Obama, Deal speak nonsense on higher ed
by Melvyn L Fein
September 09, 2013 12:19 AM | 1398 views | 1 1 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Melvyn Fein
Melvyn Fein
I was going to lambast Barack Obama for his latest silly proposal for improving higher education. Somehow in between the Syrian crisis and the Obamacare debacle, he found time to take a bus trip during which he proposed to make a college education available to all by lowering costs and raising quality.

This was yet another example of our president’s free-lunch mentality, but I soon found it topped by a local example of political vacuity. It was only upon receipt of a memo updating Kennesaw State University’s fiscal situation that I realized how absurd were Georgia’s plans for higher education.

Gov. Nathan Deal is promoting a policy called “Complete Georgia.” This is theoretically designed to increase the completion rates for those attending the state’s colleges, but it really seems to stand for “complete nonsense.”

Deal tells us he wants to see the percentage of Georgians obtaining a post high school education rise from 42 percent to 60 percent, while at the same time improving the quality of what they learn. Why, presumably, should any Georgians be left behind? Don’t they all deserve to be winners?

Despite what appears to be the governor’s generous impulse, there is a very good “why.” In fact, there are several of them. To begin with, not everyone is college material. Not everyone has the intelligence or the motivation to benefit from a genuine college education.

People who believe in social justice poo-poo this observation. They, along with traditional Marxists, believe that accomplishment is solely a matter of preparation. Everyone, they assume, has equal potential. The difference is merely in how they are brought up. Provide all with equal advantages and all will turn out equally well.

However, since not all families are equally competent at raising their children, the state must correct any deficiencies by providing the appropriate schooling. It doesn’t matter whether children’s homes are mad-houses or their neighborhoods are snake pits, teachers are expected to do magic.

To date, we have seen how well this has worked in K-12. Now this strategy is to be applied at the university level. As a result, we certainly can’t allow students to drop out. Nor must we challenge them with materials above their IQ levels. This might be a tragic blow to their self-confidence.

Not long ago, I was told about graduate students at a Georgia college (not KSU) who objected to the lessons they were taught on the grounds that they were too intellectually demanding. They believed that as “customers” of higher education, they should only be asked to do what made them feel comfortable.

The point is that if we are to have higher education for all (i.e., 60 percent), the only way to achieve this is by lowering standards. Like it or not, we cannot expand our university programs to include everyone without lowering quality. To conclude otherwise is specious reasoning and/or an egregious form of wishful thinking.

For political reasons, both Deal and Obama are trying to sell their constituents on the idea that we can all be Chiefs without anyone having to be an Indian. They appeal to our vanity — or perhaps our kindness — with visions of everyone climbing to the top of the social ladder.

Although I understand this instinct from the neo-socialist Barack Obama, I am mystified when it comes from a Republican office holder. What is even stranger is that at the very time Deal is demanding state colleges live up to this fantasy objective, his government is cutting their financing.

Hasn’t anyone in the Capitol learned math? Don’t they know that doing more with less doesn’t add up? Nor did their lessons in psychology take if they believe that everyone is equally talented and uniformly dedicated.

About all they seem to have learned is how to make promises that cannot be fulfilled. Sadly, it will be the students they seduce who take the biggest hit.

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology at Kennesaw State University.

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September 09, 2013
Professor Fein asks if Gov Deal can do math. Deal obviously learned the math lesson taught by Gov Barnes: When you cross the Teachers Union you don't get re-elected. That is all the math a politician can respect and stay in office as long as government employees are unionized. And that is what these education proposals are, tax dollars to buy votes.

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