Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama on education and "responsibility"

Dana Goldstein, education guru of TAPPED, is impressed with something Obama said tonight about education, namely that all Americans should committ to one year of post-secondary education as part of a patriotic duty. He also said dropping out of high school is not only failing oneself, but failing one's country. Here's Obama:
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

And here's Goldstein:

This is an historic statement on the centrality of education to the American economy, and indeed, to the American character. A lot will be said about the meaning of such a statement coming from the first black president. But this is really broader than that; a full embracing, after the know-nothing Bush years, of intellectual engagement.

I'm not so convinced. Is it refreshing to have our president value education? Absolutely. But I'm really not going to call it "radical" to suggest that Americans' failure to educate themselves is about not understanding how important it is to their own or to the nation's well being. This is about money. I know a few people who dropped out of high school to start working. I know a lot of people who can't finish college because of financial reasons. Hearing from a president that this is bad for them and the country doesn't pay bills and tuition. It's more insulting than helpful or "radical." It's no different than telling someone they're irresponsible to not have health insurance. Well no shit? Why don't they get us some then...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, I do give him credit for not just mentioning college. Here, what we call college is generally significantly cheaper than university and takes 2-3 years so I think it could be affordable. Even so, we get people like my partner who are persuaded to go to university, don't finish, and then take at least a year to to get back on their feet financially before going to college. I don't know how high school is in the States but here high schools are getting more and more non-academic options for electives. I feel like I will understand less and less why someone would drop out.
After high school though, I have seen and heard of the difficulties of paying tuition and it is ridiculous. As if it's a good idea for people to enter the workforce with a $20 000 loan.