Sunday, March 1, 2009
Though It Be Madness, There Be Method in It: Obama and College For All
(Our President in his student days) Much has been said regarding Obama's vastly ambitious plan to fund college for all. A reasonable argument against such a Herculean and costly task is that not everyone can or ought to attend college. However, this argument does not reflect on President Obama himself, as the proponents of elitism think. On the contrary, I argue that not only is Obama dealing with a constellation of circumstances not of his own making, but that the dilemma stems from an impetus which runs counter to his deepest ideology, and that he has a hidden agenda to reverse and rectify the situation.
Beginning in the 1960s, growing apace in the '70s and '80s. and then reaching its absurd climax in the '90s, the idea of college as necessary for all has its true roots in the greed of the Universities for customers and revenues. This has been aided by the general non-partisan elitism of the society at large. What this has produced: A ridiculous state in which droves who have neither the love nor the inclination for academic study of any kind, nor any real need of it - save to furnish the letters after one's name which companies and schools demand increasingly in exchange for higher salaries - are attending college and postgraduate studies. Many still have no writing skills, no strength in critical analysis or commentary, though they hold degrees of higher learning. A college in the 1990s changed its slogan from "Dedicated to Higher Learning" to "Dedicated to the World of Work": this says it all. The Dumbing Down of American education has been proclaimed for the past 15 years: Many books and essays have pointed out the folly, even the cruelty, of demanding college education for all. The worth of the bachelors and the master's degrees have eroded and have ceased to mean what they were intended to: Command of difficult texts, the ability to reason skillfully, following classical rules of logic, the feel for nuance and complexity in argument. Charles Murray, in his book, Real Education , has expanded and proposed solutions. Social Workers and teachers overpaid because they jumped through some hoops and paid their tuition, while at the same time lowering standards for graduate work: Ugh, vanity, and worse than vanity!
Now enter President Barack Obama: "OK, everyone needs college: Of course we must fund it as well?" he says coyly. In that hidden way which distinguishes him in all things, Obama knows that the devil is in the details. He knows that with time, under his expert guidance, and with his vision of Youth Corps and innovative work corps and re-building of the American infrastructure, that millions will have in fact been freed of the need for college. The rest, will be adequetly funded. Our President may sometimes suggest madness, but his method is always just beneath the surface.