June 17, 2008
I think the "you must go to college" attitude is contributory to other social ills as well:
- The continued extension of adolescence and delay of adulthood. If you're still in school, you're still a kid. Ergo, no need to grow up and take responsibility for yourself. It doesn't take a very keen eye to see this played out on many, probably most, college campuses.
- A dismissive and disrespectful attitude toward blue collar work and workers. I'm 38 years old. My father's generation was probably the last to, as a cohort, be raised with the expectation that a good day's work preceded a good day's pay. Most of my generation, and certainly the ones since, does not understand manual labor. It's something to be done by the uneducated and unskilled (they don't even have a proper idea of what skilled manual labor is anymore). Kids now think that hard work is beneath them, and so is anyone who earns their bread by it.
- A lack of common sense. Too many kids now have everything handed to them, and the expectation of a college degree is one of them. This most recent crop of freshmen are part of a generation raised with the expectation that everything can be solved by electronics. They have no damned common sense. Do I sound like my grandfather? Read The Last American Man, a biography of Eustace Conway. Kids literally without enough sense to come in out of the rain or run from a dangerous situation.
- The ongoing deterioration of high school. High schools no longer teach many basic skills. The expectation is that they shouldn't. Why? I have no idea. You can pick from two dozen AP courses designed to get you into college, but in most schools you can't get basic hands-on time with power tools or engines, can't learn how to balance a checkbook, build a budget, get a mortgage or manage a home.You can take a class requiring detailed discussion of the history of modern Europe, but not one in the basic requirements of informed citizenship. It's disgraceful. High school aren't "high" -- they're low-rent college prep, or a way to mark time on your journey to service-sector job hell.
- The YMGTC attitude is also damaging the middle class. I saw a lecture recently by an economist who pointed out that not too many years ago you could be successful and move your family into solid middle class territory with a high-school diploma and a blue-collar manufacturing job that paid decent wages. It was assumed -- and not erroneously -- that almost anyone with that diploma and a willingness to work could support a small family. Now? Leaving aside that most of those jobs are gone, the bar for entry to the middle class is four years and tens of thousands of dollars higher. Until the 1970s, society provided the tools to enter the middle class. Now, Mom and Dad must provide those tools. Over time, this is doing nothing but widening the have/have not gap.
As the saying goes, nothing good can come of this.