Monday, December 29, 2008

The Big Lie in Higher Education

From William A. Henry's 1993 book, "In Defense of Elitism", I quote, "For American Society, the big lie underlying higher education is akin to the aforementioned big lie about children in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon: that every kid can be above average. In the unexamined American Dream rhetoric promoting mass higher education in the nation of my youth, the implicit vision was that one day everyone, or at least practically everyone, would be a manager or a professional. We would use the elitist of all means, scholarships, toward the most egalitarian of ends. We would all become chiefs; hardly anyone would be a mere Indian. On the surface, the New Jerusalem appears to have arrived. Where in the thirty's and forty's the bulk of the jobs were blue collar, now a majority are white or pink collar. They are performed in an office instead of on the factory floor.

But the wages for them are going down virtually as often as up. It has become an axiom of union lobbying that replacing a manufacturing economy with a service economy has meant exporting once-lucrative jobs to places where they can be done more cheaply. And a great many disappointed office workers have discovered being better educated and better dressed in the work-place does not transform one's place in the pecking order. There are still more Indians than chiefs. If for a generation or so, America bought into the daydream of making everyone a boss, the wake up call has come. The major focus of the "downsizing" of recent years has been eliminating layers of middle-management--much or it drawn from the ranks lured to college a generation or two ago by the idea that a degree would transform them from mediocre of magisterial.

Yet our colleges go on educating many more prospective managers and professionals than we are likely to need. At any given moment there are more students majoring in journalism then there are employed at all the daily newspapers in the U.S. (And this was written in the early nineties.)

Inevitably many students of limited talent spend huge amounts of time and money pursuing some brass ring occupation, only to see their dreams denied. ( I never studied journalism, but have been told I could write for any media in Central Illinois; flattery, you know. I write for the record and put it all on hard copy, filed A-Z with accompanying material, perhaps some one will read these writings and some of the great writers who are the source of much of my composition.)

Mediocre people misplaced on the college track are failing to acquire marketable vocational and technical skills and too many people on the vocational track are denied (or encouraged to take) courses that will secure them into college. Sure, there needs to be a fusion between academia and vocational training but in many ways we need a sharper division between the two, diverting also-ran intellectual out of the academic track and into the vocational one. That is where most of them are heading anyway". (They can always change direction when they perhaps mature. Some believe that kids out of high school should work a year or two at whatever job is available to prepare them for the world away from the classroom).

"Why wait until people are older and must enroll in proprietary vocational programs-frequently throwing away not only their own funds but federal loans in the process, all because they emerged from high school heading nowhere and knowing little that is helpful in the marketplace."

Most of this was taken from Mr. Henry's book written 15 years ago. But he could write the same book today only now describing the mess we are in in this country with everybody blaming everybody else for the mess and a very hard and long job of getting out of this mess. There is a lot of apprehension as to our future under a man who promised at least 170 changes in this country with no real money to finance the most important of these changes, migrating people, education for the "real" world, health care and real jobs, not just make-work government funded jobs for questionable "stimulus" programs.

And no real plans to stop our long slide to socialism, preferred, unfortunately, by perhaps a majority now living in our country.

Overall, the public education system is terribly flawed and it shows up everyday with the type of service offered, in the people who cannot find a job let alone not even knowing how to hold a job. Our prisons are overflowing with disenchanted incarcerated people, many who have no skills or vocation that will secure them a worthy position in society once they are released.

This blog is my last for awhile as I take a break to catch up on all the things I didn't get done in 2008.

Happy New Year and for many of us, a better new year.

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