For most of them, in the end, what the university offers is not skills or knowledge but credentials: a diploma that signals employability and basic work discipline. Those who manage to learn a lot often—though happily not always—come from highly educated families and attend highly selective colleges and universities. They are already members of an economic and cultural elite. Our great, democratic university system has become a pillar of social stability—a broken community many of whose members drift through, learning little, only to return to the economic and social box that they were born into.
I put the italics in because this just strikes me as one of the most patently obvious issues with our education system. College for many people is not a place to aspire to learn, but a place to earn the right to get a better job. And it would be crazy for us to be surprised by this because this is exactly how we sell college as a social institution. "A college degree is the ticket to a better future... college graduates earn x% more than non-college grads... the opportunities afforded you by college." These are things you hear. You do not hear things like "college is a place to help you be a more reasonable, critical, and thoughtful human being." Why? Probably because there is no certain profit in that.