Wherein we might find common ground in the “college is/isn’t for everyone” debate

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343 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I think she’s basically right. I just don’t know how we get to a better society.

    I’ve talked here before about how extreme I think credentialism has become. I remember reading about a lower tier retail chain- not Payless Shoes, but something like that- where you could get a job and work for years there out of high school, but then, if you wanted to advance to store manager, you had to go back and get a bachelor’s degree in pretty much anything. To me, that sounds extremely stupid- people who work at a store for years and excel should have more value than someone who just showed up with a Medieval History degree. So, I agree when she says:

    “People who drop out of community college really are every bit as valuable to the world as those who emerge summa cum laude from Harvard. The way we acknowledge that is to create a society that values them as workers and citizens, not to declare that we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as they get cracking on that diploma.”

    Absolutely. But how do we create that society? Or, how do we, at least, change the direction that the society is headed, which is so much against that?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I will concur here. There have been times when I called it absurd that a job required a college degree but had fellow college-educated friends say that they like the idea of the company only hiring college grads. The big example that comes to mind is a dog-walking company called Swifto and how in some or many metro areas, there are sights like Urbansitter which allow parents to find babysitters who are in their 20s and have degrees in early childhood education and can do fun and enriching activities with the kids. This might be better overall for the kids but it reduces the amount of babysitting junior high and high school students can do.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Rufus F. says:

      “I just don’t know how we get to a better society.”

      Don’t we first need to identify what is wrong with society? Or what we want to better?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        Everything, and everything.

        Haven’t you been watching cable news?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Kazzy says:

        We did though- what’s wrong is that more and more jobs require a college degree even though a good many of them could be done just as well by people without college degrees, and formerly were, thus people who aren’t “good at school” are increasingly marginalized in the economy. Given that this is a trend with employers and their decisions about who to hire, and it seems to be gaining speed, I don’t know how we fix it. McArdle is saying that we should make society more hospitable to people who didn’t go get the degree and I agree with that; I just don’t know how we go about doing it. You can’t exactly force some dipshit HR person at Dunder Mifflin to interview more high school grads with potential.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        @rufus-f

        You could but it would require more regulation and not deregulation. I can imagine a regulatory law being passed that outlined paid apprenticeships or jobs for non-college grads and made large companies comply. This would require libertarians and conservatives to decided what is more important: deregulation or creating more opportunities for non-college students. Notice how many of McArdle’s proposed solutions also fit nicely with her libertarian politics. I take it as a sign of intellectual honesty when someone can propose a solution that is not necessarily in line with their politics.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @rufus-f

        So the problem, at its heart, is the marginalization of people who aren’t good at school? I can get on board with addressing this.

        One of the things I don’t quite understand if that if we return to a society wherein those jobs don’t require degrees… we don’t really address the issue of more-people-than-jobs. Which is what allowed those jobs to get pickier about their standards in the first place.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

        There’s some mighty big irony in your last two sentences Saul considering that the rest of your post had suggested.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        @north

        When I have voice my opposition to apprenticeship systems before. I’ve voiced some concerns about them but I’ve frequently said that we should find ways to get people from HS into apprenticeship programs and working.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yes, and for the record I think McArdle’s criticism of Obama’s plan is badly misplaced. The man isn’t proposing “masters degrees for everyone” he’s proposing 2 free years of college. That includes trade school, apprenticeships and so many other things. It’s not a bad idea in my opinion* and I’m not particularly unhappy about how he’s proposing to finance it either.

        *Partisan disclosure I also know it has no hope in hell of becoming law and enjoy how it’s poking the conservatives in the ass.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I may be wrong…

        “”I’m really for it,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. “For instance, in upstate New York we have a skills gap. We have thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs going unfilled and at the same time we have lots of unemployed workers. And community colleges are often the bridge that provide programs that can provide these folks, these young people, with the skills to get a good job.””

        http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/01/18/new-york-congress-obama-community-college/21892271/

        Though I’m curious to learn about these “thousands and thousands of good paying jobs going unfilled.”Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @saul-degraw

        You could but it would require more regulation and not deregulation. I can imagine a regulatory law being passed that outlined paid apprenticeships or jobs for non-college grads and made large companies comply.

        Yes and no. I take her mention of deregulation, which she does not elaborate on, might very well help, depending on what is being deregulated. If she’s referring to regulations that have the effect of discouraging employers from hiring new employees, say, by making it more costly to do so, then employers, along some margin, will probably hire more people, making it theoretically easier to get a job because there’d be more jobs. I suppose then, the devil is, as they say, detailed oriented and a team player: it depends on what regulations.

        If we’re talking apprenticeships, even government funded/subsidized ones, there would probably be regulations for those firms that work with the apprenticeship programs. And if we’re talking subsidized wages for entry-level positions–which I’m very lukewarm about–there would almost have to be regulations for those.

        This would require libertarians and conservatives to decided what is more important: deregulation or creating more opportunities for non-college students.

        To the first sentence, I’ll say….yes, but your (and her) tent isn’t big enough. It would require “libertarians and conservatives and liberals and leftists to decide what is more important: deregulation, regulation, creating more opportunities for non-college students, or expanding access to college.” On some level, it’s a problem of trade offs we all, and not just libertarians and conservatives, face.

        Notice how many of McArdle’s proposed solutions also fit nicely with her libertarian politics.

        One thing I notice is how they don’t, or at least not all all of them, fit nicely with her (presumed) libertarian politics.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

        @north is right. Community college takes the place of what would be covered by vocational school or apprenticeships in Europe.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

        @north

        That includes trade school, apprenticeships and so many other things. It’s not a bad idea in my opinion* and I’m not particularly unhappy about how he’s proposing to finance it either.

        Admittedly I have not read his actual proposal, just the blurbs here & there, but I was left with the impression that the funding he is talking about would be earmarked for programs that grant two-year/associates degrees, not trade schools & certification programs.

        Has anyone read the full proposal?

        Also, when we talk about de-regulation, this is the kind of thing most often considered in that.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        MRS. Some dereg, like of hair braiding, sounds like a good idea. I’m all for it. I think the effects of deregulating various things like that are way oversold. Yeah it would be good to get rid of silly regs but that isn’t going to create millions of new jobs.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        “Has anyone read the full proposal?”

