Farouk Shami’s strange radio ad
Farouk Shami is running for Governor in Texas. He’s got an impressive business resume, and some ambitious ideas, but I won’t be voting for him.
For one, he’s betting $10 million and half his term that he can create 100,000 jobs in two years. That just doesn’t seem realistic. But I guess if he doesn’t do it we can get rid of him.
The other reason is a line from one of his radio commercials:
“He’s a grandfather who will bring sweeping educational reform so that every child in Texas can go to college.”
Every child? That’s more than ambitious and unrealistic, it’s pure fantasy. There’s no chance that every child in the state (nearly 1500 high schools) is qualified or capable of college-level work. It’s unlikely that every student in a single graduating class in a single high school is qualified and capable.
And is it even desirable for every student to go to college? The only way to make it so is to reduce the level of work at the college level that it is achievable by every student. And that eliminates the function of college. It would become a hollow shell of its former purpose, and would do nothing but delay maturity and entry into the workforce.
Is college simply a sort of status symbol that separates the wealthy from the poor? Is it some sort of class barrier that needs to be broken down? No! Certainly it currently acts (and has historically acted) as such a symbol and barrier in some ways. But while costs have inhibited some, providing quality education isn’t free. And scholarship, loan, and grant programs have made this less of an issue.
But desiring that every student should go to college robs college of its usefulness. It will no longer function as “higher” education, and would just be, as Chris Rock said, “more high school”. If every student is capable of doing the work presented at the college level, you should do it in high school (because most of them aren’t doing much now). Shane Hipps pointed out during the Electronic Gospel conference at DTS that the vocabulary of the average 4th grader in the 1940’s is roughly equivalent to the average high school graduate today. So instead of sending students for two or four more years of school, condense the schedule so they learn those things in high school.
College would also no longer function as any sort of merited achievement or screening, which means exceptional students will need ever increasing years of education to prove their merit, delaying their entry into productive service. One of the few places I agree with Charles Murray is that we need to push exceptional students to their potential, because they are going to be driving forces in society. College has served that purpose historically, but the more we encourage wide enrollment, the less effective it is in this way.
I think Shami is right in advocating for more effective vocational and technical training, so that students will be prepared to work in technical fields out of high school, and so that associate’s and bachelor’s degrees begin to again mean that the student has achieved beyond the requirements of the job. But that power is removed when every student goes (or is expected to go) to college. That makes the students who don’t go failures, rather than the students who do go high achievers.
The cost of college is too great – in terms of money spent by students, their families, the state, and the university, as well as the time it takes to get a degree – to place the expectation on every student. The expectation puts undue strains on students who are not capable or who are not interested, and removes the actual value of the college education. There is a free basic schooling option that already serves the purpose that universal higher ed would serve – it’s called “high school”. We’d do well to make better use of the 12-14 years we get with students, instead of tacking on four more for the sake of false prestige.