Tilting at Windmills

March/April 2012 A Bastille worth storming

By Charles Peters

I’m delighted that Barack Obama has taken on the cost of college. It is outrageous, and I’ve long marveled at how Americans meekly accept one tuition increase after another.

We need a revolution in our thinking about higher education, finding alternatives to the traditional college model with a mixture of quality, affordable online courses, like those offered by Western Governors University, the private, not-for-profit online school that this magazine profiled in September, and compressed schedules that allow a student to fulfill degree requirements with considerably less time on campus, and schedules that permit various combinations of work, service, and study. These amount to only the earliest stage of the flood of ideas for reform that are needed. The main thing is that we’ve just got to stop accepting the swollen administrative bureaucracies, the mindless construction of unnecessary buildings, and the empty courses that fill catalogs as they squander money.

Charles Peters is the founding editor of the Washington Monthly and the author of a new book on Lyndon B. Johnson published by Times Books.