        Alas, I have not. Which didn’t stop me from writing a post on it 🙂Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

        @greginak

        If such protectionist regs were pulled out across all states & cities, you might actually see millions of jobs created.

        As we’ve discussed before, I am a big believer that part of the mission of government should be to enable small business growth as much as possible, including spending money to help new businesses get off the ground, not to raise barriers to entry that have little to do with consumer safety.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy,
        About where you’d expect. Construction, Plumbing — all the sort of skilled labor that is plenty of work, and a good bit of business sense to boot.Report

    • Absolutely. But how do we create that society? Or, how do we, at least, change the direction that the society is headed, which is so much against that?

      Yeah, I’m not sure how to do it, either.Report

      • Avatar TrexPushups in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        If you want to see people endorse the idea that non-college educated people don’t matter try talking about McDonald’s workers protesting for 15 an hour.

        Be prepared to hear how those workers are just terrible and should have studied harder in school.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    There tend to be a lot of typical McArdleisms that drive liberals batty.

    I don’t know anyone who really believes that college is for everyone and it seems very strange to me to suggest the idea that more people should go to college is snobby. I think there is also a snob factor in saying that college and university and advanced education should be for fewer people and this harks back to the Gilded Age days when college and university were mainly the stomping grounds of either the clergy and the upper-class/landed gentry. Do we want to return our universities to the era of the Gentlemen’s C where doing anything else was a sign of being poor, a grinder, and a bore and you probably already had it made if you were a college student?

    What I do know is that there is a lot of data that shows most college students will earn more money despite the issues of debt and that most college students are not likely to go through long-periods of unemployment. The issue with pushing trade and vocational schools is that a lot of the skilled trades are the jobs and careers that are most likely to be the victim of boom and bust cycles. We will always need low-wage service workers but being an electrician or a carpenter is still very much a seasonable job in the best of times and depends on flush economics of people wanting and needing to build things. One of the groups hurt the most by the most recent financial crisis were the skilled construction workers who suddenly lost jobs as the demand for building dried up. Now it is coming back in certain areas like SF-Bay Area and New York and other major metros but it would not take much create a quick drop in demand for housing and building.

    Rufus is right that there is no magic bullet but what seems interesting is that each side sees the “this is our best idea” is seen as sneering and snobby or defeatist. How can it not be snobby to say that college is only for a select few?

    I am also of the school that there are plenty of people who can handle college but exist in the weird middleground where they are too rich for most scholarships and financial aid and too poor to pay their own way without massive loans and Obama’s plan will help this group a lot. This is a good middle class policy. Just like the ACA significantly reduced the amount of medical debt and bankruptcy because of medical debt, Obama’s CC plan will significantly reduce the amount of student debt and I don’t see why this is a bad thing.

    And seriously what is wrong with the plan to have a more educated society? Don’t techno-utopians (including libertarians like Marc Anderson) love to talk about how in tech-utopia, everyone will become scholar-citizens devoting all their time to arts, humanities, and the sciences?

    Yes this humor is very much aimed at partisan liberals and Democrats but this is how it sounds to me when people on the right oppose plans to make higher education more affordable and claim that having people go to college is snobby:

    http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/republicans-expose-obamas-college-plan-plot-make-people-smarter?mbid=nl_Borowitz%20%28143%29&CNDID=4878565&spMailingID=7410966&spUserID=MzQyNDAyODA4NDYS1&spJobID=601093526&spReportId=NjAxMDkzNTI2S0Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “I don’t know anyone who really believes that college is for everyone and it seems very strange to me to suggest the idea that more people should go to college is snobby. “

      That seems like two willful strawmen in one sentence..

      First: I don’t know of anyone who says that everyone should go to college, but the idea that everyone who wants to should be able to has been a pretty common liberal talking point since at least my high school years.

      Second: The idea that more people should go to college isn’t necessarily snobby, but that is not what I see McArdle arguing. She’s saying that the idea that if you haven’t gone to college that you are somehow culturally and socially lesser is snobby. She’s correct, both in that it is snobby and that it’s a pretty common snobbery, especially amongst most liberal I know.Report

    • @saul-degraw

      I don’t know anyone who really believes that college is for everyone and it seems very strange to me to suggest the idea that more people should go to college is snobby.

      When writing the OP, I actually did worry that I might have been overdoing it because I do realize that no one (or few) really argue that college is for everybody. Still, as Tod said in response, many, many pro-expanding-access-to-college seem to talk as if college should be the default.

      I think there is also a snob factor in saying that college and university and advanced education should be for fewer people and this harks back to the Gilded Age days when college and university were mainly the stomping grounds of either the clergy and the upper-class/landed gentry. Do we want to return our universities to the era of the Gentlemen’s C where doing anything else was a sign of being poor, a grinder, and a bore and you probably already had it made if you were a college student?

      I think McArdle tries to answer the first point. And I pointed out her answer in the OP (“I would argue instead that what’s elitist is our current fixation on college. It starts from the supposition that being good at school is some sort of great personal virtue, so that any suggestion that many people aren’t good at school must mean that those people are not equal and valuable members of society.”) I do believe, as I said in the OP, that she overstates her case. And in these discussions, there do tend to be a lot of “‘you’re elitist!’…’No, you’re elitist'” type of name calling.

      I do think the analogy to the Gilded Age is misplaced, if only because I and people who agree with me don’t want to go back to that age. Also, the “Gilded Age,” as it’s often caricatured–as a day of pure laissez-faire, social Darwinian economic warfare–didn’t really exist. You go to any book of statutes for any state of the union, or any record of city council proceedings for almost any locality, from between 1877 and 1914, and you’ll find numerous state-level and local-level regulations of business. You’ll also find federal-level efforts to regulate, although much fewer and weaker (Sherman Act, Interstate Commerce Act) as well as federal efforts to expand higher education (Morrill Land Grant Act).

      What I do know is that there is a lot of data that shows most college students will earn more money despite the issues of debt and that most college students are not likely to go through long-periods of unemployment.

      I do wonder how those studies account for, as Will Truman has said elsewhere, the differences between Ivy League U, Small Liberal Arts College, Flagship State U, and Directional State U. But I’ll concede the data show what you say they do. After all, I don’t have a cite to prove otherwise. But how does the causality work? Is it that people with that formal education would have done well regardless? that in order even to be considered they have to get the credential? I imagine (but don’t know, not having read the studies you refer to) the studies’ answers are mixed.

