowledged backdrop for the pitched debate last week about federal student loan rates and whether they would be kept at 3.4 percent or allowed to return to 6.8 percent. That was one reason, among many, that it stirred up so much anxiety and got so much attention.

Because of levitating costs, college these days is a luxury item. What’s more, it’s a luxury item with newly uncertain returns.

Yes, many of the sorts of service-industry jobs now available to people without higher education are less financially rewarding than manufacturing jobs of yore, and so college has in that sense become more imperative. And, yes, college graduates have an unemployment rate half that of people with only high school degrees.

But that figure factors in Americans who got their diplomas and first entered the job market decades ago, and it could reflect not just what was studied in college but the already established economic advantages, contacts and temperaments of the kind of people who pursue and stick with higher education.

It doesn’t capture the grim reality for recent college graduates, whose leg up on their less educated counterparts isn’t such a sturdy, comely leg at the moment. According to an Associated Press analysis of data from 2011, 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or, if they were lucky, merely underemployed, which means they were in jobs for which their degrees weren’t necessary. Philosophy majors mull questions no more existential than the proper billowiness of the foamed milk atop a customer’s cappuccino. Anthropology majors contemplate the tribal behavior of the youngsters who shop at the Zara where they peddle skinny jeans.

I single out philosophy and anthropology because those are two fields — along with zoology, art history and humanities — whose majors are least likely to find jobs reflective of their education level, according to government projections quoted by the Associated Press. But how many college students are fully aware of that? How many reroute themselves into, say, teaching, accounting, nursing or computer science, where degree-relevant jobs are easier to find? Not nearly enough, judging from the angry, dispossessed troops of Occupy Wall Street.

The thing is, today’s graduates aren’t just entering an especially brutal economy. They’re entering it in many cases with the wrong portfolios. To wit: as a country we routinely grant special visas to highly educated workers from countries like China and India. They possess scientific and technical skills that American companies need but that not enough American students are acquiring.

“That’s why there are all these kinds of initiatives to make math and science fun,” Stephen J. Rose, a senior economist at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, reminded me last week. He was referring to elementary and high school attempts to prime more American students for college majors in those areas and for sectors of the job market where positions are more plentiful and lucrative. The center issued a report last year that noted that “not all bachelor’s degrees are the same” and that “while going to college is undoubtedly a wise decision, what you take while you’re there matters a lot, too.”

And from Paul Krugman, “Wasting Our Minds“:

There is, however, a larger issue: even if students do manage, somehow, to “get the education,” which they do all too often by incurring a lot of debt, they’ll be graduating into an economy that doesn’t seem to want them.

You’ve probably heard lots about how workers with college degrees are faring better in this slump than those with only a high school education, which is true. But the story is far less encouraging if you focus not on middle-aged Americans with degrees but on recent graduates. Unemployment among recent graduates has soared; so has part-time work, presumably reflecting the inability of graduates to find full-time jobs. Perhaps most telling, earnings have plunged even among those graduates working full time — a sign that many have been forced to take jobs that make no use of their education.

College graduates, then, are taking it on the chin thanks to the weak economy. And research tells us that the price isn’t temporary: students who graduate into a bad economy never recover the lost ground. Instead, their earnings are depressed for life.

[Spoiler alert: Dr. K then launches his familiar rant about the economic and job-creation policies of Romney and fellow conservatives.]

I still believe that the lack of quality jobs and the continuing weak economy will be the dominant issues in this year’s elections.

Is college worth it?

You bet.

But without the prospect of a job and a career that involves asking more than whether the customer wants fries with the sandwich, more and more young people and their parents may begin to question it.


A Civics Test: Could You Pass?

With all the informed debate and commentary on cable TV these days (LOL), you would expect that most Americans were experts on U.S. history, government and our constitution. Apparently not.

Here’s from USA Today, “Americans put to shame by immigrants on sample civics test“:

Immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship have to pass a 10-question civics test asking basic questions about American history and government, and about 93% succeed.

But only 65% of native-born Americans could get the required six out of 10 right answers when asked the same questions in a telephone poll.

That’s the finding from the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University in Cincinnati, which commissioned the telephone survey of 1,023 native-born Americans last month. Michael Ford, the director of the center, said the results are particularly troubling in an election year featuring competing visions of a Constitution that many citizens may not understand.

