Thirty or forty years ago, colleges taught arts and letters. The refined humanities set man apart from the animals; and the ancient Greeks and Romans at their height apart from savages. Technology spawned from the scientific method and the Industrial Revolution had put a man on the moon. Invention introduced labor-saving efficiencies to afford time for additional cultured activities. Going to school was not a waste of time; one was learning facts and principles to refine thought and make the world a better place.
Vocational school wasn’t that bad, either. Adults learned to work with wood and metal, they learned how to build and repair machinery and how to wire houses. Tech schools prepared trainees for the job market, and the job market was part of a burgeoning economy with factories outputting all kinds of new inventions and conveniences.
But the previous generation wasn’t impressed. The schools were degenerating. They taught new math and revisionist history, and students were expected to read smutty novels like “Catcher in the Rye.” Students themselves could see they were being taught as irrefutable truth a theory of evolution of species, and Adam Smith’s rational economics was nowhere to be found amongst curricula on Marx and Keynes. Even when primitive cultures with lifespans of 40 years were put on an equal par with Western Civilization, those who tended to their studies, for the most part, did not doubt they were increasing in intelligence.
A generation later, the students of yesteryear looked at disbelief on the education system. Junior was having to take courses in diversity, anger management, and women’s studies. Electives were available in shamanism and meditation, and college clubs pretty much promoted socialism in one form or another. Geeks could study science, but anybody wanting to make money could go into management, where curricula taught the art of dreaming big, snowing others, and overextending one’s financial resources.
Somewhere along the way, production fell out of the economy. Kids would go to school to learn how to work at nonprofits, or if they wanted to make money, they could prepare for a field that consisted in pushing paper around, such as finance or insurance. In high demand were lawyers and accountants, and public administrators to keep them busy.
The poverty induced by the move toward a productionless economy was further enhanced by a government trending toward socialism and a more inclusive welfare state. Ayn Rand observed in Atlas Shrugged that the more people were removed from the fruits of their labors, the more they turned to alcohol. Perhaps it helps to escape the despair of being powerless to improve one’s lot, perhaps it is merely symptomatic of the poor’s preference for low-dollar instant gratification, or maybe it follows from government incentives.
After Asheville was named Beer City, USA, state and local governments pulled out stops to recruit New Belgium and Sierra Nevada breweries to locate facilities in the area. Following wining and dining of executives from the craft beer industry, that in one case even included a tax-paid aerial surveillance of prospective property, Governor Beverly Perdue herself came to WNC to partake of libations for photo ops and announce sweetheart deals on future tax rates for the two companies.
Since a large part of government’s interest in recruiting the breweries was the creation of jobs, it is only natural that government should set up a diploma mill to certify qualified applicants, to prepare today’s workforce for tomorrow;s jobs. Appalachian State was the first to jump on the bandwagon. To date, it is the only college in the area trying to get a four-year degree in Fermentation Science off the ground. As part of the curriculum, students will participate in the college’s Ivory Tower Brewery. The nonprofit business offers work-study opportunities for students. Revenues will be channeled back into the business and the beer program.
In Transylvania County, Blue Ridge Community College announced the creation of the Oskar Blues Brew School. The sixteen-week course offers students a chance to sample their work. Aspiring brewers will also want to take Pathways to Beverage Service and Essential Workplace Skills. Lest one doubt the legitimacy of the curriculum, the college assures that “sustainability in the workplace” will be taught. Since graduates will want to take the International Beer and Distribution Certification exam, it is only fitting that BRCC become a center for administering the exam. As an added bonus, the North Carolina Back-to-Work program will pick up the tab for the course and the exam, provided enrollees are of legal drinking age and have been out of work for at least 26 weeks.
Not to be outdone, AB Tech, recipient of proceeds from the controversial quarter-cent tax increase, has created a Business of Beer certificate. The piece of paper demonstrates competence in both Beerology and Beeronomics. The former teaches beer appreciation both from an historic and a sensory perspective. “Building blocks of beer,” “glassware specification,” and “styles of beer” will be added to students’ knowledge base. To learn about Beeronomics, students will tour brewing facilities, and learn how to market beer and keep up with regulatory compliance.
What’s next? In Oakland, California, a city that reeks of pot after dark, Oaksterdam University boasts its position as America’s first cannabis college. Since its founding in 2007, thousands of enrolees “have gained important skills for success in the cannabis industry.” Since then, it has been joined by the Cannabis Career Institute and the California Cannabis (420) College in teaching what?