      The issue with pushing trade and vocational schools is that a lot of the skilled trades are the jobs and careers that are most likely to be the victim of boom and bust cycles. We will always need low-wage service workers but being an electrician or a carpenter is still very much a seasonable job in the best of times and depends on flush economics of people wanting and needing to build things. One of the groups hurt the most by the most recent financial crisis were the skilled construction workers who suddenly lost jobs as the demand for building dried up. Now it is coming back in certain areas like SF-Bay Area and New York and other major metros but it would not take much create a quick drop in demand for housing and building.

      That’s a real problem, but I’m not convinced that widespread expansion to college necessarily alleviates the problem. You have, for example, frequently talked about the dearth of employment opportunities for lawyers. And in my field, I certainly am aware of the difficulties of landing secure employment in academia. What about engineers? I suspect that depending on the type of engineering, there’s a boom and bust reality going on there. I will concede, however, that a college education may very well expand the number of options, and make someone less vulnerable to boom-busting.

      I am also of the school that there are plenty of people who can handle college but exist in the weird middleground where they are too rich for most scholarships and financial aid and too poor to pay their own way without massive loans and Obama’s plan will help this group a lot. This is a good middle class policy. Just like the ACA significantly reduced the amount of medical debt and bankruptcy because of medical debt, Obama’s CC plan will significantly reduce the amount of student debt and I don’t see why this is a bad thing.

      I’ll split the difference with you on that one. I am, too, for expanding funding and for ways to make college cheaper. And while, as McArdle points out in the part of her article I didn’t quote, the very poor can get Pell grants, there are those who, as you say, fall between the cracks. I do, however, share McArdle’s concerns that the perverse effects will outweigh the good effects of Mr. Obama’s proposal, and that’s why I’m not ready to endorse it.

      Yes this humor is very much aimed at partisan liberals and Democrats but this is how it sounds to me when people on the right oppose plans to make higher education more affordable and claim that having people go to college is snobby

      From someone on “my” side, that humor seems to be evidence for the claim that the “college is for everyone” crowd harbors at least some snobbism, based in the idea that people vote Republican only because they lack education. (The fact that it comes from the New Yorker doesn’t help much either.) But to each s/his own.

      Finally, I realize you and I are never going to see eye to eye on this issue. But I do thank you for taking the time to read my OP and commenting on it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I think when people talk about the Gilded Age, they are talking about how most economic gains seemingly went to a small group of wealth individuals. The difference between a grand NYC mansion and house in Newport and living in a basement apartment in an LES tenament or living in a Pullman company town and having your wages reduced but not your rent during an economic downturn.Report

      • True enough, but any economic history of the Gilded Age will note the “crisis of deflation” at least through the last half of the 19th century. (I’m less certain about the first decade of the 20th, but I think prices rose.) Part of that “crisis” was an alleged increase in real wages.

        None of which invalidates the claim that wealth was distributed unevenly, and none of which invalidates the many and often violent labor conflicts, in which the state, at most levels of government and in most (but not all) instances used violence to take the side of employers. I.e., your Pullman example is a good counter.

        Still…..is your suggestion that I really want to go back to that period? I suppose, if you’re talking about a return to an era in which real wages rose, then yes I would like to see such an increase, but otherwise, I can assure you I wish no such return.

        Perhaps you mean that regardless of what I want, the logical consequence of what I advocate will take us there anyway? That might depend on what you see me as arguing for. Even though I have continually stated I support robust funding for higher ed and support exploring ways to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy (which among other things operates as an indirect subsidy for higher ed), I can forgive you for believing I want to restrict access to college because such is probably a reasonable interpretation of my remarks that “college isn’t for everyone.”

        But I would like to redirect you to my parting comment in the OP, to the suggestion that we can find common ground in averring the humanity and dignity of all, regardless of how much formal education they have. To me, that doesn’t really harken to the return of a Gilded Age mentality, whether or not such mentality was a myth.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Do we want to return our universities to the era of the Gentlemen’s C where doing anything else was a sign of being poor, a grinder, and a bore and you probably already had it made if you were a college student?

      In other words, Jewish.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    McArdle:

    “What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t?”

    What I think is interesting about that statement, other than the fact that it’s 100% correct, is how easily it can be turned around and used against conservative and libertarian arguments (including McArdles) I’ve read about gays, liberal parents, non-traditional families, basically all minorities, and anyone who every qualifies for any government assistance.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      If there’s one common thread in libertarian discourse, it’s that people shouldn’t be valued for how much they contribute to the economy. (Hold on a sec, I rolled my eyes so hard that one of them fell out.)Report

    • I do think McArdle tends to be much more empathetic to the needs of minorities than some of her critics give her credit for.

      That said, where I part company from her is on many of the programs she opposes, especially Obamacare. As far as I can tell, her facts and arguments are spot on, but I just have a hard time giving up the benefit it will (I hope) bring to people. And while I read her as genuinely sympathetic to the situation facing people who need less expensive access to health care, I don’t think I’ve read from her a plan that is politically feasible and would actually expand such access in the way that Obamacare can. (Of course, a major part of her argument against the ACA is that over the long run, it can’t and/or won’t actually expand such access. And since she’s smart, I worry she might be right.)

      And I do agree with your comment. Her statement can be turned against her and others’ arguments.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Community college serve many purposes. One is to offer remedial classes for people who, for whatever reason, didn’t master basic skills in high school (e.g. dropping out of it.) Making this available gratis (or for a nominal fee to ensure that the students are serious about finishing) is a simple consequence of a commitment to public education.

    Another amounts to vocational training; for instance, our local CC offers a program that leads to becoming a court reporter. If not completely free, this should be within the means of people willing to put in the time to improve their current situation, and I have no problem subsidizing it to make that possible.

    A third is to be the first two years of a four-year program. This is becoming more common as four-year colleges get more and more expensive. This can be handled by making it eligible for the existing system of scholarships and loans.

    Terminal AA degrees that don’t fit into any of these categories seem, at least at first glance, to be empty credentials, and not worthy of any particular subsidy.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      While I am totally down with the intentions here, I more suspect that this will not particularly help those who we’re intending to help. I mean, who is the target audience here? People who really, really want to go to Community College but the main barrier is that they can’t afford it?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Community College is, like most things that are tax-subsidized, getting more expensive, often by leaps and bounds. That’s not a good thing.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m not sure that even more tax subsidies will get us to where we want to be.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        I want remedial education to be free, so, yeah I think tax subsidies are the best way to get there.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        And if we turn remedial education from something that takes 12 years into something that takes 14?

