Cosumnes River College & Sacramento State’s Center for Practical and Professional Ethics

The 15th Annual Fall Ethics Symposium

The Ethics of Higher Education

Concerns are growing about a crisis in higher education. Some of these concerns are about an ongoing lack of equity and access for historically disadvantaged populations, the high and rising tuition and fees that saddle college students with crippling long-term debt, and meeting not only the short-term, but also the long-term educational needs of students. These problems of quality, equity, and access have been exacerbated by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Our interdisciplinary ethics symposium will highlight problems, offer potential solutions, and recognize bright spots in higher education.

Webinar Access Information

Please click the link below to join the webinar on October 27 and 28:
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Webinar ID: 854 3463 5598
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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

12:00–1:20 pm PST

The Paradox of Dismantling a Perfectly Designed System

Dr. Bush’s talk will examine the institutional racism and asymmetrical economic underpinnings that serve as the structural foundation of the California Community College system and how the outcomes produced by this structure are intentional and designed. Dr. Bush will further explore why prior efforts by community college practitioners and policy makers to reform the system has not substantively changed these intended outcomes. Lastly, he will provide his perspective and make the case for an urgent dismantling of the present community college structure and unpack the challenges, opportunities and strategies to do so.

Edward Bush
President of Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California

1:30–2:50 pm PST

The Case for Educational Austerity

The main function of education is not building job skills but certifying worker quality. The primary effect of expanding access to education, therefore, is not training more students for good jobs, but credential inflation: You need more and better degrees to get the same jobs your parents got with less. The best way to break this dysfunctional cycle is simply austerity: Stop wasting taxpayer money subsidizing a largely futile rat race.

Bryan Caplan
Professor of Economics at George Mason University

Wednesday October 28, 2020

12:00–1:20 pm PST

Are We Ready to Educate a Diverse Nation?

In 2014, for the first time, the nation’s student body — from kindergartners to 12th graders — was majority-minority. And the change is spilling out into the nation’s colleges and the country as a whole. Census data predict that by 2050 the United States will be majority-minority as well. As I see these changes, I continue to ask, “Are our college and university faculties ready to teach a diverse student body?” And, “Are these same faculties diverse in ways that represent and empower the students they are teaching?” Unfortunately, I don’t think we are ready and I know we aren’t diverse across the professoriate. Faculty members generally receive little, if any, training on teaching, and even less on diversity issues. And the professoriate is 88 percent White. This makes for a troubling present situation around learning and an even more troubling one to come in the near future. In this talk, I’ll discuss why we need to speak to the diversity of our students’ lives in our classes and why it is essential that we all work to diversify the professoriate. I’ll also provide concrete ideas for how to make these goals a reality.

Marybeth Gasman
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor in the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.

1:30–2:50 pm PST

Why Are the Prices So Damn High?

Education seems stricken with constantly rising prices without a proportional rise in quality or productivity. For example, educational expenditures doubled between 1980 and 2005, even as math scores remained flat during that period. Over the same time, home appliances and telecommunications have become much cheaper and much higher in quality. Why? Is there a common factor that unites sectors afflicted by rising prices and sectors blessed by falling prices, or are we simply seeing idiosyncratic price increases driven by random ebbs and flows in technology and demand? I will focus on Baumol’s cost disease, also known as the Baumol effect, and point to the increase in the cost of skilled labor as an explanation of why expenditures in education have consistently increased while quality and productivity have risen at a much slower rate. The Baumol effect tells us that to control costs, industries must increase output from the same inputs or use fewer inputs in order to offset the rising opportunity costs of those inputs. I also explore the potential impact of distance learning and how it might affect productivity.

Eric Helland
William F. Podlich Professor of Economics at Claremont McKenna College and senior economist at the RAND Institute for Civil Justice.

Partial funding for this event was provided by grants from the Institute for Humane Studies and the Wagenlis Foundation with support from Bank of America.