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Universal Education or Universal Competence?

College classroom

College class at Westminster College, Fulton MO.
Photo Credit: Westminster College.

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Education was the defining paradigm of the 20th Century model of social progress, particularly the scientific education distributed through cells and classes where trained educators teach from prepared texts imparting the same knowledge to every students through the same methods.

Our educational system is nothing if not extensive. We, collectively and individually, spend fortunes on it. The average cost of a four year degree is approaching 100,000 dollars and that isn’t counting textbooks (1,100 per year) and the astronomical rates of interest on student loans. Total student loan debt has doubled in the last seven years and is approaching 300 billion dollars. The average student under 30 owes around 20,000 dollars as education has become the new mortgage.

Senior citizens who came of age in the age when college became universalized are having their social security payments reduced to cover their student loan debts proving that a college education really does last for a lifetime.

The individual expenses for an education are trivial compared to the collective burden. The budget for New York City’s Department of Education is 24.4 billion dollars. That is nearly the GDP of Vermont being expended on the schools of a single city. It’s the GDP of 60 percent of the countries on the planet being shoveled into a single school system of 1.1 million children under the banner of “Children First” that amounts to 40 percent of the city budget.

New York spends 11,572 dollars per pupil. For now the home of Wall Street can afford this kind of insane waste, closing the budget shortfall by finding a way to impose a 300 million or 500 million dollar fine on a major bank or brokerage. Most other places can’t. Across the river, New Jersey’s disastrous schools are bleeding taxpayers dry with murderous property taxes to fund failing schools.

The same story is repeated across the nation where homeowners are bled to fund swollen pension funds and failing urban schools. Gimmicks such as “weighed student funding” are used to divert as much money as possible from successful local schools to unsuccessful urban schools. People are losing their homes so that another high school in Newark can roll out more afterschool programs and Michelle Obama’s idea of nutritious lunches.

Politicians take for granted that education is the road to empowerment and equality. Obama has read poems off his teleprompter about the wonders of education as the only means of ensuring “our” children’s future. There is nothing revolutionary about that. Every politician takes it for granted that education means empowerment. But does it really?

Universal education was the panacea of every socialist state. By NEA rankings the Soviet Union had a better education system than we do. Its system routed as much of the population as possible through higher education and degree mills making it better educated, on paper, than the Yankee running dogs of the decadent West. And yet the USSR was behind the United States in every possible area of life.

The more you universalize education, the lower the value of that education becomes. When the goal of education is not to teach, but to graduate, then the educational system becomes a cattle run which exists only to move students through the system and then out the door through classroom promotion. The High School education of today is inferior to the Elementary School education of yesterday and the four year college graduate of today couldn’t even begin to match wits with a high school graduate from 1946. College has become the new High School. Graduate school is the new college. If we keep following the European model, then two decades from now, everyone will be encouraged to get a Master’s Degree which will be the prerequisite for most jobs and also be completely worthless.

The current model is that the more education you have, the better you are and the better that the society you live in will be. Everyone is expected to finish High School and as many as possible are encouraged to go to college, even if they’ll die before they pay off the student debt and even if more people go bankrupt subsidizing other people’s education. And at some point when everyone has six years of higher education, we’ll have a utopia of flying cars, glowing sidewalks in the sky and 5 minute tours of the moon.

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About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.


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