        If that happens, then we’re not helping the people we’re supposed to be helping.

        It seems a hell of a lot more likely to me that we’ll prolong adolescence for 2 years than actually provide a quality remedial education.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        And if we turn remedial education from something that takes 12 years into something that takes 14?

        Let’s parse that a bit.

        * Most high-school students do graduate with reasonable basic skills. They’re not affected.

        * Some don’t graduate but still have reasonable basic skills. Still not affected, because they don’t need remedial education. They may want the credential at some point, but that’s what GEDs are for.

        * Some graduate (or don’t) and lack skills. If they were motivated to learn (and not in a situation that makes that difficult, like mental health issues, a drug habit, having to support themselves and/or family members, etc.), that wouldn’t be the case. CC won’t help them until their attitudes and/or circumstances change. But if they should, I’d like CC to be available to them.

        * What I think you’re concerned about is the idea that graduating with poor skills followed immediately by two years of CC will become a common path. I agree that needs to be avoided, but it doesn’t undercut the value of free CC for adults who are ready to take advantage of it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        adults who are ready to take advantage of it

        How large is this group, exactly?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_attainment_in_the_United_States says that 12% of Americans over 25 lack a high-school diploma, so it’s some fraction of about 40 million people.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        OK, 40 million is obviously wrong. If we assume it’s of value to Americans between 25 and 45, of whom there are 80 million, call it 10 million.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, the first thing I googled was “how many people are enrolled in Community Colleges?” and it told me this:

        As of the 2012-2013 school year, 45% of all undergraduate students were enrolled in public two-year colleges, or approximately 7.7 million students. Approximately 3.1 million students were enrolled full-time, and approximately 4.6 million students were enrolled part-time.

        Are we counting these 7.7 million? If so, we can probably hit 10 million.

        But if we don’t, we’re probably closer to talking about 2.3 million people? I’d need a lot more information about the plan and about how much it costs.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        And will the plan be for full time or part time students? Or both? Are we hoping to turn one group into the other?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        I expect the vast majority of CC students are below 25, so I’m talking about a different group entirely. If they’re working while trying to improve their skills, of necessity part-time. If they’re unemployed, possibly full-time.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

        In the mid aughts the average age of a community college student was 29 with two thirds attending part time.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

        But better more recent stats have the average at 28 and the median at 23 – so a majority under 25, but I wouldn’t say ‘vast’.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, the sets are not as disjoint as I thought.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird

        I think the prolonging adolescence bit is unfair after all, children of privileged parents (i.e. people like me) can go to universities on their parent’s dime, pursue a master’s and then pursue a phd before entering working life (if academia counts as that) Sure, I might work a year here and there, but its not like my life depends on me getting a job. i.e. if your parents have got money, you get to have a seriously prolonged adolescence, perhaps up to 15 years of prolonged adolescence. It would take an enormous lack of self reflection for me to think that there is anything (significantly) wrong with those less fortunate than me prolonging their adolescence by a measly two years. I do think that you guys should think seriously about identifying those without academic aptitude earlier in life and stream them into classes which play to their strengths.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m not sure that “more leisure for young adults” will make for a particularly good campaign issue.

        Especially if we’re discussing two years of community college to take people to where high school ought to have taken them.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

        The issue of whether its a good campaign issue is besides the point. The question is whether people who have already extended their adolescence by a lot can reasonably complain about others extending theirs slightly. The answer is no. Even if lots of people with extended adolescences do in fact complain and resist the extension of others’ adolescence they are still unreasonable in doing so. We might say something about efficacy and if the efficacy is worth the cost, but the mere extension of adolescence by two years is not what would make it bad. Not when all the other people with degrees or more have extended theirs by at least twice that.Report

    • @mike-schilling

      I think I agree with what you say about CC’s and why they’re good. I’ll even add another thought to the excellent ones you mention: if someone spends one or two semesters going to a community college, paying little to no tuition, and then decides college isn’t for them, then the community college experience will have been a success for that person. That’s hard to justify politically, but I sincerely believe that. And therefore, I do like the idea of very robust funding for community colleges.

      McArdle’s problem with Mr. Obama’s plan is that, she believes, it will only marginally make it easier to meet the type of purposes you suggest CC’s should meet while it will be a pretty big and unnecessary subsidy to two other groups of people: those who can afford to go to 4-year college (or to the CC at the already low rates) and those who don’t really have the aptitude for college but will stay on because it’s something to do. I think I share her concerns, but frankly, I’ll need to know more about how Obama’s plan would work.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I just checked a couple of community colleges programs one where I grew up in MI and one in Houston.
      One program in common is welding which gets up to an AA. The one in Houston seems to also add auto technology (i.e. mechanics school) leading to an AA in some programs and to pase the ASE mechanics exam in others. I also see HVAC programs which lead to HVAC certificates. Could we for example take current apprenticeship programs in things like Plumbing and electrician and move them to the CC framework? If you include certificate programs then perhaps most folks should go to college.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Lyle says:

        @lyle

        That reminds me a little of one of Kazzy’s comments in Saul’s “who is college for?” thread. If I read him right, he says that part of the difficulty in these discussions is that “college” can mean a lot of things. In the cases you cite, I think it’s mostly a positive good to be able to get some sort of certification for skilled labor at a cc. I would want to know how much a certification does toward acquiring the skill. I imagine that there’s still a need for on-the-job training. I know nothing about welding, for example, but I suspect you can learn the theory and do countless practicums or labs where you put it in practice, but doing an actual job is necessary to learn the types of situations you encounter as a welder. (But again, I know nothing about welding.)Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Lyle says:

        I have a friend who is currently doing a welding program, and it’s not for the slacker. Lots of math, science, metallurgy, and tons of practice learning how to do a weld using the different welding tools & across different materials. It’s a serious 2 year program.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Lyle says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist @lyle @gabriel-conroy
        When I did my MET trade school, we went up through Trig and pretty serious Physics, and that was a point of failure for many people.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Lyle says:

        @aaron-david

        I expect as our society becomes more & more technical, being able to avoid math & science & still make a decent living will become more & more difficult. Our public schools must get better at teaching math & science (& get away from the fatalistic idea that some kids just aren’t good at either – absent an actual learning disability, this is hogwash).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Lyle says:

        MRS,
        even with a learning disability, a lot of folks can still learn… eventuallyReport

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I do detect a hint of “Mandarin snobbery” in some person’s suggestion that they’d prefer to live in a society where everyone has read the classics

    Who suggests that? I think damned near everyone here has a college degree (many with advanced degrees), and the closest we come to discussing the classics is talking about pre-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths Superman.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I think this another issue where Partisan politics plays to much of a role. What if Obama did just as McArdle said he should and made a speech about over-credentialism and how we need to have a society where non-college educated people can have steady jobs at decent wages. My gut tells me that the GOP would then be calling the Democratic Party a bunch of elitists for wanting to close off the Ivory Tower.Report

      • Maybe they might have. But I don’t think McArdle would have, although she might very well have criticized a specific means by which he’d’ve hoped to accomplish it if it involved something she objected to.

