As a teacher, laboring in the vast, semi-fertile fields of America’s future, I am regularly forced to give the appearance of embracing the latest and greatest fad imposed by the politicians and crony capitalists that impose fads on teachers and kids. This is not to say the educrats that run school districts don’t whole-heartedly embrace such idiocy–they do. Invariably, these fads are nothing more than recycling old ideas that miserably failed. Just like every form of leftism, they’ll work this time because their current supporters are much smarter than past leftists–just ask them–and this time, they’ll do it right, because they’ll give it to the kids and teachers harder and longer and will spend more money–far more money–doing it. Oh, and they’ve invented new acronyms for the same old dog poo.
Among those fads is “college readiness,” which, with free college for everyone, Barack Obama has boosted for the last seven+ years. That, you see, is how America will boldly stride into the bold, strident, progressive future: by ensuring everyone has at least an undergraduate degree, which will ensure that everyone working at McDonald’s can intelligently discuss queer or race or feminist theory as they ask “you want fries with that?” Unfortunately, raising the minimum wage will inevitably replace overly indoctrinated, degreed human beings with robots, which will presumably have minimal interest in queer, race or feminist theory.
Hillary Clinton has now taken up the “free college for everyone” banner. One might think it just another promise she’ll ignore once elected, but like her promises to destroy the First and Second Amendments, this is a promise one can reasonably believe she’ll keep. Why? Read on as I explain why free college is unnecessary, idiotic and destructive.
* Only a small portion of the populace is intellectually capable of doing genuinely college-level work.
Simply put, most people aren’t smart enough. WHAT!? I must be a racist, sexist, or every other kind of ist! We do not, for a second, argue with the indisputable fact that most Americans will never be capable of playing in the NFL or NBA. They’re just not big enough, fast enough, strong enough, tall enough or athletically skilled enough to earn a place on the roster. Yet we find it difficult to accept the idea that some people are smarter, more intellectually capable, than others. We know that most people are never going to be rocket scientists at NASA–the NASA that existed before its principle function was making Muslims feel good about the scientific achievements of long-dead Muslims–yet bristle at the concept that fact suggests most people aren’t smart enough.
In Education Problems And Solutions 5: The Higher Education Bubble And The Soap Scum It Leaves Behind, I quoted the invaluable Charles Murray:
For 40 years, American leaders have been unwilling to discuss the underlying differences in academic ability that children bring to the classroom. Over the same period, federal policy, backed by billions of taxpayer dollars in loans and grants, has aggressively encouraged more and more students to try to obtain a college education. As a result, about half of all high-school graduates now enroll in four-year colleges, despite the ample evidence that just a small minority of American students — about 10-15% — have the academic ability to do well in college.’
Using his own research and that of others, Murray came to an interesting conclusion about what is necessary for genuine success in college: an IQ of at least 115.
‘There is no inconsistency between Kobrin’s results and a 115 mean IQ among white college graduates. The students who make salient points in classroom discussions, who write well-researched term papers, and whose final exams demonstrate that they understood the material are usually well into the upper half of the distribution of academic ability among those who go to college. In other words, they are somewhere in the top 15% of the population — and usually in the top 10%.
Murray also explained the damage caused when unprepared students, people any rational educator must know would inevitably fail, is admitted to even the dumbed-down institutions that pass for colleges today:
About 17 out of every 20 white high school seniors at the 90th percentile of academic ability enter a four-year college hoping to get a B.A. Twenty percent of them can be expected to fail. About two out of three white high-school seniors at the 75th percentile of academic ability enter a four-year college hoping to get a B.A. Forty percent of them can be expected to fail. About half of white high- school seniors at the 60th percentile of academic ability enter a four-year college hoping to get a B.A. Fifty-two percent of them can be expected to fail. About two out of five white high-school seniors at the 50th percentile of academic ability enter a four-year college hoping to get a B.A. Sixty percent of them can be expected to fail.
IQ, of course, isn’t everything. Some people with lesser IQs can and have made their way though college on dogged determination, hard work, and a willingness to forego the social aspects of college in favor of achieving the goal of a degree. Obviously, no one should be denied the opportunity to attend college based on IQ alone, but they should make fully informed college decisions.
* Throwing open the college doors to everyone would inevitably turn colleges into an integral part of a huge, permanent democrat majority producing machine.
This, for Hillary Clinton, is a feature, not a bug. If government is paying the bills, government gets to make the rules, and dictate the curriculum. One can reasonably argue that many colleges are not far from this already as more than 90% of most faculties are avowed Leftists, however, there would be more difference in a 100% leftist institution than one might imagine.
A legitimate contemporary complaint about higher education is the administrator to faculty ratio, which is decidedly administrator heavy. Under government control, this would only increase, as would the attendant costs involved. A college can’t have too many diversity and inclusion administrators, after all.
