Sunday, October 28, 2007

Changing Higher Education

Of all of the worries that Americans express over their educational system, the one that should cause the least concern relates to the percentage of high school graduates that go to college. As George Leef ably argues, too many kids go to college:

[I]t isn't true that the economy is undergoing some dramatic shift to "knowledge work" that can only be performed by people who have college educations. When we hear that more and more jobs "require" a college degree, that isn't because most of them are so technically demanding that an intelligent high school graduate couldn't learn to do the work. Rather, it means more employers are using educational credentials as a screening mechanism. As James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield write in their book Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money, "The United States has become the most rigidly credentialized society in the world. A B.A. is required for jobs that by no stretch of imagination need two years of full-time training, let alone four."

Not a great deal happens politically these days that can't be explained in soundbites, so what needs to happen in higher education will probably not occur. Fewer people need to go to traditional colleges, and those who do should benefit from an intellectually more rigorous course of study. Resources currently allocated for colleges should be re-oriented toward other types of vocational training leading to both blue and white collar career options.

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