A good friend wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper a few weeks back and expressed beautifully what I have thought for many years.

Here’s the letter:

Editor – The Yamhill Valley News Register:

Last Saturday’s News-Register Viewpoints article by McMinnville High School’s Tony Vicknair outlined some very good work in preparing students for college. The recent emphasis on measuring the progress of students after graduation is long overdue. It is difficult to improve a product or process without knowing outcomes.

Mr. Vicknair closes by asserting that the goal of MHS is to “… create and sustain a college-going culture wherein every student aspires and expects to attend college … .” This goal has also been articulated by President Obama and others in national office. While I agree that MHS should prepare those students with the necessary interests and aptitudes, we must recognize that college isn’t for everybody.

The News-Register editorial in the Viewpoints section described the area’s need for quality manufacturing labor. These are not positions that require a college education. They require punctuality, sobriety, commitment and a desire to contribute. Our economy will always need industrious people who can build and fix things. Young people who do not like the confines or structure of school but have an entrepreneurial nature and a work ethic can have a prosperous future in a blue- or white-collar setting.

The mistaken notion that everyone should go to college leads to waste. (emphasis mine-T) At Western Oregon University, 60 percent of students don’t graduate and 29 percent leave after the first year. At OSU, 30 percent don’t graduate and 17 percent leave between their freshman and sophomore years (see http://www.collegemeasures.org). This represents a huge waste of time and money — for both students and taxpayers.

Let’s devote equal attention to the preparation of students who want to enter the work world without a college degree.

Brian ….., McMinnville

Would 4 years of work at a paper/magazine give her Marketable skills/less debt?

My Goal: A big college debt and no marketable skills?

My friend Brian makes an excellent point.  We are wasting both time and treasure, as are large numbers of students, because of our “Every-Child-Must-Go-To-College” mentality.  I think there is another side to the story, too.  The term “Educrats” comes to mind.

Education has become such a big business that it is being run, in many cases, by bureaucrats. Some of the educrats are in the Federal Government adding daily to the list of mandates schools must meet.  Others are within the schools where our drive to make schools ‘run like businesses has driven us to pay more to administrators than to teachers, far more.  Add to this Unions and their sizable power (even if, for the benefit of teachers, not students).  Remember  Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers who said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when Ill start representing the interests of school children?”

What do we get?  The Government-Education Complex.  Unions who contribute to (mostly liberal) politicians who in turn sponsor legislation that ensures that teachers are fully employed and well paid.  Then we dumb down the schools so that in order to get the equivalent of a 1960 High School Diploma, a person must attend a couple of years of “community college.”  This drives still more kids to spend more years getting an education and taking on the debt to do so.  More schools and more school employees result, creating more union members to provide more money for candidates who will do the union’s bidding, etc., etc., and the costs of schools continue to spiral upwards.

Think of it.  The Federal Government now controls most student loan programs so that means more government jobs to run the programs rather than the private loan programs of past times.  The Federal Government, in the ARRA (aka “Stimulus Plan of 2009”) has given over $140 Billion Dollars to education (see the Department of Education Website).  This does not include the cost to increase the Pell Grant bureaucracy or to take over the administration of almost all student loans.

The result of these to forces has been to create a system where our society and especially our schools teach kids that they must go to college to succeed in life.  This helps feed the ever growing space in our colleges, universities and community colleges. Kids go to school to learn things they will never use, rather than going to work and learning through experience.  A High School Student who admits he wants to be a welder or an aircraft mechanic or a carpenter is shunned by the system like a black sheep.  When was the last time you heard of a school with Wood Shop and Metals Shop and Auto shop or a class in Home Economics or Sewing?  Is it a wonder that our country has shipped most of its jobs that make things to other parts of the world?  We are graduating kids from high school without skills and from college with huge debts.  That’s not a formula that will keep us competitive with the rest of the world.  Let’s get the Federal Government out of the education business.  For my money, the Feds could sponsor some research and provide standards to the states.  Beyond that, I think education should be controlled locally.

Another sad note about the education establishment – our local Community College has just completed a huge new facility partially because they were worried about another Community College advancing on “their territory.”  Now they are working hard to recruit enough students to fill it and keep the competition out.  Is this about educating people or building a power base?  We have some fine colleges and universities in our country but with the incentives and control from the Federal Government, it has become more important for them to have the proper racial mix than to have outstanding professors teaching well prepared students.

Like Brian said, “Let’s devote equal attention to the preparation of students who want to enter the work world without a college degree.”