It is an article of faith among the self-imagined elite that Deplorables are sub human. Mentally ill, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, toothless, smelly WalMart shoppers who cling to God and guns, virtually none of them are–gasp—college educated, and those few that might be certainly didn’t attend the right (left) colleges. We saw this article of faith implemented during the Obama years when Mr. Obama federalized the entire student loan industry, the better to ensure that everyone would attend college.
Are the self-imagined elite right? Are those that do not obtain a college degree somehow lesser beings? Are they fit only to be ruled by their intellectual and moral betters, because inferior as they are, they aren’t qualified to determine their paths in life? And for that matter, does a college education invariably produce the intellectual and moral superiority such exalted beings claim?
Clearly, college isn’t for everyone. For many, college is a disastrous detour from a productive and happy life.
Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute is a prolific writer on education issues. One of his most interesting works (PDF available here), written in 2009, is entitled Intelligence and Education. Murray referred to a survey that found high school guidance counselors encouraged 90% of high school students to attend college. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover:
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. He wrote:
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%.
I do not for a moment suggest people not in the top 15% of the population in IQ should not attend college if that is their desire. I’ve known many people likely not in that cohort (thankfully, we don’t—for now—ask people we meet their IQs) who worked very hard to earn degrees, even before college became more or less a remedial high school. Let us, gentle readers, consider the more surface issues first.
Most people don’t need to go to college. Despite the claims of some that we will shortly be a society employing nothing but coders and computer geeks, reality–fortunately–is different. There are, and always will be, a great many occupations that provide not only satisfying work, but good wages and benefits, none of which require college degrees. A great many small businesses, and small businesses that became great corporations, were founded by people who never set foot on a college campus. There is no reason to imagine that will ever change. Joe Biden is wrong about this and much else: we’ll always need miners, and coding and such occupations generally don’t intersect.
Many people just aren’t academically oriented. Academic orientation takes a certain mindset, certain fields of interest. While one can develop such interests, it’s not automatic, and for many, trying to do it is a costly distraction from learning a useful trade and living a productive life.
Most people can’t actually do genuine college-level work. The self-imagined elite in the college racket constantly complain about the quality of students in freshman classes. What’s wrong with those public schools? they cry. They admit anyone with a pulse and solvent bank account, and dumb down the curriculum.
Most people can’t afford to go to college. This was the point of federalizing the student loan industry: convincing people that cost was no obstacle. Borrow as much as you like, and you won’t have to pay it back for years, maybe not ever. If Elizabeth Warren is elected President, she’s going to wipe out all college debt on her first day in office. It’s public money, so it’s free! Not sure what you want to do with your life? Obamaloan! This has encouraged colleges to dramatically raise tuition rates, far above the cost of living. The cash flow has also allowed them to construct massive and ever-expanding diversity/inclusion bureaucracies, complete will all manner of “studies” courses crowding out genuinely academic disciplines. Unfortunately, many drop out without ever earning a degree, but with crushing, immediately due debt they are no more prepared to service than before taking out tens of thousands in loans. One does no favors by talking people into crushing debt, knowing they’re not going to be able to earn a degree, in essence, setting them up to fail. The damage to their psyches is incalculable.
Trying to send everyone to college is harmful to secondary education. “College readiness” is a contemporary fad consuming resources, and worst of all, time, in secondary curriculums. Underlying such initiatives is the idea that everyone should attend college. In the process of implementing this fad, time is taken away from actual teaching and learning, denying them the intellectual development they need, making kids less ready for college.
Trying to send everyone to college is harmful to higher education. This is why virtually all colleges have remedial high schools on campus. People academically unprepared for college discover they have to take remedial high school level courses at full tuition, but for no credit, adding great expense and years to an undergraduate degree. Such students are not prepared to participate in class discussions, and are constantly struggling merely to avoid failure in their classes. Actual college level courses are further dumbed down, a trend already well underway without this motivating factor. When employers can’t count on college graduate’s writing and reasoning abilities, of what value is a college degree?
People not ready for college are consumed, and not in the Swiftian sense, by the experience. Perhaps the greatest tragedy involved is the damage done to the individual. Burdened by enormous debt for which they will have nothing to show, penniless, the dropout who should have never been in college feels like a failure, worthless and stupid. This is the kindness of the self-imagined elite.
There is no doubt many—actually, most–Americans make good livings for themselves and their families without college. They are productive, solidly middle class, citizens. Without them and their contributions to society, we would not be the technologically advanced civilization we are. They make, maintain and repair and buy the consumer goods engineers design. Why then do the self-imagined elite so disparage them?
They dare to hold differing sociopolitical values. They point out the fallacies and foolishness of the values and policies of the self-imagined elite. Worse, people that value common sense and who have no time or patience for doing the same failed things over and over again and expecting success, by their mere existence, mock the self-imaged elite. Because such people can never admit failure, they must attack normal Americans, who because they don’t have college degrees, must surely be inferior. It’s circular reasoning: anyone opposing them is obviously inferior, so they must not have college degrees, and because they don’t have college degrees, they’re obviously inferior, so they have no business trying to tell the self-imagined elite what’s what.
It is interesting to note that the self-imagined elite tend to be primarily Democrats/Socialists/Communists. As such, their policies can never be wrong; they are non-falsifiable. Even though they may admit socialism has never succeeded in the past—or the present for that matter—they will succeed because they are more intelligent, more moral, more capable than every D/S/C before them. Anyone opposing them is therefore inferior and must be crushed.
But what if they’re not inferior? What if they’re right? What if they persist in pointing out the errors, perversions, failures, foolishness, cruelty, hatred and downright stupidity of their betters? Obviously, they’re wrong, not because they’re objectively wrong, but because they haven’t attended college, and if they have, at the wrong colleges. They attended inferior, non-elite state schools where they didn’t earn degrees in “studies,” but in actual academic and scientific disciplines, disciplines where math wasn’t racist and where they didn’t learn how bad and evil they and America are, and how racism and sexism and every other ism inform and drive everything they think, do and are.
College, if it’s more than mere political indoctrination, provides opportunity, necessary opportunity, but it does not automatically build character, useful personal habits and morality. It is necessary, in some respects, even vital, yet a college degree is ultimately proof of nothing other than that its holder had the time, money, and some degree of determination to obtain it. No longer, not for many years, has anyone been able to rely on a degree as a reflection of character, knowledge, ability, reliability or usefulness, and surely not morality. All too often, it’s merely a certificate of attendance—and deposit.