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February 17, 2005

College, Trades, and K-12 Education

The Anchoress found one of my red buttons--you know, the ones with the locking cover so you don't accidentally lean an elbow on it and blow up the world?

She's commenting on a recent speech by Laura Bush in which she extolled the desirability of every student attending college.

But I think we've been banging the "everyone needs to go to college" drum enough. I would have loved to have heard Mrs. Bush say this too-often ignored bit of truth:
College is not for everyone, and you do not need a college education in order to earn a decent living and get your piece of the American Dream. To be trained in a trade is a perfectly honorable thing, and those Americans who work as electricians or plumbers or mechanics or carpenters all have the choice of becoming entrepreneurs or working for another. And none of them have to worry about their jobs being "outsourced."

The Anchoress is right, in principle, but there's a problem: The erosion of the standard public school K-12 curriculum has resulted in a situation where a college degree is now (barely) equivalent to a high school degree in say, 1920. The ideal complement to an honorable trade is a high quality K-12 education firmly based in the classical curriculum—an education in which reason and empirical knowledge are valued over “feelings” and “discovery learning.”

If I tomorrow I was appointed benevolent-dictator-for-a-day, I would require everyone of child bearing age to read Left Back, by Diane Ravitch. It is an indispensable and meticulous recounting of the successful war waged on the classical curriculum by the educational “progressives”. She exposes the skilful tactics employed by the progressives, such as repeatedly renaming a failed trend; thus “look-say” became “whole language” which is now the “balanced method” of reading instruction (all utter failures). And this is a battle which began, not in the turbulent sixties, but a hundred years ago.

I recall someone stating, “In one hundred years, we’ve gone from teaching Latin in high school to teaching remedial reading in college.” If you've ever seen an eighth grade final exam from 1900, you'll understand the truth in that quote.

It’s easy to see why the First Lady places such an emphasis on attending college—but it’s also a tragedy.

UPDATE: On second thought, the first thing I'd do if I were made benevolent-dictator-for-a-day would be to ban the designated hitter, surely one of the most heinous crimes against nature there is.

Posted on February 17, 2005 12:19 AM

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