Monday, March 02, 2009

Should All Kids Go to College?

By Richard Vedder

I have already written enough about the Obama higher education proposals in this space, but some reactions to similar comments I made for an Associated Press story are worthy of commenting about.

First, I flatly do not agree that everyone should do post-secondary education, a basic premise of the Obama higher education platform. I do agree that for most persons wanting to enter employment, a high school education is typically inadequate. I also think there are some kids currently not going to college who might benefit from that experience. But I also think there are many current students who do not belong in college. Pushing everyone into post-secondary education is expensive, sets some up to fail, can dilute the quality of higher education, etc. etc. etc.

I told Justin Pope of the AP that, he printed it, and the comments have rolled in--more than on almost anything else I have ever done. Interestingly, though, a majority of the comments were highly positive. And many came from teachers and professors in the trenches who think I am right.

The negative comments normally do not disturb me, but the shrillness and bellicose attitudes of some respondents were unbelievable. It is one thing to say that I am disgraceful, a blot on academia, etc. This is a bit strong, but perhaps within the limits of a civilized response. However, it is another thing to say, as one person did (who bragged about her three college degrees), that I should have my tenure revoked, and who also sent a comment of her remarks to my department chair. This mentality has been growing in America --the person who believes wisdom is on his/her side and that alternative viewpoints are intolerable and should be prohibited - the First Amendment is an anachronism. This strikes at the heart of what universities are all about, and this is the mentality behind such things as speech codes.

But I got one email I want to share with you, with the permission of the author, a professor at a school with a reputation for taking decidedly marginal students, many of a minority background. He says "Many of my students should not be in college. Many of them haven't got the skills necessary for college. Many don't even really want to be in college and they certainly don't have the work habits necessary to succeed in college. Does that make me a crank? a racist? a reactionary? No, it makes me a realist." Amen.

He also says, correctly, I think "The problem has nothing to do with money and everything to do with culture. But money is an easy fix and culture is a tough fix. So we always talk about money." Amen, again. I received several other emails expressing somewhat similar responses.


capeman said...

Ah, the Doc is a fan of tenure protection -- at least, his own tenure -- this is something I hadn't known.

bill said...

If you disagree with Dr. Vedder then I pose a simple question for you. If you gathered a scholarship fund and issued 100, $20,000.00 scholarships to graduating high school seniors At Random with the stipulation that they could use the money however they saw fit what would happen? My guess is about half would go to college and the other half would buy a new car, boat, stereo, etc. The simple truth is that some people have an innate academic curiosity and some don't. Half of these kids wouldn't decide to go to college, how can we expect them to go to class everyday?

"The world needs ditch diggers too" Judge Smales, Caddyshack

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