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Monday, February 9, 2015


Middle-class college students should have more opportunities to "get the best skills possible," as quickly and cheaply as possible, and making community-college tuition free would help achieve that goal, President Obama said on Friday during an address at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis.
That's great, because that's exactly what Obama himself did, first going to a private prep school, then Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. I am assuming that his daughters, though, will go to Community Colleges and also avoid those expensive Ivies. I see auto-mechanic school for Malia. All the right-wing pundits who sneer at intellectual curiosity also want their kids to get into the best schools as well.

(It's fine if you want to quickly and cheaply acquire skills to do whatever you want to do. I think free two-year college might work for many, though I worry that it could have unintended consequences. How does a free but not cheap college compete with free? I have a better idea: free four-year college for those with true intellectual interests.)

On a face-book page for the Chronicle there were people ranting about an article that suggested that every college professor should be a researcher, that the teaching-only jobs were few and far between. The community college community exploded with accusations of elitism. Well, if you think elitism is bad, then you probably shouldn't be allowed anywhere near higher education. Also, those teaching-only jobs are likely to be adjunct / part-time / badly paid ones. It is hard to respect education / educators if you are paying them below minimum wage.

Everyone admires elite athletes and musicians, elite surgeons. In every area of life, being better is better than being worse. The race is in fact to the swift, and admiration does flow to the pinnacles of human achievement. Education is the major pathway to this excellence. We lie when we decry elitism, because we want it for our children. The middle-class kid that gets her skills on the cheap will never be a Barak Obama.


Anonymous said...

Wow that's a really great post. I'm loving it.

Vance Maverick said...

More charitably we could convict the President of rhetorical excess. I'd contend it's possible to believe both "my kid should have the best I can afford" and "everybody should have the best we can collectively afford", without hypocrisy -- the temptation he yielded to here was to conflate the two.

Jonathan said...

Yes, in principle there is no conflict. I might want affordable food for everyone, but for myself I'll get healthy food that also might be expensive. The elitism (in the bad sense) comes when the elites decide other people won't benefit from real education, only their own children. I didn't even get Clarissa's pun about McDonalds's until right now. This is fast food for the masses, caviar for the elite.