“If we are civic illiterates, the chances of losing our freedom is greater than being invaded by aliens or a foreign country,” he said.

Most Americans agree. In a separate survey, 77% said all Americans ought to be able to pass the citizenship test, and 60% said it should be a requirement for high school graduation.

The survey was designed to mimic the actual test. The 10 questions were selected from the same bank of 100 questions that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses. Like the test, the answers are open-ended — no multiple choice — and can have multiple valid answers.

One difference: Unlike citizenship candidates, the survey respondents didn’t have time to study.

“The citizenship candidates who have decided to file their application for naturalization and begin their life in the United States, they want it really bad,” said Christopher Bentley, a USCIS spokesman. “That said, it is stuff that people would have learned in Civics 101 class.”

They are not learning it, said Gene Koo, director of iCivics, an education non-profit founded by Sandra Day O’Connor, a former Supreme Court justice. Many schools aren’t teaching civics as they used to — an unintended consequence of the justifiable emphasis on science and math, he said.

“We always assumed that those who grew up here were getting that in the school system. That stopped being true a couple decades ago, and you can see the results of that in this study,” he said.

Ford noted that 44% of those with a high school education or less passed the test, rising to 82% among college grads. “They’re still getting whupped by immigrants. … I don’t blame the educational system. We have personal responsibilities as citizens. Not just rights.”

Wonder how many of the survey respondents could have talked at length about the Kardashians? (Related civics story. Kim Kardashian has indicated that she plans to run for mayor of the city of Glendale. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, Glendale does not have a mayor.)

So it goes.

Truth in Advertising: The Heart Attack Grill

I’ll admit I’m not much of a risk taker. So it’s unlikely that you’ll find me flying from a high cliff tethered only to a bungee cord. Bad enough that I have to drive these days in shopping center parking lots where other drivers apparently can’t follow the directional arrows.

I also doubt that I’ll be dining at the Heart Attack Grill. Now there’s a place that lives (or dies) up to its reputation. Here’s from USA Today, “Another patron collapses at Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill“:

Forget man bites dog.

In a bizarre “woman bites burger” tale, a patron of a Las Vegas diner infamous for its calorie-laden menu and waitresses in medical garb has suffered an apparent heart attack there – the second medical incident since February.

Heart Attack Grill owner Jon Basso told Vegas’ KVVU that the woman collapsed while eating a “double bypass” burger Saturday night; she was rushed to a hospital and is expected to recover. In mid-February, a man had an apparent heart attack while chowing down on a 6,000-calorie “triple bypass” version.

The chain’s slogan is “a burger to die for.” It gives free meals to people over 350 pounds, and a sign reads “Caution: This establishment is bad for your health,” notes the Associated Press. [Note to self: Really?]

The 8,000-calorie Quadruple Bypass Burger, with four half-pound beef patties, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato and half an onion served in a lard-coated bun, has been called one of the “world’s worst junk foods.” Other menu items include butterfat milkshakes and “flatliner fries” cooked in lard.

After the first incident, the AP reports, the Washington, D.C.-based Officials for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said they sent a letter to the Heart Attack Grill’s owner, asking him to “declare moral bankruptcy” and close the restaurant.

Susan Levin, the group’s director of nutrition education, said the incident should be a wake-up call that “bypass operations aren’t funny.”

Gotta agree with that. And it’s advice worth chewing on.

By the way, most times when I eat out I’m not at risk of flatlining — until the check arrives.

College Grad But No Job

OK. I’ll admit to fretting about plenty of things these days, most being totally out of my ability to control. One involves the continuing lack of good-paying, sustainable jobs as the nation’s economy continues its slow climb out of the deep hole of recession. Recent — or soon to be recent — college grads are among the many who are caught in the squeeze of too many chasing too few jobs.

Another involves the trend to abandon liberal arts education in favor of preparing students for what in many cases are low-paying jobs in health care and retail.

Here’s from an AP story on The Huffington Post, “In Weak Job Market, One In Two College Graduates are Jobless or Underemployed“:

The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs – waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example – and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Opportunities for college graduates vary widely.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Oh boy. A nation of bedpan changers. Really?

I always be an advocate for education — and I still believe that a liberal arts education has value. But as tuition and fees continue to increase — and students take on substantial debt — I expect we are entering an era when a college education will be viewed primarily as a training program that offers some hope of employment.

