The Corner

Politics & Policy

America Doesn’t Need More College Grads — It Needs More People Getting a Real Education

Graduates from Columbia University’s School of Journalism cheer during the university’s commencement ceremony in New York May 16, 2012. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

The Obama Administration was constantly yapping about the supposed need for the U.S. to become the world leader in educational attainment. Obama said that we should strive to be #1 in the world when it came to the percentage of citizens with college degrees. (We have made no progress toward that extremely silly goal.)

One of Obama’s education advisors was Professor David Kirp, who has written a book entitled The College Dropout Scandal. Like most “progressive” academics, he is upset that colleges are not graduating enough of their students, especially poor and minority kids.  If only they could make it through college, they’d be on their way to prosperity, their heads filled with knowledge they need for life.

In today’s Martin Center article, I take a pretty dim view of Kirp’s book.

Obtaining a college credential is neither necessary nor sufficient for success in life. Some who steer away from higher education are successful, while many who spend four or more years and huge amounts of money to get their degrees are not. Getting through college neither ensures a big boost in lifetime earnings nor any important gains in knowledge and skill.

Kirp is rightly concerned about the prospects for the numerous poor and minority kids whose K-12 schooling leaves them unprepared for the challenges they’ll face, but the higher education system rarely gives them what they so badly need — the intervention of someone who will open their minds to learning and disabuse them of the idea that they’re entitled to a good living. They need someone like the famous Los Angeles teacher Jaime Escalante, who famously turned classes of black and Hispanic students in a terrible school into calculus whizzes.

Just greasing the rails so more students will stay in college to get their credentials is not the solution.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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