        Perhaps I just have a lot more respect for McArdle than most people here do, but I find her quite principled and intellectually honest.Report

    • Oh, man, now I feel guilty!Report

    • “Who suggests that? I think damned near everyone here has a college degree (many with advanced degrees), and the closest we come to discussing the classics is talking about pre-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths Superman.”

      I think it would be a mistake to use us a median cultural benchmark.

      And to answer your question: a whole lotta people. Go back to any discussion on this very site about STEM v. liberal arts education and read the threads.

      A lot of people — and a lot of liberals — argue pretty strongly that having public education that eliminated music, art, literature, and other so-called namby-pamby “useless” studies is a non-starter. Hell, I’m one of those people.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think it would be a mistake to use us a median cultural benchmark.

        Interesting. What factors do you think push us so far away from the middle?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Our being a bunch of dudes that hang out here?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I sense a circular argument 🙂Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Exactly — we don’t allow circular arguments here. What could be more anti-populist than that?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Now I’m lost. What about the mix of people we get here makes us *less* likely to read (non-graphic) novels than the average bear?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        If it’s a circular argument pushing us away from the middle, it’s obviously due to centrifugal force.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think people here read way, way more than the average bear. I’ve seen Tod’s and Maribou’s and Rufus’ and Saul’s and Chris’ and Mike’s etc. etc. etc. reading lists (and I was no slouch up through kid #2, but #3 has slayed me for now).

        It’s just that ‘real’ book clubs are hard to sustain because you have to assign ‘homework’ for them to work, since everyone literally needs to be on the same page. This works when you are in school and there are penalties for missing deadlines, and it works for TV shows because it takes you and I both exactly 1 hour to watch a 1 hour program, but especially for lengthy/chewy books, if there is no penalty for slacking (or reading ahead), it gets hard to keep everyone together. I’ve had the same experience with an IRL book club. It’s got little to do with modernity or the web, it’s mostly to do with the individualistic solitary nature of reading.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @mike-schilling “Now I’m lost. What about the mix of people we get here makes us *less* likely to read (non-graphic) novels than the average bear?”

        Ah, I now see that I went and lost you on square one.

        I wasn’t saying we read more or less of anything. I was just saying that I’m not sure that that any argument that states “the average American does X” is well refuted by the counter “but that’s not what people on OT do.”Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “If it’s a circular argument pushing us away from the middle, it’s obviously due to centrifugal force.”

        http://xkcd.com/123/Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @kolohe – sigh. As I was typing it, I thought, “you know someone is going to point out the whole centripetal thing”.

        Do I know this crowd or what?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And then talk about how fake forces go with the war on science. (Seriously, if there were Bible verses that implied centrifugal force was a real thing, teaching Newtonian physics would be controversial.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        There was centrifugal force for the Israelites, but we live under a new covenant now.Report

    • I do seem to recall Saul saying on at least a couple occasions that he’d prefer to live in a society where most people have read and could discuss Dubliners. Perhaps, though, I’m taking it out of context, and if so, he can correct me if I read him wrong or am simply misremembering.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Or if not Dubliners, at least the dirty parts of Ulysses.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Not quite. I have said that I think an education is an innate good but my view on education is that it exists for more than economics and there are untangible or semi-tangible goods to being well-educated.

        A large part of the “college is not for everyone” argument seems to be that people like me who really like school and are amused by learning are the exception and not the rule. The same libertarianish types also argue that one day we will have Star Trek tech-utopia where there is no want and everyone can devote themselves to some kind of higher calling in the arts, in the sciences, in the really big and deep questions but if most people are not for schooling, what will most people do with their time if Star Trek utopia happens?Report

      • @saul-degraw

        Thanks for clarifying what you meant.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Saul, once again, the problem is not that people are getting degrees in the arts, in the sciences, in the really big and deep. We’re all in love with that. Hell, I got my degree in Philosophy, of all things.

        The problem is with the whole $400,000 for a degree in the big and deep. If you want a degree in the big and deep, *GO NUTS*. Don’t spend $400,000 on it. I graduated with zero debt (well, technically, it was closer to $600 but still). I also went to a school that people who went to “real” colleges tended to deride. It didn’t have dorms, it didn’t have much of a student life. It was a school for people who worked at non-work study jobs.

        Nobody is arguing “you shouldn’t get a degree in philosophy”.

        People *ARE* arguing “you shouldn’t spend $400,000 on a degree in philosophy and then graduate and then be surprised that the only jobs willing to hire Philosophy Majors are $8/hour jobs.”Report

      • To be fair, we can also be critical of the state spending exorbitant sums for people to go to school and learn such things, even if the student themselves do not go into debt.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        If they’re not getting into debt, we’re in “none of my beeswax” territory.

        Hell, if they’re getting into debt and they’re cool with paying it off, it’s none of my beeswax.

        It’s when they’re getting into debt, graduate, then realize that they spent 5 1/2 years and $400,000 on a worthless degree and *THEN* they want me (as part of everybody, of course) to pay for it? At that point, the beeswax has become mine.Report

      • Jaybird, I’m talking about the state doing it, which makes it a little bit of everybody’s business.

