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Index to The Happy Days Ahead

The Happy Days Ahead

By Robert A. Heinlein

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How to get a degree without having to learn anything useful

526                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

    This scandal must be charged to grammar and high school teachers ... many of whom are not themselves literate (I know!)—but are not personally to blame, as we are now in the second generation of illiteracy.  The blind lead the blind.[1]
    But what happens after this child (sorry-young adult citizen) enters UCSC?
I TELL YOU THREE TIMES I TELL YOU THREE TIMES I TELL YOU THREE TIMES: A student who wants an education can get one at UCSC in a number of very difficult subjects, plus a broad general education.[2]
    I ask you never to forget this while we see how one can slide through, never do any real work, never learn anything solid, and still receive a bachelor of arts degree from the prestigious University of California.  Although I offer examples from the campus I know best, I assume conclusively that this can be done throughout the state, as it is one statewide university operating under one set of rules.
    Some guidelines apply to any campus: Don't pick a medical school or an engineering school.  Don't pick a natural science that requires difficult mathematics. (A subject called "science" that does not require difficult mathematics usually is "science" in the sense that "Christian Science" is science—in its widest sense "science" simply means "knowledge" and anyone may use the word for any subject ... but shun the subjects that can't be understood without mind-stretching math.)
    Try to get a stupid but good-natured adviser.  There are plenty around, especially in subjects in which to get a no-sweat degree; Sturgeon's Law applies to professors as well as to other categories.
    For a bachelor's degree:
    1) You must spend the equivalent of one academic year in acquiring "breadth"—but wait till you see the goodies!

The Happy Days Ahead                                527

    2) You must take the equivalent of one full academic year in your major subject in upper division courses, plus prerequisite lower division courses.  Your 4-year program you must rationalize to your adviser as making sense for your major ("Doctor, I picked that course because it is so far from my major—for perspective.  I was getting too narrow."  He'll beam approvingly ... or you had better look for a stupider adviser).
    3) Quite a lot of time will be spent off campus but counted toward your degree.  This should be fun, but it can range from hard labor at sea, to counting noses and asking snoopy questions of "ethnics" (excuse, please!), to time in Europe or Hong Kong, et al., where you are in danger of learning something new and useful even if you don't try.
    4) You will be encouraged to take interdisciplinary majors and are invited (urged) to invent and justify un-heard-of new lines of study.  For this you need the talent of a used-car salesman as any aggregation of courses can be sold as a logical pattern if your "new" subject considers the many complex relationships between three or four or more old and orthodox fields.  Careful here!  If you are smart enough to put this over, you may find yourself not only earning a baccalaureate but in fact doing original work worthy of a Ph.D. (You won't get it.)
    5) You must have at least one upper-division seminar.  Pick one in which the staff leader likes your body odor and you like his. ("I do not like thee, Dr. Fell; the reason why I cannot tell—") But you've at least two years in which to learn which professors in your subject are sim-patico, and which ones to avoid at any cost.
    6) You must write a 10,000 word thesis on your chosen nonsubject and may have to defend it orally.  If you can't write 10,000 words of bull on a bull subject, you've made a mistake—you may have to work for a living.

    The rules above allow plenty of elbowroom; at least three out of four courses can be elective and the re-

528                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

mainder elective in part, from a long menu.  We are still talking solely about nonmathematical subjects.  If you are after a Ph.D. in astronomy, UCSC is a wonderful place to get one ... but you will start by getting a degree in physics including the toughest of mathematics, and will study also chemistry, geology, technical photography, computer science—and will resent any time not leading toward the ultra-interdisciplinary subject lumped under the deceptively simple word "astronomy."
    Breadth—the humanities, natural science, and social science—1/3 in each, total 3/3 or one academic year, but spread as suits you over the years.  Classically "the humanities" are defined as literature, philosophy, and art—but history has been added since it stopped being required in college and became "social studies" in secondary schools.  "Natural science" does not necessarily mean what it says—it can be a "non-alcoholic gin"; see below.  "Social science" means that grab bag of studies in which answers are matters of opinion.



