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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Santorum’s comments argue for a national conversation on education

If you can believe the mainstream media talking heads, Rick Santorum has volunteered yet another example of his (in their minds) right-wing, anti-intellectual small-mindedness by daring to broach the subject of college education; specifically, the expectations of a college degree, as an entitlement—if not a birthright—of every American.

From time to time, Americans are rudely reminded by some racially-charged news story of the need for a “national conversation on race.” Today there is no question that America is sorely in need of a different national discussion: on college education. Consider, many people believe that the next wheel to fall off our precarious economy is the potential for default on the billions of dollars of college loans held by recent graduates. The potential financial disaster is worrisome enough, but that isn’t what Santorum is talking about.

Let’s look at some of the transcript of the interview by George Stephanopoulos on his show “This Week” on Feb. 26.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now getting to college has been part of the American dream for generations, Senator. Why does articulating an aspiration make the president a snob?

SANTORUM: I think because there are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don't include college.

And to sort of lay out there that somehow this is -- this is -- should be everybody's goal, I think, devalues the tremendous work that people who, frankly, don't go to college and don't want to go to college because they have a lot of other talents and skills that, frankly, college, you know, four-year colleges may not be able to assist them.

And there are other -- there's technical schools, there's additional training, vocational training. There's skills and apprenticeships. There's all sorts of things that people can do to upgrade their skills to be very productive and -- and build their community.

Now, while it’s true that Newt Gingrich might have worded this more artfully, Santorum has hit a nerve with a lot of Americans, including this one who happens to be in the teaching profession. I have been saying for years that among the many, many problems with our “academic-educational complex” (copyright pending), those of us of the previous generation recognize a marked difference in both the quality of education and the place it holds in the marketplace.

Consider, back in the day, when an employer needed to hire workers, in most situations the skills necessary were peculiar to the business, and new hires had to learn the skills on the job. Such an employer was therefore looking to hire someone who was capable of learning. Typically, the minimum requirement to gain an interview was a high school diploma and a cleanly written resume. If the applicant had graduated high school with good grades, he/she was presumably educable and potentially capable of learning the job. (Of course, this doesn’t apply to professions that require an established knowledge base, such as medicine, the law, engineering, etc.) The high school degree was the passport for entrance into the workforce. It was proof of the bearer’s possession of the minimum skills necessary to be a functioning and capable member of the adult world.

Flash forward to today.  Now, many similar employers will not even look at job applicants if they don’t have a college degree. Chances are the car salesman who conned you into your last purchase has a college degree. The waitress at the restaurant may even have a college degree.

The college degree has become the equivalent of the high school degree.  I once joked to an old friend that his degree from New York’s Stuyvesant High School in the early seventies was the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. “From Harvard,” he quipped.

But there is one huge difference. Gaining the “passport” for gainful employment today doesn’t just take an additional 4 years, at minimum—it comes with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. It’s been said before: When our children realize what we’ve done to them they will murder us in our sleep.

But that’s just one aspect of this colossal hoax that has been played on Generation X’ers or Y’ers, whatever they’re called.  Santorum is correct when he implies that a college education is expected of all Americans, that, in fact, if you’re not college educated, you ain’t shit, to put it colloquially. For those too young to know, here’s how it used to go, before the self-esteem, everyone-gets-a-trophy social engineers took over.  Kids went to school. They were segregated by intelligence, as measured by reading, writing and math abilities. Kids in the smarter classes were ‘tracked” for college. The others were often steered towards careers in the trades.

Santorum is right again. There are technical and trade schools—but they have been demoted by the elitists. What happens to someone who is really suited to a trade but goes along with the program and goes to college? What happens to the individual who has no interested in reading, but may be talented with their hands; someone who likes to work on cars for instance? As a mechanic, if they’re good and have a good work ethic, they may eventually own their own shop and with an excellent income stream and a rewarding job live a happy and successful life. But when steered into college, several years and tens of thousands of dollars may be wasted on pursuing an unrealistic and unrealizable, or even worse —undefined—goal.

Is 16 years of schooling really necessary to be a competent, functioning, employable citizen? To gain the ability to write an error-free business letter, basic mathematical literacy, adult-level reading comprehension, computer literacy, the ability to speak clearly and intelligibly on a subject, and basic understanding of our civic institutions? Of course not!  Twelve years is plenty.  Then why isn’t it possible now to graduate high school students with this basic level of academic mastery? Because everyone expects that another 4 years of school is coming, where the child’s real education is expected to take place.

Going back to the transcript, we get to the other point Santorum raises regarding college education, a more controversial and political point.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... In your interview with Glenn Beck this week, you seemed to go further. You said I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because they are indoctrination mills. What did that mean?

SANTORUM: Well, of course. I mean, you look at the colleges and universities, George. This is not – this is not something that's new for most Americans, is how liberal our colleges and universities are and how many children in fact are – look, I've gone through it. I went through it at Penn State. You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are – I can tell you personally, I know that, you know, we – I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine (ph). You know the statistic that at least I was familiar with from a few years ago -- I don't know if it still holds true but I suspect it may even be worse – that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, when you put all this together—

SANTORUM: This is not a neutral setting.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it makes it sound like you think there is something wrong with encouraging college education.

