Education & Academia

Kids these days

Kids these days

Obama is at it again. And thank goodness I already graduated from college.

The Washington Post reported on Obama’s recent trip to Buffalo, New York, where he said that his administration “will begin evaluating colleges on measures such as the average tuition they charge, the share of low-income students they enroll and their effectiveness in ensuring students graduate without too much debt.”

The president will also seek congressional approval, the article reported, “to steer more federal student aid toward colleges that score highly in the ratings. A student in financial need at such schools might qualify for a larger Pell grant or a better interest rate on a federal loan.”

So to summarize, Obama and friends are going to compile their own list and rank colleges according to what they consider to be the best value. They are then going to award the colleges who score best under their own criteria with more federal funds than those which don’t score as well.

Obama’s proposed method is flawed for many reasons, and carries with it resounding consequences:

-Cheaper is not always better. How and why can the president decree that one college is “better” than another simply because it charges less? He is assuming that all other elements are equal in this equation. What’s more, these institutions will remain cheap because they are subsidized, and will become even cheaper as their low-tuition attracts low-income students who bring with them increased federal funding. Couldn’t all the money, theoretically, eventually be funneled into one massive school that is so subsidized it becomes “free”?

-Obama is dumbing-down education. Some people go to college to be edified with a true education in the classical sense, to enrich their souls, to learn how to think, reason, rationalize, and become well-rounded members of society. Obama’s plan ranks high and rewards schools whose graduates earn more money. Does that necessarily mean they went to a “better” school and their education is more “valuable”?  If all you value in life is the almighty dollar, then yes. Being a plumber or rock star could make you loads more money than being an English teacher at a private school ever would; does this mean Obama will start sending federal money to tech schools and the neighborhood piano teacher? Moreover, will schools that teach the liberal arts fade into oblivion? What’s wrong with job training? Vocational technical schools? If making money and contributing to the workforce is what it’s all about, focus your energies (if you must) in the sector of trade schools.

-Obama says “Higher education should not be a luxury.” Why not? Is it that today’s jobs require so much more schooling than jobs fifty years ago did? Or is it that society pressures everyone, even those disinclined and not cut out to further their educations, to attend college in some capacity? “It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” says the president. Why? Because a college education sets one apart from the lower classes, improves one’s social status, and promotes quality of life? You know what else does this? Maseratis and Perrier-Jouet champagne. Does that mean I’m entitled to them?

-The question is no longer, as it was twenty years ago, “Are you going to college?” but is now, “Where are you going to college?” Why do kids go to college? To edify themselves? Because they are starved for knowledge and can’t get enough of sitting in classrooms for hours a day?

-Mostly college is just an assumption, and education is suffering for it. Our culture has made a bachelor’s degree as essential to apply for work as a high school diploma. Not everyone needs to go to college or wants to, (ask Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates) so let those who really aspire to intellectual advancement do what it takes to earn a college degree. It’s not easy, and no one said it was. Not everyone has wealthy relatives to help them cover the steep costs of college tuition, that’s why it’s called “working your way through college.” Aren’t kids who do this much more likely to value their education and see it through to the end, anyway?

-The increase in college applicants means a decrease in college quality. Obama implies that a college degree is the magical answer to all our employment woes- that if every kid could go to college, every kid would have a meaningful, well-paying job. Well guess what. When every kid has a college degree, the college degree no longer sets that kid apart from his peers. This just means that those ambitious, smart young things who would have gotten ahead with the bachelor’s degree of old, now have to go on to get their masters, sometimes doctorates, amassing all sorts of student debt along the way that they (or taxpayers) will be paying off until it’s time for their first born to go to freshman orientation.

-Private schools won’t be private anymore. This is the same qualm I have with school choice. The government doesn’t give you money and let you spend it any way you choose. They tell you what to do with it, so that private institutions aren’t private at all anymore. What will students learn in college? That the government is there to take care of them. “If you’re willing to commit to five years working in a place that doesn’t have a doctor and you’re studying to be a doctor, we’re going to forgive you a bunch of those loans,” Obama told a Binghamton graduate student.

-“You may choose a profession that doesn’t pay a lot of money,” he said to another student in the same speech. “If you’re giving back to the community, we should help you do it.” Let me see if I have this straight: you give back to the community and the community gives back to you. Aren’t we back to square one? A stalemate. What’s the point?

When the government gets involved, all things get messy. What kids should be learning in college is where taxes come from.

 Teresa Mull is the managing editor of Human Events. 

 

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