And I believe that stories like this one also from The Huffington Post — “The 13 Most Useless Majors, From Philosophy to Journalism” — will begin to attract considerably more attention from students and parents.

Of course, what do I know? I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in journalism. But hey. In the long run, do we really want colleges and universities to be nothing more than trade schools? And if students are forced to abandon the study of liberal arts, what will our culture reflect without writers, artists, musicians and so on?

Something tells me that reflecting on the great accomplishments in accounting is not going to be all that satisfying.


Is Social Media Making Us Less Social?

I kinda enjoy texting. It allows me to avoid talking to anyone. And I like it that I can “like” comments and events on Facebook. That means I can maintain some level of contact with minimal effort. It appears I’m not alone.

When I go to business meetings or conferences these days, I notice that people pay more attention to their computers and smart phones than they do to the speakers. And I know it is fashionable these days to live Tweet a conference, but at some level doesn’t that seem rude to the speaker. To say nothing about all the followers who have to delete the tweets, which generally are meaningless since they appear without any context, as soon as they are received. Just sayin’.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this was an interesting article in the NYT, “The Flight From Conversation.” Here’s from the op-ed by Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at M.I.T.:

WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

We’re never going to return to the days of landlines, snail mail and office stop-and-chats. Doubt that few, if any, would really want that.

But it strikes me that the pervasive use of social media has us heading into some uncharted territory in terms of real-life relationships at home, at work, and in society in general. Wonder if people will stop going out to eat once talking gives way completely to texting and monitoring e-mail?

As I thumb through my e-mail this early a.m. and check on Facebook and Twitter to see who has just checked in at work or at a place for coffee, it’s apparent how easy it is to keep in touch without being very social.

Not sure that’s a good thing.

Sarah Palin and the Secret Service Prostitute Scandal

Well, I guess we can be thankful that the party planners at the General Services Administration weren’t involved in organizing the president’s trip to Colombia for an economic summit. Otherwise the dispute over hundreds of dollars allegedly owed to a prostitute for services rendered would have escalated to thousands, maybe more.

In any event, with several resignations so far and more likely, this appears to be a fairly expensive party for some of the Secret Service agents involved. Better they should have hired a clown and a mind reader and engaged in “team-building” exercises. LOL

Anyway, here’s from the NYT:

A Secret Service agent preparing for President Obama’s arrival at an international summit meeting and a single mother from Colombia who makes a living as a high-priced escort faced off in a room at the Hotel Caribe a week ago over how much he owed her for the previous night’s intercourse. “I tell him, ‘Baby, my cash money,’ ” the woman said in her first public comments on a dispute that would soon spiral into a full-blown scandal.

The disagreement over her price — he offered $30 for services she thought they had agreed were worth more than 25 times that — set off a tense early morning quarrel in the hallway of the luxury hotel involving the woman, another prostitute, Colombian police officers arguing on the women’s behalf and American federal agents who tried but failed to keep the matter from escalating.

On Wednesday, in a setback to the reputation of those who protect the president, the Secret Service prepared to fire one supervisor tied to the alleged misconduct with prostitutes on the Cartagena trip, the agency said in a statement. Another supervisor has decided to retire, and a third employee will be allowed to resign, the statement said. Eight other employees remain under investigation.

“These guys have the clearest cases,” said a government official briefed on the investigation, referring to the three who are being pushed out.

The employees under scrutiny have been asked to take lie detector tests; only one has agreed to do so, the official said. The supervisor who is being fired has threatened to sue, Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, has told officials.

Sitting in her living room wearing a short jean skirt, high-heeled espadrilles and a spandex top with a plunging neckline, the prostitute described how she and another woman were approached by a group of American men at a discotheque. In an account consistent with the official version of events coming out of Washington, but could not be independently confirmed, she said the men bought a bottle of Absolut vodka for the table and when that was finished bought a second one.

“They never told me they were with Obama,” she said, addressing published reports that some agents may have openly boasted to prostitutes that they were there protecting the president. “They were very discreet.”

Well, discreet, perhaps. And at least they were in sync other members of the administration, focused on job creation and economic development. Pretty much like Jeff Immelt at GE, the head of Obama’s job council. I digress.

This scandal, of course, is not just a black eye for the Secret Service and the administration, but it raises some legitimate questions about how safe the president is, especially when he travels to foreign countries. Admit it. Would you go to Colombia — or worse yet, Mexico — without the most stringent security available?

