Can intelligence be measured? Does it have a weight, a volume, a quantity consisting of units? Is it bespoken of materially, manifesting itself in property, propriety or prosperity?
Is it even an objective thing? Is it verifiable through achievement? Through notoriety? Personality? What tells the rest of the world that you're smart?
A baseline of some kind is in order to even have such a high-minded discussion. Although some blue-collar snobs may reject it, most of society would agree, graduating from college is a pretty decent sign of a workable IQ. I can accept that - and I don't have a college degree.
I know a little bit about graduate-level academia, though, because my Dad was a professor at Western Michigan University. I grew up knowing about the inner workings of the place - the politics and the little rubs that maybe caught Dr. Heller in a slightly wrong way.
But that was back in WMU's heyday, when the student body accounted for almost half of the City of Kalamazoo's population. That glory faded a long time ago. The latest numbers - metrics we can all get our hands on and our heads around - bear this out.
Enrollment is down dramatically at Western, again, this time plunging by 8.6 percent. That follows an almost-as-calamitous 2021, when it dropped by 7.1 percent. In simpler terms, for every seven freshmen that arrived on WMU's leafy campus in 2020, six are showing up today.
Some eggheads out there might point to the pandemic as probable cause. But I don't know about that. Kalamazoo County wasn't exactly a Covid-19 hot spot like Kent County or Oakland County, plus, we generally stay away from each other here anyway.
Besides, isn't one person's pandemic another person's opportunity, creating healthcare demand on an unparalleled scale? Western Michigan University is home to Homer Stryker School of Medicine (WMed), after all.
Rather than more medical students being attracted, WMed has actually seen the number of applications it receives go down year after year, just like WMU. And they have yet to crack the Top 100 list for medical schools in nearly a decade of existence. (But they are also the contracted coroner for many counties in Michigan so the uptick in autopsies was, I suppose, greatly appreciated.)
Now let's stop playing dumb and look at some of the real reasons young people rely on when deciding where to take their scholastic talents. Start with tuition. Spending one semester at Western Michigan University will cost a student a little over $6,000... WMed, a lot more than that. Since everybody borrows the money anyway, you can throw a heaping helping of interest on top of that amount.
Indeed, just last year, the university decided it was prudent to hike tuition by 3.1% and room and board by 3%. This took place under the guidance of the university's new president, whoever that is.
Now throw in some sociology. Kalamazoo has horrible weather, high crime, broken infrastructure, boring architecture, frightening pollution and really bad roads. It's also chock full of mean people. And there are no solutions, because our city and county governments are stocked with self-interested C-average types who like to pick and choose which rules to follow, when to follow them.
This place has about as much sense of purpose and charm as a mouse trap. Not attending WMU, then, would be a sign of intelligence. This is a good place - to avoid. Do the smart thing. Pass on it.
And pass it on.