Monday, January 16, 2012

Soft Bigotry of "College-Not-For-All"

Clarice McCants of the Closing Gaps - Education Blog for Parents takes on the recent shift in education that argues too many kids are going to college. McCants wonders whether this idea - which may subtly imply that poor kids should become plumbers - as Newt Gingrich quipped - while middle and upper class kids should be engineers, doctors, and businessmen is nothing but soft bigotry, perpetuating a class system.

The area where I challenge this point of view is in assuming that the "College-is-not-for-all" be applied only to poor, minority, and urban schools. In fact, that is what killed vocational education and career prep in the 70s and 80s. The poor and black kids were funneled into shop class while the white kids took literature and physics.

So, instead of fixing that disparity, we cut voc ed across the board and decided to re-engineer society with the college-for-all mentality. But, among our middle class white population, there are still plenty of kids who shouldn't be going for bachelor's degrees. And the reason is that the economy neither needs it or can support it.

Only 29% of the US population has a bachelor's degree - and clearly that's all we really need in terms of productivity and sustained growth. It's simply wasted credentials, and that results from a logical fallacy - that a bachelor's equates with more wealth and well-being. For the business and public sector, more education equates with higher pay, though that is often a dubious distinction. The market often, and should, decide who rises to management. Not a pay scale based on college degrees.

Granted, more middle class suburban - and yes white - kids are going to have the leg up based on their early childhood education. That's the key we are not talking about - the incredible burden on catching up if a child enters kindergarten not knowing his letters and numbers and lagging other kids by a vocabulary of up to 1500 words. Statistically, it will be hard to catch up - and it can take generations. Once a family has one college educated parent, then it moves to two, then to a stay at home parent or one with flexibility and the funds to support effective pre-school, not just daycare/babysitting.

Clearly, it comes down to equal opportunities. And it comes from decreasing the stigma of associate degrees and skilled labor.

Or, at least, that's my two pennies.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Interesting.. That is the current Public Forum debate topic.