* The tax burden would be unsustainable, sooner rather than later.
This is the kind of bottomless money pit that actually would bankrupt the nation, particularly if America transitions to a single payer health care debacle. As every sentient American knows, by the time he leaves office, Barack Obama will have incurred more national debt than every other president that preceded him. Not only would “free” college cause a dramatic increase in tuition–which means, of course, a huge increase in taxes–it would greatly lengthen courses of study.
“But the government would institute price controls to keep costs down!” Of course it wouldn’t. Government controlled colleges would be an eternal source of campaign donations and political indoctrination for the Democrat Party. They would, in essence, become mega unions, taking in government money and cycling it out the back door into the hands of Democrats.
Even now, for many contemporary students, an undergraduate degree that traditionally took four years, takes as many as seven. To better understand what a non-progressive dinosaur I am, consider I took my undergraduate degree in 2.5 years and paid for it myself. That might get me a small exhibit in a dusty museum at some point in the future. But for contemporary students, the attraction would be undeniable. Why not spend decades on the public dime earning degree after degree? There won’t be any jobs out there in the real world anyway.
* Free college would make private colleges extinct.
Not only would the economics obliterate private colleges, government would inevitably regulate them out of business. There can be no competition against the people! This is particularly so because the primary purpose of college would almost immediately become turning out life-long Marxists beholden to the all-seeing, all-knowing, infallible government.
Even though there would be a small number of families with the financial wherewithal to send a child to a private school, those numbers would never be sufficient to keep private schools in business.
If we credit Murray with being right–and my experience bears him out–colleges would be faced with a stark choice: fail and expel most of their students, or adjust the curriculum to ensure most would succeed. It’s likely grades would be entirely dispensed with. The criteria for excellence and eventual graduation would become adherence to the party line.
This process is already well underway in colleges across the nation. Even those that try to maintain genuinely college-level requirements have what amounts to remedial high schools on their campuses, teaching incoming students the writing, reading and thinking skills they didn’t bother to develop in high school. Such classes are a great racket. Not only are they required for many students, they require full college tuition and don’t award college credit, greatly lengthening the time–and money–required for a degree, which most of these students will never earn. That’s right: such classes enable unscrupulous institutions to suck every dollar out of the pockets of students before they drop out.
For many, learning college-level academic skills is impossible. When one doesn’t do the work of high school on schedule and in the right ways, one fails to develop the neural connections that make higher-level achievement possible. It is a matter of brain development. We are, after all, bio-chemical machines. Fail to develop the brain in the right ways at the right times, and one misses the intellectual ferry forever as the brain becomes less plastic and flexible with age.
Under government control, the dumbing down of curriculum, particularly in favor of socio-political indoctrination, would be inevitable and rapid. Huge numbers of mandatory political classes replacing actual academic disciplines would be a certainty.
* Free college ignores human nature.
Without a personal investment, without personal sacrifice, the incentive to work hard and achieve disappears. Surely there would be some self-motivated students, but most would have little or no incentive to develop the work habits necessary to success in college and life. Politically correct partying would be the order of the day, and class attendance, pretty much optional. Within a generation, the American work ethic would be severely wounded, within a few generations, all but dead.
* A populace of degreed drones without useful skills.
Contemporary college graduates, particularly those with advanced degrees, are finding it harder than ever to find the kind of lucrative employment a college degree once promised. This is particularly so for anyone with a degree in “studies” of any kind. People graduating with degrees in the hard sciences may have an easier time of it, but under a free college system, even they would find employment far more elusive.
What happens to a society with only thinkers, without doers? What happens when the entire society is no longer capable or making or maintaining things? Where do we find a plumber or a carpenter when they’re in “college” studying deconstructionist theory?
Consider the effects on the economy of hundreds of thousands of young people holding degrees that guaranteed nothing more than the kind of knowledge and ability once suggested by a high school diploma. Such people without any other usable skills would inevitably become wards of the state, endless welfare recipients. This is exactly what progressives want, for such people are also reliable Democrat voters, desperate to keep the “free” government benefits rolling in.
A glut of “college” graduates with meaningless degrees and even less meaningful knowledge, would be even less employable than the over-educated incompetents we now produce.
* Free college; no college debt! Whee!
There is no such thing as free governmental benefits. Every dollar spent by government comes from the pockets of around 50% of the population. That 50% are makers and producers, not takers. They are the people whose hard work and reliability keeps the nation solvent.
What happens as that 50% figure continually diminishes? We will get to a point where the number of producers is far too small to support the number of takers, and free college will dramatically hasten the process.
Free college, like virtually all of the progressive agenda, isn’t a path to utopia. It’s a high-speed rail trip to national collapse. Will Donald Trump and what passes for Republicans do anything about it, or merely hop on at the next station?
UPDATE: Coincidentally, Glen Reynolds has a similar article up at USA Today. Perhaps worth your time…