And then no political story is complete these days without Sarah Palin being involved. Here’s from The Daily Mail:

One of the senior Secret Service agents who lost his job in the wake of the Colombia prostitution scandal joked about protecting Sarah Palin in a post on his Facebook page.

David Randall Chaney, a 48-year-old supervisor, wrote that he was ‘really checking out’ the vice-presidential candidate when he guarded her during the 2008 election campaign.

But Ms Palin yesterday hit back at the disgraced agent who retired this week after being suspended along with ten others involved in an argument with escorts at a hotel.


He posted numerous pictures with her in the foreground and him standing in the background wearing a suit and dark glasses.

After a friend suggested that Chaney had ‘real chemistry’ with the Alaska governor, he replied: ‘I was really checking her out, if you know what I mean?’

 Ms Palin reacted with anger when she heard about the married agent’s comments.

‘This agent was kind of ridiculous in posting pictures and comments about checking someone out,’ she said on Fox News. ‘Well check this out, bodyguard – you’re fired! And I hope his wife… sends him to the dog house.’

‘A lot of people will say this is boys being boys, and boys will be boys, but they shouldn’t be in positions of authority. I think it’s pretty embarrassing,’ the 48-year-old added. ‘I’ve had enough of these men being dogs and not being responsible.’

Palin said it was ‘a symptom of government run amok’. ‘It’s like, who’s minding the store around here?’ she told Fox News.

‘The president, for one, he better be wary, there, of when Secret Service is accompanying his family on vacation. They may be checking out the first lady instead of guarding her.’

Oh boy. Can’t wait to see the HBO movie about all this.
Wonder who will get the role of the clown?
And the prostitute?



Kentucky Basketball: A Model Job Training Program

I know there are thousands of student-athletes who make a significant commitment to attend classes, study, and work toward graduation and a college degree. And they are doing that while spending hours at practice and traveling to games and meets and so on. Good for them. I expect they value a college education for being more than just an extended job training program.

This post isn’t about these real student-athletes.

It’s about the quasi-professionals who show up at the basketball and football factories for a year or two on their way — with luck — to the pros.  They view the college experience for them for what it is: a job training program.

And I guess I don’t have anything against this as long as we don’t view these pros-in-waiting to be student athletes.

Here’s what got me started on this today during my hour chasing the treadmill belt at 5:30 a.m. Essentially the entire Kentucky basketball squad that just won the NCAA championship is heading to the pros, without waiting to cross the stage to grab their sheepskins.  From USA Today, “Davis, Jones among five Kentucky underclassmen headed to NBA“:

NBA executives, they’re all yours.

Anthony Davis, fellow freshmen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb have all declared for the NBA draft.

“This is a players-first program,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said to open Tuesday’s news conference. “During the season, it’s about the team. … When the season is over, it’s about moments like this.”

Wait, I have a tear in my eye.

OK. I’m back. Sorry about that.

Anyway, if the Kentucky basketball team is moving on to the pros, good. In this day of outrageously high tuition, increasing student loan debt, and declining job prospects, the University of Kentucky  and coach John Calipari offer a model for a job training program that works. Most students enrolled at colleges and universities throughout the country should be so fortunate.

William C. Rhoden opines in the NYT:

Later this month, college underclassmen who wish to enter the N.B.A. draft must declare their intention to do so. Five of those undergraduates are expected to come from the Kentucky team that helped Coach John Calipari win his first national championship. All of Kentucky’s starters — two freshmen and three sophomores — could be selected in the first round when the N.B.A. holds its draft in June, their next crucial step toward the realization of a cherished dream.

Yet Kentucky’s success has prompted critics to predict the demise of college basketball and the end of higher education as we know it.

In an ideal world, everyone would stay four years and graduate. But Kentucky’s basketball program is in fact a tribute to a real-world system that works, preparing young people for a viable profession — in this case, professional athletics.

Not only in basketball and football but also across the spectrum of intercollegiate sports, top-tier athletes are honing their skills for the pros. Tennis players and golfers often leave college after one or two years to turn pro. Baseball players are drafted out of high school; many of those who accept college scholarships play for two or three years before leaving for the pro ranks. In hockey, talented underclassmen leave college after the season and join the pro team that holds their rights.