        Or put another way, saying “they shouldn’t have to go into debt because college should be free” doesn’t resolve the issue.Report

      • Which sort of takes me back to what I said in the previous conversation, which is that the larger the price tag, the more economically beneficial the education needs to be (for the students, parents, state, or whoever is paying).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Oh, of course. Sorry. I was on a rant, there.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @jaybird

        I’ve been rather adamant in my opposition about jokes on liberal arts and humanities majors. Many might spend a few years meandering about what to do with their lives and this includes some low-wage work but I think many or possibly an overwhelming majority of liberal arts majors do make it to the middle class and find jobs beyond tending bar.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Great. They should have no problem paying for their degree without my help, then.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I’ve been rather adamant in my opposition about jokes on liberal arts and humanities majors.

        What about lawyer jokes?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @stillwater

        Those are entirely valid!

        @jaybird

        I agree with @jesse-ewiak below, there are worse things in the world than to have a large number of people who studied the arts and humanities for four years and then don’t put those degrees to immediate use. So what if it takes people some time to find themselves? We have a much longer life expectancy than in the past. People can afford to spend a few years in their twenties meandering.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @jaybird

        I mentioned this below but I will mention it to you up here. In Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, the authors looked at a group of women from freshman to after senior year and divided them up by socio-economics. The study took place at Indiana University (called Midwestern State in the books but it was easy to figure out because both authors taught at Indiana during the observation period). Many of the really rich students majored in stuff like Sports and Entertainment Management or Event Planning. The authors described these as business-lite majors because an actual Business major required Calculus and other math classes and these did not.

        The upper-class women who took these joke majors were able to get good jobs because of their connections from friends, family, and the Sorority sisters.

        In my mind, these are people who could probably be steered free of college because they are not their for an education. A kid who wants to study Anthropology might not have an idea about what to do for a living but they at least want to study an actual academic subject.

        I think it is incredibly perverse and twisted to create a higher education system where the Party-hard kids who just want a piece of paper so they can start their business careers get to stay in school but it is snobby and wrong for someone to want to study the arts and humanities because they are vague about their post college-careers. The point of an education is to get an education. It is to learn some sense of mastery over an academic subject. We don’t need to have every 21 year old Smith or Oberlin grad have a concrete plan on how they are going to get to Westchester. The world has survived with plenty of people spending their 20s aimless.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        So it’s not enough for people who want to study the arts and humanities to do it at a cheap state school for an amount of money that they can pay off as they work? They should be able to do it at Oberlin for free?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        So it’s not enough for people who want to study the arts and humanities to do it at a cheap state school for an amount of money that they can pay off as they work? They should be able to do it at Oberlin for free?

        Not free, but it should only cost them so much of their income for so long, even if their income doesn’t end up being that huge. I will say, though, that I hold Oberlin and its sisters primarily responsible for making this goal, where people from backgrounds of fewer means but who have the academic chops can pursue a course of study and then pay it off as a reasonable part of their income for a reasonable part of their life, possible.

        But while I certainly don’t expect everyone to feel the same way about it, I certainly have no problem if the government takes at least some steps toward being backstop for pursuing that goal should Oberlin and her sisters not live up to it. I know you do have a problem with that, but I don’t have to care.Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @saul-degraw “…what will most people do with their time if Star Trek utopia happens?”

        Oh, I don’t know. Play chess…screw.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Three-dimensional chess.

        But two-dimensional screwing.

        Probably a net gain…?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @zac

        So Star Trek utopia is similar to Common People by Pulp? Interesting….

        “Sit around and screw cause there is nothing else to do…….”Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @saul-degraw I suppose with the tastes you’ve stated in the paste, I shouldn’t have assumed you’ve seen Blazing Saddles.

        Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        The people who are tasting paste are probably a large part of the set of “College isn’t for them”.Report

  6. Avatar J_A says:

    I am a STEM graduate. Graduation was in 1984, back in the dark ages.

    At the time I did study with some people that could have matched the unfit-for-college moniker, struggling with math and physics and most everything. Failing courses or barely scratching a pass.

    30 years later, all of those I have kept track of, have had great and successful careers in our field.

    I wonder how much of their struggles were a matter of maturity, or even brain development (I found myself more able to handle abstract technical issues in my 30s and 49s than when I was in college)

    But in any case, they forced themselves to get their degree, eventually, and ended so much better than if they had given up and gone to vocational school.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to J_A says:

      Good point. Success or non-success in college does not necessarily correlate to success or non-success later in life.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to J_A says:

      @j_a

      I had an easier time learning to code in my late 20s / early 30s than I did when I tried in my late teens / early 20s.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James K says:

        That’s all brain development.:)

        Human brain is fascinating, and the weird oddities of teenagers (the way they don’t think like adults) is quite explainable.

        I find it fascinating to realize that while a teenager or a child can mimic an adult, he or she doesn’t yet think like one. Bits and pieces are turned off or turned up or (in some cases) twisted until the knob breaks.

        It does make it a little less frustrating to deal with the umpteenth iteration of “Did you not, for even a second, stop and wonder how this would end? Because it seems pretty obvious that there was absolutely no good path here”.

        (Like, for instance, hiding bad grades or progress reports. Even if we don’t hear about all those zeros, we STILL get your report card! And we can see them online. And your teachers have our email and phone numbers. We WILL find out. So why would you do it?. My kid did that off and on from junior high through almost his senior year. His brain finally finished whatever bit is responsible for ‘things that are obviously going to happen, even if you don’t want them to’).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James K says:

        morat20,
        Oh,procrastination is a virtue, especially for the elderly.
        “How late is this project?”
        “About a year…I figured I might die, get assassinated, or fall deathly ill. And then I wouldn’t have to have these pictures engraved in my skull until the end of days”Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to J_A says:

      @j_a

      Well, the problem with your anecdote is that it tends to disprove what I’m saying!

      But good point. I do think the practical part of McArdle’s argument, which I mention but don’t quote, probably give short shrift to the fact that many people who someone like me would be tempted to say don’t have the aptitude for college might just be struggling and need help. I really would like to help such people and wouldn’t mind paying higher taxes to do so. However, if someone truly doesn’t like college or have the aptitude (with the words “truly” and “aptitude” probably carrying much more weight than they ought) they shouldn’t be unduly penalized for not going.

      Oh yeah, and everyone should have a pony and all the wars should end.

