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College for everybody: Is it really the best idea?

College for everybody: Is it really the best idea?

Whatever happened to the skilled labor force? It went to college, and that’s not an entirely good thing:

When everybody’s special, nobody is. Getting everyone into college means you have to dumb down the curriculum until it is nothing but meaningless drivel that has no application in the real world…

Forcing everyone to become smart is like a countrywide affirmative-action plan. It doesn’t work…

The controversy that destroyed 11-plus [the British meritocracy exam system] is long and complex, but the CliffsNotes version is that some clueless politician saw educated siblings do better than uneducated siblings and thought, “They should all have the opportunity to do as well as their brother.” But the educated sibling didn’t thrive because he was educated. He was educated because he thrived. If you think his brothers got ripped off, tell it to God. He was the one who doled out the lower IQs…

I’m not denying that outsourcing and automation has made many jobs obsolete. Of course it has. But that doesn’t mean you abandon the entire concept of a working class. There is still a huge demand for skilled labor.

But our young people aren’t skilled (or interested) in hard labor, so we bring in illegal Mexicans. When you take away a young person’s ability to work, you take away their pride.

True, but we have to be careful not to promulgate the myth of the stupid-but-happy worker, singing joyfully at his/her trade no matter how menial. A lot of work is boring and nasty, and a lot of people who used to do it were crippled or broken by it and nourished the dream that for their children things would be better.

And to a great degree, it was. But the article’s author, Gavin McInness, is correct in asserting that the whole process of pretending everyone is suited for higher academic study and a job in the professions has gotten absurd, and has had the effect of lowering standards to an alarming degree.

If you think about it, it was kind of a no-brainer (pun intended) that this would be the result. No doubt there were sincere people who thought (and still think) that human beings are infinitely malleable, and that inherent differences in intelligence and personality and abilities either don’t exist or don’t matter and can be transcended through enough and better education. And additionally, there are people who thought (and still think) that, even though education won’t equal everything out, it still is necessary to pretend that it will, and that this should be the highest and most pressing goal of a society no matter what the costs.

Not so bright, is it?

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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Today’s “Education PhDs” don’t recognize, much less understand, the confluence of the left side of the Bell Curve and the need to learn via the hands, by doing. College for all is a disservice to all.

    healthguyfsu in reply to Icepilot. | September 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    That is a sweeping generalization. I am an “education Ph D” and there are others on here (one writes for this blog). I can guarantee you that some of us understand the bell curve.

    I make it a point to learn to do as much as I can for myself with my own two hands and for others down the road.

    Also, some of us understand the reality of the saturable education market. Although some of us (me) were swept up in the ill-informed “higher education leads to job security and satisfaction” notion when we were naive and carving out our path.

Well, I think it’s a horrible thing that fully HALF of American children are below average. And it’s been that way for decades!

    Half are below the median.

    “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” — George Carlin

One of the worst results is the watering down of a college degree.

When numerous people who do not belong in college get degrees by being passed along the same way as they were in grade school, the hard working student who get a degree are punished by the marketplace–since the market know longer can trust the value of that degree.

    NeoConScum in reply to JOHN B. | September 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Oh now, now, now, John B…. Surely you’re not disapproving of all those Diversity Police degrees, Feminist Studies degrees, Multi-Cultural Studies degrees, HR Degrees, Journalism(cough)degrees, Global Warming(oops…Climate Change)degrees, et-freaking-cetera…are you??

    Jeeez, John, how like intolerant and most likely racist..!

Education for all with no variances among demographic groups has the effect of creating a credential without marketable knowledge and skill. That allows this function to take over.

But with the degree comes expectations on top of that now altered Worldview and the gap between reality and expectations is what drives political revolutions.

It’s no accident that one of the primary pushers for college for all and many of these reports is a Marxist labor economist when you follow his cv back into the early 70s.

Same result. More palatable theory that sounds just.

ZombieJohnGotti | September 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Our state prides itself on sending 2/3 of its high school graduates to college. Yet when they arrive there, half need to be remediated in one or more subjects because they cannot perform at the basic level necessary to succeed at that level. Ultimately, only about 40% of all entering freshmen graduate in 6 years.

I think that sums this topic up nicely.

A dollar bill and 100 pennies are equal in value, but they are not the same.

Something of this sort, from any Conservative, would be national news worthy of a front page headline from the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the LA Times. All we hear with this is crickets. It is to their shame that they allow this divisive atmosphere to continue. You have to wonder, how much has press reporting of this type done to create the black on white murders we’ve seen in the past month? It’s about time our national press has started to recognize they have a responsibility to all the public, not just Democrat politicians.

