Today Jack Kelly doubles down on what apparently is his new anti-college stance. He complains that students don’t take the right classes, and apparently that they dare to go to college at all. He suggests that a third of students shouldn’t even be in college.
Kelly starts by repeating a story from “The very left-wing Nation magazine” about some guy who gets a masters in puppetry (apparently leaving his job to do so), then can’t return to his job as teacher because of budget cutbacks. Would he have lost his job in those same budget cutbacks if he hadn’t got the masters? Maybe, maybe not, and certainly Kelly doesn’t and maybe can’t tell us. Does he even care about the whole truth?
And stepping back, even as Kelly gives us lots of numbers, maybe we can give him a few as well. When I googled around the internet, I found plenty of confirmation for Kelly’s statement that about 45 percent of students who start college drop out. But in the PG I found a 2008 article that stated “60 percent of respondents reporting a "B" average or higher when they left school”. I have to wonder if that 60 percent number might be higher now as the great recession drags on.
By the way, something else Kelly doesn’t tell us is that the average unemployment rate for people with BA’s is 4.5 percent. The rate for people with some college is higher, I am not sure quite what, but the rate for people who (might take Kelly's advice and) never go to college is somewhere around 9 to 10 percent. For people of color with only a high school degree or who dropped out of high school, we start to see the unemployment rates of 12, 15, maybe 20 percent. And I suspect those rates are not going to come down much when the recession ends. In other words, how many students had to leave school because family money ran out because of parental unemployment.
I find it interesting that Kelly identifies “business” as the most popular major, and promptly slams as not very bright the students who choose it. He only mentions engineering once as a superior choice to business or education. He does spend two paragraphs heaping scorn on education majors, essentially calling them the stupidest of college students.
I have to say that there probably is something to Kelly's complaint about the lack of engineers in schools, and (though he doesn't bother to mention) the lack of chemists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians and so on. I sympathize with those who are intimidated by science and particularly math. I was certainly intimidated by math in high school, but even more important to me was my passion for political theory, which in turn led me to economics (and a couple of calculus classes). I wish that there might be more outreach, especially to groups that are stereotypically considered not to have technical skills such as African Americans and women. Kelly doesn't address this, although he does identify gender and ethnic studies specifically as college majors to eliminate, and thus areas of study at all. Kelly strongly implies that women and African Americans are the people who should not be in college as all.
Yet, I have to question whether Kelly is even serious about the lukewarm endorsement he makes of sciences as better majors for students. After all, both Republicans and especially the Tea Party have strong anti-science credentials. Does Kelly want more Americans who look at evolution versus creationism through the prism of science? Does he want more Americans who consider Climate Change in terms of what science academies say? And what jobs will there be for civil engineers or University researchers in the sciences if the Republicans take power?
No, all the advice Kelly gives is oriented toward students not going to college. Mike Rowe of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" is campaigning for "skilled labor" jobs which do not necessarily require college degrees. They may only require trade school educations, or even some sort of apprenticeship. I think this is a great thing, although I think students need to look carefully even at trade schools, which can cost fifteen thousand or forty thousand dollars for degrees to be a cook or auto mechanic.
The cost of higher education is a big issue that costs across party lines. But Jack Kelly does the readers of the PG a disservice by presenting the issue in ideological terms. Apparently the Tea Party wants less educated Americans, easier to lead astray.