      Seriously, though. Thanks for the comment. It’s an important perspective to keep in mind.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to J_A says:

      @j_a ‘s point is an interesting one here (though a bit hard to parse because it’s not very fleshed out) because it starts out, to my mind, seeming to go in a direction quite supportive of @gabriel-conroy ‘s viewpoint, but at the end seems to make a sharp turn toward a view that the material difference for finding success for those in his cohort might indeed have hinged on getting the degree. And this at a time when, if credentialism has indeed been on a steep upward tilt in recent decades, presumably it was somewhat lower then.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I do think that a college degree is probably more about indicating than the actual subjects studied. Here is what a college degree seems to indicate. All of these are general yous.

    1. You can sit and pay attention for relatively long to long periods of time.

    2. You can usually turn in assignments on time.

    3. You can do tasks that might not be your specialty or might bore you to tears. These are the general education requirements that exist outside of your major or general area of interest. I am a horrible student of foreign languages, I just don’t have an ear for them. But I was able to work hard enough to make it through my college’s one-year foreign language requirement and also figure out a semi-clever out because you could do Latin as a pass/fail instead of a living language on a grade which would probably have destroyed my GPA.

    4. You can handle numerous large assignments at once. This is when you have four classes with four final papers and possibly some finals and some might be due on the same day.

    5. You can pay your bills somehow.

    So if we don’t want college to be for everyone, how do we get employers to recognize that high school students have these skills.

    Libertarian oddball and billionaire Peter Thiel wants to prove that college is not for everyone but the problem is that he is cherry-picking extraordinary geniuses for his Thiel grants to prove so. These are the rare 17 year olds who are doing graduate school work and thought. All in STEM fields of course. I would be more interested in his program/scholarship if he took non-STEM people and also kids who were bright but not extraordinarily so into it.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The funny thing is, my college experience (or, more accurately, observing many of my friends’ college experiences), I don’t know that college really does signal all that. I mean, maybe it signals it. But it is often a false signal. Many of my friends/roommates had all their financial affairs managed by their parents. So that throws #5 out. And given how many people seemed to routinely not attend class and/or hand in assignments late, that challenges #1, 2, and 4. I was *shocked* by how often people would say, “I have a paper due tomorrow. I haven’t started. I’m going to meet with the professor in the morning,” and somehow emerge with an extension. Now, this certainly signals something… ability to negotiate/BS/beg/offer sexual favors/bribe/call a powerful parent… but only really that first and maybe these second ones are valuable skills to a non-corrupt employer.

      Now, it is possible that my school or my friends are somehow anomalies. But college in the early 2000’s seemed as much about who was best at identifying shortcuts as it was demonstrating actual skills. Which, again, isn’t nothing. But it isn’t what @saul-degraw outlines here.

      And, for the record Saul, I’m not disagreeing that this is what employers think when they see someone has a degree. I’m saying that I think they are wrong to think that.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy

        “Many of my friends/roommates had all their financial affairs managed by their parents.”

        This is a way of paying your tuition on time even if it is not an independent way.

        “I was *shocked* by how often people would say, “I have a paper due tomorrow. I haven’t started. I’m going to meet with the professor in the morning,” and somehow emerge with an extension. Now, this certainly signals something… ability to negotiate/BS/beg/offer sexual favors/bribe/call a powerful parent… but only really that first and maybe these second ones are valuable skills to a non-corrupt employer.”

        BSing and being able to negotiate are valuable adult skills. I imagine it also shows that you can analyze situations and people and figure out who is going to be lenient and who will be strict and not give an inch.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        I remember it being assumed that papers would get written the night before. Once a professor gave us a choice of whether one would be due Friday or the following Monday, and the overwhelming consensus was to make it Friday so as not to ruin Sunday.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @saul-degraw

        But if an employer thinks, “This guy has his financial affairs in order,” when the reality is that the best he can assume is, “This guy knows how to put down his home address on his accounts,” than that real information is rather useless. Unless the employee can forward his work on to his parents.

        And I agree that negotiating is a useful skill. In some industries. But when someone sees you have a 4.0 GPA, I doubt they think, “This guy had top-notch negotiation skills! Talking his way into all those As!” They think what you say they think. I just don’t know if they should. Or not in every case.
        @mike-schilling
        Maybe it is because I had a teacher for a mom, but I always saw deadlines as just that: deadlines. I asked for maybe two or three extensions my entire undergrad career. It never occurred to me to do otherwise. And I never really pulled an all-nighter. That just wasn’t my style. I don’t want to get into a “Kids these days…!” rant — even if about my own generation — but there does seem to be a different mentality with regards to students’ relationship with authority in their educational institutions. And I’d say that that shift is probably a mixed bag of good and bad.

        By graduate school, I took a different approach. I was an adult! I had a full time job! I had no qualms asking for extensions if I think the situation justified them.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        “I have a paper due tomorrow. I haven’t started. I’m going to meet with the professor in the morning,” and somehow emerge with an extension. Now, this certainly signals something… ability to negotiate/BS/beg/offer sexual favors/bribe/call a powerful parent… but only really that first and maybe these second ones are valuable skills to a non-corrupt employer.”

        BSing and being able to negotiate are valuable adult skills. I imagine it also shows that you can analyze situations and people and figure out who is going to be lenient and who will be strict and not give an inch.

        What this actually shows is the inclination to at least recognize and respond in some way that reconciles sub-ideal but actual performance to the baseline (i.e. non-advertised) expectations of authority. I mean, every employer knows this is likely to be part of the experience of anyone with a college degree whom they hire (not 100%, but probably 60%); employers’ inclination to hire college grads seems to grow steadily in full knowledge of this fact. A big part of training ay employee is getting them to understand what “matters” and what matters. Somewhat as @saul-degraw suggests, feeling competing authority figures out to find out how hard their announced deadlines are so as to manage the timing of effort expenditures is part of learning how to do this.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        @saul-degraw
        “This is a way of paying your tuition on time even if it is not an independent way.”

        “mom and dad got this one, brah!” is perhaps not as useful a signal as you may believe.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        Just because it’s a classist signal does not mean it’s not a useful signal, if class coincides with what you’re after.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        So… what is it we think we’re learning when we find out that the education institutions in our society are classist? Class will always confer advantages employers will be interested in upon people. It seems socially unproductive to me to limit or concentrate that critique to the education channel for such conferral. It seems doubly unproductive to aim the classist critique in particular at measures aimed to break down the class-exclusivity of the education channel of conferring advantage, in order to allow more people the chance to gain ways to show things like an ability to determine to most important needs of those in authority and prioritize (among many other skills).