SANTORUM: No, not at all, but understand that we have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine. And one of the things that I've spoken out on and will continue to speak out is to make sure that conservative and more mainstream, common-sense conservative and principles that have made this country great are reflected in our college courses and with college professors. And at many, many, and I would argue most institutions in this country, that simply isn't the case.

Again, Newt Gingrich would have worded this more eloquently—but then again, this is part of Santorum’s appeal: he doesn’t speak like a professor; he speaks like a normal, average American.

Unlike the Great College Con of the necessary college education for all, the left-wing skewing of the academic-educational complex is not a new, previously undiscovered issue. Conservatives have been railing about it for years. As such, this dimension of the college conversation doesn’t require much explanation or exposition here; everyone should be familiar with the arguments. Essentially, progressives and conservatives simply see this completely different. Liberals don’t believe there is any liberal bias. They don’t believe that a 9:1 ratio of Democrat-voting educators to Republicans is proof of a liberal conspiracy. Rather, they hew to the belief that becoming “progressive” is a natural, and positive, consequence of higher education. To conservatives, the liberal bias on the campus is a self-evident truth confirmed by any cursory examination of any college’s curriculum, published policies, hiring practices, or any of the other portals to their domain. It’s not even necessary to actually sit through a social science or humanities lecture.

So, kudos to Santorum for once again braving the headwinds of political correctness and daring to say the un-sayable. Whether he gets the nomination or not, let’s not let this opportunity go by without starting the real national conversation on education.

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  1. If securities rules applied to research grants, half the professulas would be in jail! Professulas, trial lawyers and union organizers are Obama's core constituencies. Universities, libraries, museums and other public beneficiaries extort their patrons to lobby on their behalf with taxpayer resources. They even encourage students to max out their loans and invest the proceeds so the school can up its total. Obama learned when he worked for Don Kent at tuition-funded Arms Race Alternatives, while denying admission to Young Americans for Freedom and the Social Democrats. Ted Markowitz used the Xerox 9700 to make fliers for the 1982 June 12th nuclear freezers, but persecuted students for smaller infractions. They destroyed a supply side hero like Jeff Bell! "UPI June 6, 1992 Sovern took over at Columbia after student protests of 1968 and New York's fiscal problems in the '70s resulted in less financial support for the school, a situation made more dire by recent federal government budget cuts. . . But Columbia will be looking for a new president in a period troubled by criticism for destroying records that were being reviewed for improprieties. Universities in general have been under greater scrutiny for how they charge the government for federally sponsored research." When Obama falls in 2010, we should go through the grant-grubbing Ivy Leagues with a flame thrower! Ivy League universities are not good at getting students jobs, only grants to be commie nutty organizers. If you are liberal, anything you do is inherently ethical for the cause, but if you are a conservative, and believe in GOD, family or business, your very moral fiber, even down to trivial autonomic responses, is subject to persecution as either dangerously criminal or the result of clinical illness. Bush 43 had two Ivy degrees and they treated him as stupid because he was conservative even though he had better grades and entrance scores and took a lot tougher courses than Gore. Professors are the ultimate molestor high priests because they extort and control your transcripts and your grants if you turn them in. Like a cult, they will make your children denounce you and everything you stand for as unworthy. The lowest level university bureaucrats offer the worst affectations. No business ever trusts such left wing graduates who don't believe in capitalism and become crooks because they are taught the only way business makes money is crooked so they seek to avenge their unemployability through their own crookedness. The universities consider real jobs and competition beneath them, so they want their little sissies to live off grants, even in the hard sciences or business. How many of their engineering professors have Professional Engineering certification? Almost none! They love foreign students who slave up and don't expect professors to actually work for the tuition, like Americans do. (Surely You Are Joking Feynman p 215 "If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We're trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question'." ) No middle class parent should consider sending their kids there, because these schools will destroy your entire family. See Zac Bissonnette's Debt-Free U. In his 2010 book on universities (p35) columbia provost Jonathan Cole brags that undergarduates and their parents are suckers who fund the platform from which professulas can then rape taxpayers with grants. This is why they created Obama - to rape the taxpayer. It is high time to force the professulas to only have corporate support for their research, then we wouldn't be gouged like global warming and nuclear winter.

    1. Jack --
      Thanks for your post. You seem to be very well informed on these issues. I take it you've been in the profession? I wish Santorum was better informed on this, as he seems like the type willing to challenge authority; but now he's being forced to backpedal by the Fox News "conservatives" such as Chris Wallace. I suppose the best bet to fixing this scandal from an election standpoint would be libertarian Ron Paul.
      Feynman was the one who simply thought to put the O-ring in his glass of water to see what would happen.
      Unfortunately, too often in academia the ones with the real intellect (ie., the math and hard-science professors, typically) who aren't on a mission from the Goddess to transform the social order invariably do their best to avoid bureaucratic departmental-type meetings and decisions, leaving the field wide open for the mischief-makers.