BannedbytheGuardian | September 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm

It is for elections. College voters carry swing states in swing elections.

Might be less certain D vote for House seat ( local ) or state ( senate & Pres) if as a dependent your home address is the voter test.

During the depression my father had to go to work when he was in the eighth grade and never made it into high school. He never stopped learning though. He worked as a millwright at a GM plant and would supplement his income with the money he got from suggestions to improve the plant.

He always said the worst people to deal with were college educated idiots. I used to think it was jealousy but after seeing how many people make it through college without learning common sense much less advanced concepts I’ve come to agree with him, you can lead a person to education but you can’t make them think.

Some people prefer to work at something that allows them to see the concrete results of their work. Not to mention the pleasure they get from physical effort. It isn’t that they couldn’t handle college, they just don’t want to do the kind of work that it would prepare them for.

And how about the fact that there aren’t that many jobs that require a college education? What are you to do with all the college graduates that spent tens of thousands of dollars for an education that they can’t pay for on the money they receive at the job they finally settle on?

Why not both? I have advanced degrees in education, and I sent my two kids to the local vocational/technical high school and then to college. Each has a vocational certificate in a skill that is not easily outsourced, and a 4 year degree. One is employed based on her college degree, and the other was hired into a job that uses both. Neither one had difficulty landing the first job, and neither has been laid off. At least not yet. I highly recommended the path to the parents of students I taught, but along with the “college for everybody” movement has come an increased stigma to choosing vocational school. Both of my children had no difficulty getting into their first choice colleges, though, so colleges don’t appear to share that view.

    ZurichMike in reply to elliesmom. | September 3, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I have tried to tell my nieces and nephews the same thing as they were deciding what to do after high school: learn a trade and then get a college degree if you want. High school friends of mine told their kids: “We will pay for a college degree in engineering, accounting, nursing or anything else where you have a useful degree. If you want a degree in basketweaving, you can pay for that yourself.” Their children are nurses and accountants (no big surprise there!). Luckily the first two nephews of mine are respectively an employed engineer and the second a medical student. Not so optimistic about the job prospects for the next two. Sigh.

Øbama went to college (but we still don’t know what courses he took, what grades he got, or even how he paid for it) and look what we got: the ultimate Peter Principle poster child.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to Dimsdale. | September 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Obama was incompetent at every level of political office, but kept rising. But he is competent and being a servant to the far left, and they have enough money to keep promoting him.

    As far as transforming/dismantling America, he has been rather competent. And he has passed billions to his donors in unions or bankrupt solar scams.

    He doesn’t fit the Peter Principle, because it wasn’t his competence in serving the public that pushed him to his current level of incompetence. It was his competence at the race card, and serving corruption and leftist interests, which he still does.

There is not one thing wrong with having an ambitious young person pick a trade and avoid the expense and waste of time involved in going to college.

I loved college, I loved law school, I bless the people who generously gave me the grants and loans to do it. But law school cost me a minimum of 100K in lost opportunity costs.

The simple truth is, there is more than one way to succeed in the United States of America, and while climbing up into the ivory tower was good for me, my cousin and his buddies all built each others’ houses.

Two family members just graduated from college. Both have been unemployed since graduation back in May. Both have since taken menial jobs that they could have gotten with their high school diploma.

Statistically 50% of everybody are below average. For this reason alone, something like 10% is the maximum percentage of people who should go to university.

    Valerie in reply to jorgen. | September 3, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Below average at what? I measured at the 99+ percentile range for everything they measured academically, but I cannot extract information from a table like my (accountant) sister or my son, or a piping drawing without a LOT of help. I was a disaster in the lab, in part because I never do anything the same way, twice in a row. And I cannot envision any concrete object fitted into any space along with another object.

    I can do a lot of things, a very few with world-class skill, and then there are all the other things I do not know how to do, and have no talent for.

    The same thing is true of most of my family. And none of us has the same set of strengths and weaknesses.

      jorgen in reply to Valerie. | September 3, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      OK, I am generalizing and the 10% is really what my gut feeling tells me. I am a retired university lecturer, but had before teaching plenty of real life experience in law and software engineering.

College for everybody = a good education for nobody.

toddlouisgreen | September 3, 2013 at 3:30 am

“A college degree for each of us” doesn’t mean much unless there is also “a job for each college degree.” Going to college, racking up $50k in debt, then discovering that your B.A. in Political Correctness Studies won’t earn you an extra $0.10 an hour in the job market is the crushing surprise blow most kids can’t wrap their heads around.

