Monday, April 30, 2012

Everybody Should Go to College

Really? Who says? Well, when you try to answer that question, you have to dig some. At most, it appears that some school districts wanted every high school graduate to be college-ready, some going as far as the Los Angeles school district to require all students to take college-prep classes to graduate. But wanting all high school graduates to be college-ready is not really the same thing as saying everybody should go to college. Just that they should be ready to go if they decide to choose that path.

So, who says everybody should go to college? Often, the charge is that the President says so. Either President Barack Obama or maybe going back to President George W. Bush. Did either one really say that?

After the jump, hunting down the origin of conventional wisdom.

The latest implication that there's some push to get everyone to go to college comes from Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken, who had this to say to the Dallas Business Journal's Bill Hethcock:

"We've been missing the boat for an extended period of time with this No Child Left Behind nonsense that everybody's got to go to a four-year university," he told me this morning. "Not everybody's suited to go to college or has that interest. The skilled trades pay very well and they're in high demand."
No Child Left Behind. That's a President George W. Bush initiative. Is its goal really to have everybody go to college? Not that I can tell. Its goals include having all students graduate from high school and all students be proficient or better in reading and math. Maybe "proficient" means college-ready, or maybe it doesn't, that seems to be left to the individual states to define, but even so, it wouldn't be the same as saying that everybody should actually go to college.

During the 2012 GOP presidential primary campaign, Rick Santorum thought he knew who said everyone should go to college. It was President Obama, Santorum said. Politifact checked and judged that statement false.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum said. "What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor that (tries) to indoctrinate them."
Source: Politifact.
So, what does President Obama actually say on the subject? Here's a paragraph from remarks of the newly sworn-in President to a joint session of Congress, February 24, 2009:

Tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.
Source: White House.
I'm a native speaker of English and I wouldn't consider getting some vocational training through an apprenticeship to be "going to college." And it's surely not the same as Tom Pauken's "going to a four-year university." Maybe Santorum and Pauken use the terms differently.

So, just where did this notion get started, that there's some widespread, prevailing push for everybody to go to college? Darned if I know. It doesn't seem to be true. Shouldn't one goal of schooling be to clear away common misconceptions? I think every American should get enough education to clear this misconception away.

Locally, the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) offers students a quality education that does not pre-suppose everybody should go to college. Although it offers all the college-prep courses the college-bound student could want, RISD has also offered programs in building trades, electrical systems, criminal justice, cosmetology, fashion marketing, robotics, horticulture, etc. In other words, RISD wants to prepare all students for either college or a career. You won't hear many in the RISD, if any at all, saying everybody should go to college.

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