Higher education should be treated like any other consumer product,"" proclaims the feisty author of The Invisible Scar (1966) and Born Female (1968), in this somewhat disorderly but supremely stimulating hodgepodge of materials. She provides statistics intended to disprove myths about the cost of college in relation to any financial ""return,"" recitals of individual experiences inside and outside of academia, suggestions for young people seeking alternatives to college, and -- most importantly -- a forthright polemic against the appalling counterproductiveness of the think industry. Ms. Bird -- a much more cogent observer than John Keats in The Sheepskin Psychosis (1965) -- makes impressive use of Christopher Jencks' conclusions about the futility of trying to remedy social injustice through education (Inequality, 1972). She doesn't hedge bets or apologize to anyone who may accuse her of anti-intellectualism. She simply considers higher education as a huge, costly national institution which is nearly useless for career preparation; she charges that it serves chiefly to help perpetuate existing class distinctions and to assist industrial manipulation of the job market, and that educators muddle these issues with a fog of self-serving, basically elitist mumbo-jumbo about contact with the good, the true, and the beautiful. Her recommendations for dealing with the situation are less striking than her analysis of what's wrong, but that's the nature of the subject. An argument whose time has come.