The average plumber in Washington DC makes more money than the average lawyer in Washington DC, and he DIDN’T need seven years of expensive post-secondary education before he started making money in his trade. When you factor in the extra seven years of full time employment plus no school loans, the plumber looks an awful lot like the smarter of the two…

(and I’m a college graduate with a law degree, lest anyone think I’m biased)

NC Mountain Girl | September 3, 2013 at 5:16 am

The idea of college for everyone has merely kicked the education can up to a much higher cost level. The evidence for this is how many first year college students need remedial help in reading and math before they can take college level courses.

Then there is the issue of totally bogus disciplines. The grievance studies have to be sent to the dustbin of history. The process oriented fields need to be reworked. Journalism isn’t an academic discipline, it is a skill set wedded to a personality type. Education isn’t a discipline, either. Those who have been taught the process of education are worse than useless in the elementary and high school classroom if they haven’t first mastered the subjects they teach.

A great deal of the dumbing down of the culture can be attributed first to teachers who are ignorant of the subjects they are teaching but brimming with ideas about so called fairness and nonsense about self esteem. This problem is then worsened by journalists who don’t understand the beats they cover and who see their role not as reporting information but as promoting their definition of social justice.

    Bruno Lesky in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 4, 2013 at 6:24 am

    If there were no federal subsidies for/interference in higher education (underwritten/forgiven student loans, grants, tax breaks, affirmative action rules, etc.) the valueless aspects of pursuing a 4-year degree would over time take care of itself.

    The problem remaining that’s hard to crack: college is a 3rd payer system, where often parents have no clue as to what their child is being taught or how he/she is faring. And many 17-22-year-olds lack judgment (speaking from experience as one of those kids and now as a parent).

Richard Aubrey | September 3, 2013 at 7:11 am

Bit of a false conflation: The soul-destroying, back-breaking, low-income job is not a “skilled labor” job or a “skilled trades” job.
The skilled jobs may be just as dirty, but they are not any more repetitive than any other job–no job presents you with a new issue requiring new solutions every day until you retire–and they require skill. Simply not going to college doesn’t mean you can get a skilled trades job.
Basically, there are two venues for the skilled worker: Big corporation, and self-employment. In the latter case, you are a businessman and a salesman and a people person. Plus you have to know your trade. In our area, the one-man contractors doing remodeling are booked six months out. Plumbers and electricians have to be scheduled some weeks out unless it’s a simple thing they can manage if they happen to be passing on their way to a serious job.
Some years ago, I had an air conditioning problem. The AC guy came out after dinner and we chatted while he fixed the thing up and modified it so we wouldn’t get any more box elder bugs into the contacts. Said he and his daughter ride both western and dressage. I don’t know much about horses–the family mostly runs to Infantry–but if you don’t need two kinds of horses, you at least have to have two kinds of tack and clothing. And even a horse which can do it all is expensive, right? Bet the guy wishes every day he’d gone to college.
Simply not wanting to spend four years regurgitating professors’ emissions, or six years, does not make you smart enough, determined enough, savvy enough, to be a skilled worker.

Colleges and Universities would look a lot different in short order if they were forced to co-sign student loans along with the student and the American people.

    healthguyfsu in reply to betty. | September 3, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Hopefully this was jest. Why would a business entity have to pay for the service they are providing?

    I agree with most of the sentiments posted in this thread except for this one.

I’d prefer to see a superb high-school education for everybody, and then maximum choice, determined by the individual. My rationale is that a person with a superb high school education is fully capable of learning on their own, after that.

The problem, as usual, is with pre-adult education. Employers are looking for a basic level of competence. Long ago, passing 8th grade could be sufficient–it proved you could generally read, write, and do arithmetic. Later this was pushed back to needing a high school diploma–which proved you could read, write, and do arithmetic.

Did this need for four more years of school arise from societal changes which required more education? or was it that 8th-grade graduates of yesteryear (and not everyone got that far) were the equivalent of later high-school graduates.

Today, we need four more years…to get what 8th-grade graduates were probably getting 100 years ago. ( Half of kids didn’t get to the 8th grade 100 years ago. Most who stayed on for more education were women—men had farms and factories and mines to go to. That all sounds very familiar today, except with high school and college substituted today for what used to be 8th grade.

“Excuse me, Doctor, but would you find it too much of an inconvenience to back the truck up a smidgen?”

“No trouble at all, Doctor. And please, don’t hesitate to ask for my assistance should any of those waste receptacles prove beyond your ability to lift.”

I spent 250 K sending my son to a prestigious private college and now wish I’d just given him the money to start his own business. There are so many graduates in every field from crappy colleges no degree carries much weight with employers any more. Truth is, if you expect to live the good live in today’s America, you better have your own business because a wage or salary just isn’t going to cut it.