I mostly blame high school guidance counselors for our current confusion about college.
Don’t get me wrong, most counselors are fine, well-intentioned people. When I was a recruiter for the Marines in the mid-1990s I met dozens of them and appreciated the work they did. But as a group they tend to have a more-or-less unstated mantra: All kids should go to college.
If a high school student expressed a very strong interest in the military or trade school (or was in danger of dropping out of school altogether), they might encourage them to follow those paths. But for the most part, every student—even the ones barely able to pass their high school curriculum—were encouraged to go to college.
Nowadays that mentality seems to be shared by a majority of parents and politicians. It’s taken to such an extreme that Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter:
Providing a path for kids to go to the University of Iowa is a hell of a lot cheaper than providing them a path to go to jail. #iacaucus
Later that same day, Sanders tweeted:
What’s radical about saying we want all our kids regardless of income to get free college?
The idea that college is the a necessary ingredient for human flourishing in America has become almost an unquestioned doctrine. Fortunately we still have, Mike Rowe, former host of Disocvery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” and current host of CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” to challenge the conventional wisdom. On his Facebook page, Rowe wrote:
I wonder sometimes, if the best way to question the increasingly dangerous idea that a college education is the best path for the most people, is to stop fighting the sentiment directly, and simply shine a light on the knuckleheads who continue to perpetuate this nonsense. This latest tweet from Bernie Sanders is a prime example. In less than 140 characters, he’s managed to imply that a path to prison is the most likely alternative to a path to college. Pardon my acronym, but…WTF!?
Historically, universities have promoted themselves at the expense of many other forms of “alternative education.” The implicit suggestion, reinforced daily by a generation of well-intended guidance counselors and misguided parents, is always the same – get yourself a four-year degree, or accept one of the many “vocational consolation prizes” that result from all other forms of “lesser knowledge.”
It’s a cautionary tale as predictable as it is false. But now, as people are slowly starting to understand the obscenity of 1.3 trillion dollars in student loans, along with the abundance of opportunity for those with the proper training, it seems the proponents of “college for all” need something even more frightening than the prospect of a career in the trades to frighten the next class into signing on the dotted line. According to Senator Sanders, that “something,” is a path to jail.
I try not to be political on this page, because the truth is, arrogance and elitism are alive and well in every corner of every party – especially with respect to this topic. But I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve seen an elected official support the hyper-inflated cost of a diploma by juxtaposing it with the hyper-inflated cost of incarceration. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of it.
Is it possible that Senator Sanders doesn’t realize the number of college graduates with criminal records? Is he unaware of the millions of successful tradespeople and entrepreneurs who didn’t pay for a sheepskin, but somehow managed to stay of the clink? Does he not recognize that comments like his will encourage more kids who are better suited for an alternative path to borrow vast sums of money they’ll never be able to pay back in order to pay for a degree that won’t get them a job?
Maybe not. Maybe the 140 character limit has doomed him to be misunderstood or taken out of context. Certainly, it’s happened to me. But regardless, the damage is in the headline, and Twitter is nothing but headlines. The truth, in my opinion, is this: There is no alternative for an education, and no hope for a person who doesn’t want to learn something useful and apply it. But there are many, many alternatives to college. And none of them come with a prison sentence.
(Via: Natioanl Review)