President Obama is now proposing a higher education reform bill that would allow two years of community college free for those who work and get the grades. I am not in solidarity with Republican conservatives who are opposed to education reform in this country. Granted, the sixty-four [trillion] dollar question is how do we pay for it. Nonetheless, it is an absolute necessity we do it if America is going to have a future, not only competing, but existing in the world economy. However, I do not believe Obama’s choice of the community colleges is the right vehicle.
Reforming higher education without first reforming primary education (K-12) is an exercise in futility, a waste of taxpayer’s money, and will contribute further to growing the multi-trillion dollar deficit with no return on investment. Although a more expensive proposition and a bigger burden on the deficit, I would be willing to eat some Republican party crow and support the plan if and only if it were part of complete education reform package starting with our five-year olds entering kindergarten with an assurance they can read, write, and do basic arithmetic. You cannot teach pre-calculus mathematics to someone who can’t comprehend algebra, geometry, or even basic mathematics. Mr. Obama’s main objective is to allow the economically underprivileged to get a two-year financial head start, and then transfer to a four-year college or university and only pay for the last two years. This can only work on pupils properly educated at the K – 12 level that have learned everything required of them in thirteen years of primary education and be able to produce test scores that are a true barometer of their potential.
Another reason the community colleges are not the best vehicle are what they have become as a result of the failure of our primary education system. They have become remedial havens to attempt to bring those who slipped through the cracks up to a respectable level of literacy and mathematical competency. This may work for someone who failed at the high school or even junior high level, but two years is not enough if the failure began in grade school. Furthermore, community colleges could not stay financially afloat if they have to order both remedial and two-year college level courses with less than half the students paying customers. And if the “freebies” are all being subsidized by the federal government, never mind your great great great grandchildren, we will be deep in debt until Jesus returns or the apocalypse, depending on your belief system.
Finally, pushing our youth through the collegiate assembly line with no job for them when they graduate will turn The American Dream into a bottle of Dr Hood’s Snake Oil, or as Charles Dickens’s Mr. Scrooge would say, a humbug. For those of you not up on your Dickens or were ever curious the first time a parent or teacher read A Christmas Carol to you, humbug is old English slang for something deceptive. Before his reformation at the end of the book, Mr. Scrooge believed Christmas was the notion you should be merry on December 25th is merely a source of false hope for the future. It would be the worst tragedy known to man if The American Dream were to deteriorate to that. Instead of traveling in the dingy we call a community college, let’s put our children into the yacht; a world-class primary education, and let’s make sensible spending cuts with respect to the most superfluous entitlement. Let’s build a world-class economy and balance the federal budget and pass on to the next generation the same American Dream our Founding Fathers intended and many Americans enjoyed in the twentieth century. Let’s make twenty-first century America the world model for economic growth and job and business ownership opportunities in the free world, unsurpassed by any other nation in the world. After all, they are the only next generation we have!