  1. Things progressed during the past twenty years—from bad to worse.  Today, in 1998, we are into the third generation of illiteracy.  In the US as well as in Canada there is an increasing need to teach "Bonehead English" to university entrants.  There have been reports that 20% of 1st-year college students can't read well enough to be able to figure out a bus schedule, and 25% percent of Canadian adults are functionally illiterate, their illiteracy  ranging in severity from having to copy their signature and address from their drivers licence when they register at a hotel to not being able to correctly fill out a simple one-page questionnaire.
        When the oldest of my children entered high school, I was amazed to discover that when they were taking French as a second language, their French-teacher was unable to converse in French. (To allow anyone to teach a language he can't speak is a violation of the meaning of the term "Language.")
        In comparison, when I worked in Luxembourg in the late fifties, children spoke Letzeburg (a variation of Low German) and High German (some of them spoke French in addition or instead of High German), when they entered Grade 1.  Beginning in Grade 1, instructions in school were given in High German.  In Grade 2, French instructions started.  For any student leaving grammar school after Grade 4 to enter their high school system (they were allowed to enter that system only after a qualifying examination), English lessons immediately became a compulsory subject.  Depending on the type of school entered, if it was not intended to prepare for a business career but rather for university entrance in the legal or science professions, Latin and Greek eventually became compulsory subjects as well.  I had never met a single citizen of Luxembourg who wasn't fluent in at least three languages: Letzeburg, High German and French.
        The school systems in Germany and other countries in Europe were very similar, with somewhat less but not much less emphasis on foreign languages in Germany.  Everyone of my relatives, friends and acquaintances who attended high school is able to write and speak at least one second language.
        When entering high school, instructions in many other subjects that are being taught here in later grades started in Grade 5, such as Algebra, requiring a student to be able to solve quadratic equations to be able to pass.  There was no such thing as repeating a grade.  Anyone who failed to pass into the next grade had to fall back to a less-demanding type of school, with the lowest stage to fall back to being grammar school.  Anyone who failed a grade for the second time in grammar school had to attend a school for children with special needs.  However, to be permitted to teach at a school for children with special needs, one had to take additional courses at university.
        People often wonder how students are able to absorb all of what's being crammed into them with such a full curriculum.  What made it possible was that we had to attend school for 42 hours per week and more if any special courses were taken, such as non-compulsory second-language classes in grammar school.  There were no "spares" and there were massive amounts of home work that had to be done at home (because there was not a spare minute at school to do it in.  Satisfactory completion of all home work assignments was a requirement for successfully passing into the next grade or to graduate.
        It never ceases to amaze me that North American students who should be sitting in high school during school hours find the time to gather in nearby coffee shops and arcades.  In my days, if a student was seen outside of school during the school hours, he was apprehended and brought to the principal's office.  From what I hear, and from what I see on my rare visits to Germany, things are still very much like they used to be when I went to school there.  And you know what? The students who leave the education system there have no lack of "self-esteem"! [*] That probably has much to do with the fact that they never ever become embarrassed by not being able to read and that on account of their literacy they can figure out just about anything without having to go to someone else for help. [* Update 2008 05 11: It is strongly recommended to take a look at "SHOULD SCHOOLS TRY TO BOOST SELF ESTEEM? Beware the dark side", by Roy F. Baumeister]
        No doubt, there are some people who can't read in Scandinavia, Germany and other European countries, but I doubt it that they left the education system unable to do so.  Illiteracy is unknown there.  It is never even discussed, and if I mention that it exists here I'm met with incredulity, especially when I mention the extent of it.
  2. No doubt there must be some teachers left who can impart knowledge about difficult subjects, but where are the numbers of teachers necessary to make a difference supposed to come from?  Where did they get their knowledge and skills?  To boot, many of such teachers, because they rely on politically incorrect texts, have long since been forced into early retirement or worse.
        The vast majority of today's teachers graduated from universities in which they were thoroughly indoctrinated in the principles of the feminist curriculum.  These people go by what feels right, not by what is right.  They were educated in a system in which objective reality no longer exists, in which absolute standards by which to measure truth were abolished, a systen in which subjective reality (relative to one-self) rules, a system in which the truth no longer matters.
        To be truthful requires measurement and judgment by absolute standards, and those are despised "patriarchal constructs" that the AAUW proudly declared to be no longer valid ever since they changed the curriculum (see Christina Hoff Sommers "Who Stole Feminism?).  Absolute and objective standards enable one to judge someone else relative to the truth.  That will never do in a society in which it is thought that to make such absolute judgments could cause irreparable harm to someone's self-esteem!

See also:

Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

2001 02 02 (format changes)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)