Thursday, March 31, 2016

Free college

A San Antonio city councilman has suggested the first 2 years of community college in Bexar County, Texas, be free. Two questions to ask:

  1. Is 2 years of free college what high school graduates need?
  2. Can Bexar County community colleges supply enough degrees at half the price without diminishing their value?

The second question is easier to answer, because the answer is no, unless the colleges spend way more money on teachers and staff than they are willing to spend. If a degree is supposed to be worth something, it has to cost something to produce. Selling degrees (or degree halves) for free overburdens the manufacturer and/or diminishes their value.

My father-in-law is a community college teacher. He says loose enrollment standards are killing scores, raising attrition, and demoralizing teachers, who are burdened with the task of raising graduation rates. Those problems would be exacerbated by a glut of teenagers with zero buy-in and with 2 years to kill. It’s true that cost is a barrier to college enrollment, but that’s a problem solved by scholarships and cost-cutting. Cost-eliminating worsens the problem created by loose enrollment standards: students taking their education unseriously. You could do what the public schools do and just graduate them, but eventually the lack of skills that they’ve failed to learn will drag down productivity, whether they become dependents or twiddle their thumbs at work.

The first question is more important because it implies a bigger question has already been asked and answered. What is the bigger question? It’s different for everyone, but for most people it’s, How do I make money?

The economic establishment prizes credentials, of which a degree is the prime example, as essential to breaking into the middle class and beyond. But the official measures of success have gotten away from what best serves people in real life. The degree, not an education, is the end itself. Most people who go to college go because it’s what you’re supposed to do after high school. Personally, they don’t know why they’re there.

George Gilder writes in Wealth and Poverty:

Characterized by a worship of degrees, diplomas, tests, credentials, and qualifications, this system has created a schoolmarm meritocracy that steadily extends the reach of its primary rule: you cannot pass if you cannot parse; if you cannot put the numbers in the right boxes at the requisite speed; and if you cannot perform in the accustomed academic mode.

The question college prospects should ask is, How can I contribute to society? What can I do to give to others to enhance their lives and create wealth? That’s a supply-side question that isn’t answered all the time—not even most of the time—by a college degree.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Another’s plan

O, to be a man worthy of greatness!
All the day long to be that man I strive
Relying on super ability
Cursing men and things who would me deprive

Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
Ithaca opposite the Aegean Sea
Fair maiden guarded by sleepy dragon
They could be mine—if only I’m worthy

But limitations set in my person
Are the proof I deserve not to deserve
Treasures I thought waited for my taking
Achievements with which to my will preserve

What must I do yet to worthiness earn?
I am lacking but mastery discern
Hey now, these faults from my midst I should burn
Forge a new man over the old’s embers
Hew matter to the purpose of my will
Cut earth with a sword of remade members
And work to my satisfaction fulfill

Lonelier it gets, farther the goal looks
Cruel world pushes back without relent
It spins by another’s plan, so by that
Measure I’m condemned, it’s no accident

By applying mind over matter
I always thought one’s fortune could reverse
But true blessings come down from high above
Not up from deceitful desires, perverse

To ruin leads the flesh-driven effort
The forms of earthly things that I debase
Have their set purpose in a heav’nly plan
In which their maker resemble a trace

Building on my terms I labor in vain
What in the earth realm do I have to gain
To reduce God’s to mine and thus profane?
Father, help me only for You to yearn
To order not just my members, but will
Set fire to myself, let the old man burn
And work to Your satisfaction fulfill

  • Psalms 127:1
  • Luke 9:25
  • Romans 7:23
  • 1 Corinthians 3:11-13
  • Galatians 6:8
  • Ephesians 4:22
  • Colossians 3:1

I believe God made the physical world to thwart our selfish designs so we should turn to Him for sustenance.

See also my poem “Truest self.”

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship

I just finished this terrific book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here are passages that stood out to me:

Where moral difficulties are taken so seriously, where they torment and enslave man, because they do not leave him open to the freeing activity of obedience, it is there that his total godlessness is revealed.


By calling us he has cut us off from all immediacy with the things of this world. He wants to be the center, through him alone all things shall come to pass. He stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality. Since the whole world was created through him and unto him (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2), he is the sole Mediator in the world.


The otherworldliness of the Christian life ought, Luther concluded, to be manifested in the very midst of the world, in the Christian community, and in its daily life. Hence the Christian’s task is to live out that life in terms of his secular calling. That is the way to die unto the world. The value of the secular calling for the Christian is that it provides an opportunity of living the Christian life with the support of God’s grace, and of engaging more vigorously in the assault on the world and everything it stands for.


The whoremonger desires to possess another person, the covetous man material things. The covetous man seeks dominion and power, but only to become a slave of the world on which he has set his heart. Whoredom and covetousness alike bring men into contact with the world in such a way as to defile them and make then unclean. Both vices are idolatry, for their victims have ceased to belong to God and Christ, desiring the goods of their own world instead. But when we create our own god and our own world, what we are really doing is to deify our own lust. We are then bound to hate our fellow men, as obstacles standing in the way of our wills. Hatred, jealousy, and murder are all of them the fruits of selfish lust.

The German Bonhoeffer was no doubt familiar with Nietzsche, whose deification of the will established a tyranny of self, which is all the rage. Read here and here.

Here, right from the beginning, is the mysterious paradox of man. He is a creature, and yet he is destined to be like his Creator. Created man is destined to bear the image of uncreated God. Adam is “as God.” His destiny is to bear this mystery, in gratitude and obedience towards his Maker. But the false serpent persuaded Adam that he must still do something to become like God: he must achieve that likeness by deciding and acting for himself. Through this choice Adam rejected the grace of God, choosing his own action. He wanted instead to unravel the mystery of his being for himself, to make himself what God had already made him. That was the Fall of man. Adam became “as God,” sicut deus, in his own way. But, now that he had made himself god, he no longer had a God. He ruled in solitude as a creator-god in a God-forsaken world.

However, the riddle of human nature was still unsolved. With the loss of the God-like nature God had given him, man had forfeited the destiny of his being, which was to be like God. In short, man had ceased to be man. He must live without the ability to live. Herein lies the paradox of human nature and the source of all our woe. Since that day, the sons of Adam in their pride have striven to recover the divine image by their own efforts.


God sends His Son—here lies the only remedy. It is not enough to give man a new philosophy or a better religion. A Man comes to men. Every man bears an image. His body and his life become visible. A man is not a bare word, a thought, or a will. He is above all and always a man, a form, an image, a brother. And thus he does not create around him just a new way of thought, will, and action but he gives us the new image, the new form. Now in Jesus Christ this is just what has happened. The image of God has entered our midst, in the form of our fallen life, in the likeness of sinful flesh bin the teaching and acts of Christ, in his life and death, the image of God is revealed. In him the divine image had been recreated on earth.