Intercollegiate athletics feed and nourish the professional leagues. But they also doing what colleges are supposed to: preparing their students for a productive future.

One of the problems, of course, is that university presidents and others don’t want to admit that they are running a multimillion dollar sideshow to what should be the mission of the university: helping students get an education.

Here’s Joe Nocera in the NYT, “Football and Swahili“:

I was at the University of North Carolina when I heard the Swahili anecdote.

It was at a luncheon organized by some faculty members who have become, like me, critics of the N.C.A.A. and the hypocrisy of college sports. Among those attending was a former Carolina football player named Deunta Williams.

About halfway through lunch, the talk turned to education. The University of North Carolina, mind you, is a place that professes to care a great deal about whether its athletes go to class — and earn a degree. And, of course, the N.C.A.A. claims — preposterously — that athletes are students above all else.

Yet several of the professors complained that whenever an athlete enrolled in their classes, they got a letter from the athletic department asking them, in effect, to go easy on the player. After all, he was holding down a full-time job: playing football for the university.

Williams, however, had his own set of complaints. Athletes, he said, could only take the classes the athletic department wanted them to take. Coursework couldn’t interfere with practice, of course. It was always better that the classes not be too difficult — otherwise, there might be eligibility problems. And one other thing:

“All the freshman football players take Swahili as their language requirement,” Williams said. Why? Because the athletic department tutors are strong in Swahili. (In fact, 7 of 25 freshmen football players took Swahili in 2006, Williams’s freshman year.)

I’ve been thinking about that Swahili story a lot these days. Over the past few months, as I’ve tackled the problems with college sports — and called for players to be paid, instead of serving as free labor in a multibillion-dollar industry — many readers and bloggers have responded by pointing to the presumed value of the free education they’re getting. Some have argued that the right answer is for universities to de-emphasize athletics. Others have said that schools should stop accepting athletes, no matter how talented, who lack the skills to do college-level work. Just last week, Bob Costas, the estimable NBC sportscaster, devoted two hours of airtime to the state of college sports. (I was one of the panelists.) A half-dozen times, he asked whether it was right for schools to enroll athletes who couldn’t handle the academic requirements of college.

I have come to believe that that is the wrong question. Yes, the world would be a better place if universities were not trying to manage a huge entertainment complex “on the side.” But schools with big-time football and basketball programs are not acting irrationally. In addition to the millions of dollars such programs reap, they can put a school on the map, making it more attractive to potential applicants. A good college team can bind together a campus like nothing else.

In playing for the team, the athletes are giving their schools more immediate value than anyone else in the student body. They are also doing something that requires at least as much skill as playing in a university orchestra. Even putting aside the question of pay, surely the university ought to feel a moral obligation to return the favor by giving the players the tools to succeed in life.

Instead, universities do the opposite. With their phony majors and low expectations, they send the unmistakable message to the athletes that they don’t care what happens after their eligibility expires. It’s a disgrace.

Instead, why not allow football players to major in, well, football? This is a solution put forth by John Kilbourne, a professor of movement science at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Kilbourne, a former dance major, points out that college dancers can focus almost exclusively on the thing they are passionate about — even though the vast majority will not ultimately be professional dancers. Why is it so terrible to think of a football player doing likewise? Surely they could get more from a course in, say, “racism and football” than in most of what they are now forced to take.

There is another way to come at this. It requires tossing the “student-athlete” pretense overboard and being honest about the revenue-generating role athletes play — and the fact that many are ill equipped to do college work. Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has proposed “reimagining” the college system to acknowledge that football and basketball players are employees first and students a distant second. In her model, players would get paid something — and if they chose to pursue a college education, that would be an extra benefit. If they needed remedial reading and math instead of Shakespeare, the university would provide that, even if it didn’t ultimately lead to a college degree.

“All of the problems in college sports stem from one root cause,” she told me recently. “It is all built on a lie.”

Until we acknowledge that lie, the freshmen football players will be studying Swahili.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 13, 2012: An earlier version of this column incorrectly reported the number of freshmen football players at the University of North Carolina who took Swahili in 2006. It was seven, not “all of them,” as Mr. Williams was quoted as saying.

If the “student-athletes” at the basketball and football factories are preparing for a career in the pros, then let them major in football or basketball. Hey, it’s a job training program — and one that at Kentucky, at least, works.