Monday, November 23, 2009

We Send Too MANY Students to College

Today, I was on NPR's Talk of the Nation again to talk about the fact that we send too many students to college.

The fact that the AVERAGE college graduate makes more money doesn't mean that the hundreds of thousands of students in the bottom half of their high school class that" four-year" colleges not only admit but woo, wouldn't be wiser to pursue an apprenticeship, on-the-job training, short-term community college training program, or learn entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful, ethical businessperson.

Indeed , according to the U.S. Department of Education, of college freshmen who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, 2/3 don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years.

My co-guest Julianne Malveaux immediately pulled the race card saying that I, a white male, failed to take into account the legacy of slavery.

HERE is the link to the interview.

11 comments:

chuquito said...

For those of us who are familiar with the previous work of Julianne Malveaux, her response comes not at all surprising.

If she has nothing to add besides an argument ad hominem and accusing bad faith and "poisoning the well" for any of your future arguments, why is she still a professional commenter?

LBI said...

Does any mention of race constitute playing "the race card"? Contra "chuquito," it is your dismissive use of the term "race card" that shuts down all reasonable discussion of this important question.

I listened to the NPR discussion yesterday and I believe Malveaux's comments were right on. Ignoring the history of exclusion and oppression that frames some people's experience of and access to higher education is extremely short sighted. If college doesn't serve instrumental purposes (in terms of salary or status), at least it opens up the door to enlarging students' understanding of the world beyond their own experience and challenging them to question assumptions, challenge authority, and seek out a more just world. The possibility of exposing more students to a broad range of ideas and allowing them the space and time to engage with these ideas is a great justification for ensuring access to higher education (of many different kinds).

As an educator at the college level, I see students' accessing these kinds of benefits all the time - even if they do not perform at a high academic level or go on to hold lucrative jobs. I hope at least they gain the critical thinking skills to call into question the "persecuted white man" narrative found on this website.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the interview and really thought you made great points. I especially agree that it is sad that an expensive prestige college degree is looked upon as an entrée into a clique of like minded individuals. After listening to the show I wondered if one way to improve college (besides making it affordable) is to improve K-12 educations so that student's can already read and write well before continuing on to higher education. I thought my college education paid for itself but that was because the state tuition was so low and I had little debt.

H said...

I'm really glad you are willing to fight for this issue because as a minority female who was in the top quarter of my high school class, I wish I had read your blog when I was in high school instead of thinking college was the only way to go and all I needed to do was get good grades, graduate, and my life would be set. I did not accomplish what I now think are the only advantages of college; to meet a potential mate, network for a job, and figure out a career path. Now I'm in my late twenties and feel that I had wasted so much time and money. I think most students, not just the bottom half, would benefit from thinking about alternate paths that may actually lead to success quicker in life than to go straight to a four year college not even knowing what it is they want to do with it.

Dave said...

Quoting LBI -- "If college doesn't serve instrumental purposes (in terms of salary or status), at least it opens up the door to enlarging students' understanding of the world beyond their own experience and challenging them to question assumptions, challenge authority, and seek out a more just world. The possibility of exposing more students to a broad range of ideas and allowing them the space and time to engage with these ideas is a great justification for ensuring access to higher education (of many different kinds)."
***********

Many of us are tired of the ersatz food of postmodern and relativist thinking found in higher education today. How can something and its opposite both be true (works of Foucalt and Derrida)? The liberal othodoxy young people are fed at colleges and universities does not help students to explore a broad range of ideas. It does the opposite. Students are no longer told to find the truth. Why? Because they are told that truth is relative. Today's academics tell us that there are no absolutes. But Socrates, Aristotle and Plato wanted to find the truth. What point is there in reading the classics of 'dead white men' if we no longer seek out the truth? These classics were written for the sole purpose of finding the truth. This is why the 'classics' are an embarrassment to the humanities disciplines. The social sciences have also been butchered over the last forty years, and Dr. Nemko has taken note of the poorly substantiated and politically motivated theories that have been passed on as 'scholarship'. At least mathematics cannot be corrupted by ideology. In the Soviet era, Moscow State University had the finest mathematics department in the world.

It is sad to see a student in a defensive posture when asked if a British administrator had the right to stop genital mutilation in the Eastern colonies. It's always the same old response -- "Well, we shouldn't have been there in the first place." That's liberal orthodoxy for you.

Welcome to today's university - where all right of center ideas are denigrated and no culture is superior to another....because everything is relative.

I will now take my hands off my keyboard, return to the kitchen and 'deconstruct' a coffee cake.

