Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Many Legs Does A Dog Have?

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
-- Abraham Lincoln
Do you have a college education if you call four years of remediation after receiving a high school diploma college?

The undeniable fact that the answer to this commonly held delusion is "NO!" is sinking in even with the most left leaning amongst us who are now suggesting that we need educations that result in salaries greater than school loan repayments.  The call is now for four year degrees commanding a salary in the business world and though reluctant to admit it they have distanced themselves from their previous position in support "critical thinking" as the be all end all of education.

The bigger problem is that what they want to call a "college education" isn't. New hires require four year degrees not because we've amped up the requirements for entry level jobs as much as we have so epically failed with public high schools (and private high schools are prep academies) that colleges have expanded their role (and their income) to provide remediation. Colleges are the new high school because they are teaching high school material at a high school level. A college education that does not make.

While a four year degree in psychology may help the student understand why they spent their teen years in angst or deal with daddy issues it does little to set them apart from the illegal immigrant when it comes to the job they're immediately qualified for--at McDonald's. And no one, least of all the matriculating college, wants to inform the young psychology student of their best possible employment prospects--as a social worker which may make the job at Mickey Dee's attractive.

We need fewer people with superficial exposure to high finance and more who really understand how to apply amortization and depreciation to an ongoing business. We need more plumbers, more electricians and more HVAC technicians. Is there an HVAC company in the Southeast who isn't sifting thru resumes from Mechanical Engineering graduates but who would prefer to have half as many from A/C field technicians? We need fewer Computer Science majors masquerading as programmers and more IT and Network technicians--let's not call the "technician tail" an "engineer leg."

More than all that we need fewer educators and more teachers. We need to understand that when we as teachers and parents abdicated our responsibility to rank and sort and thereby guide we did a great disservice to our children and our society. We need to acknowledge that "the trades" are not purgatory for those deemed "not smart enough" and recognize that these endeavours require as much literacy and numeracy as being a doctor or a lawyer. The electrician who cannot read and understand the electrical code and any changes will not go far. The home remodeler who cannot calculate time and materials or the number of days between two dates will not be in business very long. A machinist who can calculate feed rates or an HVAC tech who can do heat load calculations is far superior to a "rule of thumb" man. These are not jobs that tolerate those who are illiterate, innumerate or allergic to lifelong learning.

Finally, we need to be honest with ourselves: calling four years of remediation college doesn't make it college.