Over the weekend, President Obama wrote in the Washington Post:
Our community colleges can serve as 21st-century job training centers, working with local businesses to help workers learn the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future. We can reallocate funding to help them modernize their facilities, increase the quality of online courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020.
As Frederick Hess points out at the Corner, Obama has indulged in his usual habit of pulling an impressive-sounding number out of the air and saying “yes we can,” but:
absent from his column is any consideration of whether community colleges are generally effective or cost-efficient. . . . Is there evidence that most community colleges are equal to this task? Not really. Is there evidence that community colleges are especially well-run, or that they are a better option for prospective students than alternative vendors (such as private companies and distance-learning programs)? Not really. Do we know a lot about what good community colleges look like, or how to reduce waste and promote quality? Again, not really.
By coincidence, a trio of educational groups has just announced the establishment of the Community College Policy Center, which will support and perform research, and collect and disseminate information, about community colleges. It sounds like a good idea, though you have to wonder what they’ll do when research suggests that some community colleges are a waste of resources. Presumably that’s what filing cabinets are for.
Will the CCPC challenge the education-industry consensus that the solution to all of our nation’s problems is increased funding for education? Will it strike out in new directions? Unlikely, if its inaugural press release is anything to go by. The whole thing is written in the most conventional, glutinous, boilerplate educationese:
The Community College Policy Center (CCPC) will be a critical resource for state policymakers, community college leaders, policy analysts and researchers as they seek to fully leverage community colleges as critical mechanisms for achieving college attainment and workforce development goals. . . .
The Policy Center will . . . provide technical assistance to policymakers and state and local community college leaders as they seek to develop and implement effective policies and strategies for increasing degree attainment and workforce readiness of their state’s citizens . . .
“In a time of limited public resources, it is more important than ever for there to be an entity that ensures that the most effective policies and strategies are communicated to state policymakers and college leaders as they seek to leverage their investment in community colleges to drive economic development in their states. . . .”
It’s a fallacy to suggest that someone’s writing style reflects his thought processes; I know from my previous jobs (not NR, of course) that plenty of outstanding thinkers are lousy writers. Still, if the CCPC wants to be innovative and come up with new ideas, its staff members might start the revolution by simply saying what they mean, instead of drenching everything in buzzwords and bureaucratic jargon.