Marty Nemko said...

If, in fact, students with poor records in high school, achieved the liberal arts goals of rigorous thinking, increased conoisseurship, etc., I'd be marching alongside you. But fact is, even students with strong high school records show frighteningly poor college freshman-to-senior growth in critical thinking, reading, etc.,

The reason I used the term "race card" to describe my opponent's tactic is that she said that my being a white male kept me from understanding the problem. That's like saying a woman physician is unable to well-serve male patients. Her assertion was unfair and racist. I merely called her on it.

Anonymous said...

Malveaux's currently the president of a historically black college; it's hard to see her not addressing the issue from that perspective. It did not seem that she played the race card but addressed what many could see as an implicit or explicit criticism of her work, in particular.

Something I have not seen addressed in the 'don't go' argument:

Currently unemployment for high-school dropouts is ~15%, for high school grads, it is 11.2%, for folks with some college it is 9% - and for folks with bachelors' degrees it is below 5%.

Even starting college is better than just graduating high school, statistically; finishing college may not get you the job of your dreams or a lot of money, but once you have gotten a job somewhere, you are more likely to be able to stay in it than someone without a degree.

(data from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf )

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent Anonymous, re the race csrd issue, it was a non-sequitur for her to trot out what sounded like a prepared stump speech about how institutional racism and the legacy of slavery still must be used as the core explanation for black low achievement. She said this in response to my discussion with the host about the importance of providing individualized guidance to high school students about the most appropriate post-high-school path for a student to take. Her comment was pretty-darn off-point. But worse, she then, out of the blue, accused me of being unable to understand the issues because I was a white male. That IS playing the race card. (See my previous comment.)

Anonymous said...

The question that goes to your argument and has nothing to with race: why does having even a little college make you less likely to be laid off, and why does a college degree make you far less likely to be unemployed, even in the current recession?

I had not realized that this has been true for virtually all recessions, but a Bloomberg piece I read recently flatly stated that it has been true since the depression: unemployment among college graduates just never gets very high.

My take on it is that employers as well as students and teachers are biased in favor of folks who have been to college. It probably has less to do with what people studied or how well they did at it than some of the social skills they learned in that time.

There are two net results:

- One, college grads, once they have work, are more likely to land in jobs that are more secure;

- Two, should you be ready to disclose this as a downside to taking or implementing your advice? How would you feel about retention quotas based on degreed/non-degreed status - a modification of the old "last hired, first fired" that says "except that layoffs should be distributed evenly across workers with and without degrees?"

Marty Nemko said...

Most recent Anonymous, the main problem with your analysis is that it's retrospective. Today, a larger percentage than ever of high school graduates are attending college at the same time as employers (outside of the federal govt) are reducing FTEs--laying off, part-timing, temping, automating, offshoring. The pool of people we're talking about--high school seniors who are in the bottom half of their high school class, even if they go to a "four-year" college are highly unlikely to graduate, let alone from a college that employers seek graduates from, let alone with a major that employers are attracted to. More important, there's the opportunity cost: that pool of kids would have a far greater chance of personal and professional success in--depending on the individual kid--an apprenticeship program, working at the elbow of a successful, ethical entrepreneur, on-the-job training, self-employment, a short-term career-prep program at a community college, or the military.

Silver said...

LBI,

If college doesn't serve instrumental purposes (in terms of salary or status), at least it opens up the door to enlarging students' understanding of the world beyond their own experience and challenging them to question assumptions, challenge authority, and seek out a more just world. The possibility of exposing more students to a broad range of ideas and allowing them the space and time to engage with these ideas is a great justification for ensuring access to higher education (of many different kinds).

In other words, if college does nothing else at least it hands leftie ideologues like me a captive audience to indoctrinate.

The last thing LBI wants is real free thinkers who'd stand up and question and challenge his assumptions.

Marty, I beg you to ponder, is there really anything to be gained by playing fair with these creatures? They're running the country into the ground with their "anti-discrimination" psychosis. At what point does 60s-style (with the shoe on the other foot) open rebellion become the requisite course of action?

Alternatively, if we grant that LBI is a sincere educator, his argument is that students gain something just from sitting in the building, even if they really are too dumb to be there in the first place -- which in plain language is the point Marty is making.

Marty, I'm not a frequent visitor of your blog, so I don't know if you've previously discussed it, but I trust you've read Charles Murray's "Real Education." Too soundly argued for its own good, obviously. I just can't see the bastards allowing such common sense reforms without a fight.

 

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