        I grant that I do have a confirmed view about the extra-employment value of erring on the side of too much education rather than too little both for the person and the society.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t consider a bias towards over-education to be (inherently) classist. Just when it’s framed as a positive that you had parents that could pay for you to go to college. (Though even that can be rational prejudice, depending, which was actually my point.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Way back when the economy was good for real (under Clinton), back in the heady days when “Webmaster” was something that made your resume look really, really good, companies were so very hungry for workers that they had no choice but to hire people who did not have a whole lot of (or any) experience.

        Programmers, sys admins, data entry, hardware, mobile phones, blackberries, e-mail, database, webmasters… no wonder they started outsourcing as soon as they possibly could.

        If employers are erring on the side of too much education rather than not enough, that’s because they have more applicants than jobs available and there will always be somebody in the stack who has a degree that the other candidates don’t.

        Let’s say that you were hiring a babysitter for when you were going out to dinner and the difference between the two fifteen year-olds was that one of them took a CPR course while at summer camp last year. The job pretty much just entails watching Frozen twice in a row and you’re going to be paying $20 and two popsicles from the freeze in either case… which one do you hire?

        Well, all things being equal, corporations are doing the same thing.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        “Just because it’s a classist signal does not mean it’s not a useful signal, if class coincides with what you’re after.”

        granted, but in the context of an employer its at best a null signal. with some exceptions, familial wealth (or ability to security financing successfully) is not going to come into play with entry-level jobs.

        having interviewed more than a few people for entry level jobs in the past year, it’s certainly not something on my radar.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        @dhex Depends on what you’re hiring for. If they’re interacting with customers from particular socioeconomic backgrounds, for example. Or if it’s sort of baked in to the corporate culture and you’re seeking people more likely to be able to communicate with colleagues and other employees. Areas where class (even if you were born into it) can matter.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @dhex

        That wasn’t actually my comment. But I am inclined to agree with yours.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

        sorry gabriel

        @will-truman

        agreed, but let me clarify – the actual ability to take on debt to finance an undergraduate education is so wide and so common that it’s not actually useful as an indicator of background. even the hoity toities are enrolling a lot of first gen kids these days, many of whom are being carried on merit and need aid, so the undergraduate brand may not be the most useful signal either.

        secondary issues like mentioning you have some polo or sailing championships under your vinyard vines belt might, though…Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        The way I figure it, a college degree is usually going to signal one of a few things, all of which can be advantageous to an employer.

        1) This person has the skill and intellect to get a degree.

        2) This person has the resources and background to get a degree despite being able to coast.

        3) This person shows the level of ambition to get a degree.

        This is not how I would hire, the vast majority of the time, but it does have a logic to it if you’re wading through a lot of applicants. You get to free ride, I mean take advantage of, tens of thousands of dollars and hours of other people and save resources by doing so. And it may not cost you anything.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        @jaybird

        Yeah?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m just saying that the problem of the irrational love of credentialism among employers is due to it being a buyer’s market. The second it becomes a seller’s market, we’ll see credentialism evaporate.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        Uh… I have no idea if that is true, but my suspicion is that it is not. First… when do we say the buyer’s market starts? Was it a buyer’s market all the way back since the ’90s? (No, it wasn’t, not particularly.) Credentialism, for the rising credentialism thesis to be correct, certainly rose in 2001-2008, or at least 2004-2008. Whatever the thesis about broadly rising credentialism, it certainly didn’t just disappear (or even stop growing) once the extreme seller’s market of the late ’90s was over.

        And credentialism doesn’t vanish the second people without degrees start to get hired for jobs that at one time may not have required one. For one thing, it’s still there if the preference persists but just can’t be satisfied for a short period of time because of lack of supply. Beyond that, even in a seller’s market there is the issue of who gets what jobs within nearly everyone getting jobs: credentialism can have a lot t say about that even in a seller’s market.

        Lastly, again, so …what? If anything, your argument gives reason to relax eve more than I am about credentialism in hiring, making it the result of particular economic conditions rather than a secular trend. (Thus making it probably harder to address in general all the time, but easier to address given that specific cause.) Maybe that is your “so,” but if so my understanding of you to be on the “don’t chill out, do something” side of the credentialism panic was mistaken.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        …Or, again, if I’m just hopelessly confused on the whole “which side you’re on” thing, that’s why I’m asking so what about your point.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        “when do we say the buyer’s market starts?”

        When there are more positions available than applicants, I’d guess.

        “Was it a buyer’s market all the way back since the ’90s?”

        Oh, heck no.

        Credentialism, for the rising credentialism thesis to be correct, certainly rose in 2001-2008, or at least 2004-2008.

        Yeah, this is when I’d say that we transitioned from a seller’s to a buyer’s market.

        “And credentialism doesn’t vanish the second people without degrees start to get hired for jobs that at one time may not have required one. ”

        It’s not a binary switch. It’s a continuum.

        “If anything, your argument gives reason to relax eve more than I am about credentialism in hiring, making it the result of particular economic conditions rather than a secular trend.”

        Well, I’m certainly not suggesting we panic. I’m just saying that, in a credentialist system, putting even more credentials in there won’t change anything. If we are to do something, I’m saying that we need to look at employment and business rather than at the credentials and associated places that provide them.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        Oh, yes. If your point is that this should be looked primarily by looking closely at business practices and its reasons for them, I absolutely agree. (I’ve said that my suspicion is that the presumption that the value placed on academic credentials has grown to be obviously and significantly too strong for business’ own interests will be proven erroneous, but I’m very in favor of taking the close look.)

        In fact, I had a thought to work on an extension of this informal symposium that might have interviewed a corporate HR manager on the topic, and on the new wave of hiring analysis methods (whose development surely was spurred, as you say, in part by the glut of applicants in the wake of ’08-’09 job cuts). I didn’t do that, obviously, because my follow-through is usually nonexistent (but: free ideas!). But I’m right there with you on that point.Report

    • @saul-degraw

      I do agree that something like your points, albeit perhaps a bit more generalized, really do signal something positive to perspective employers. That said, I agree with @kazzy ‘s analysis of each of the points. And I submit that the signalling works slightly differently. If someone has not gone to college, then they are in the pool of people who, the employer presumably presumes, are more likely to lack certain skills when it comes to turning things in on time, etc.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        You’re probably right, @gabriel-conroy , about the negative-signaling. But I find that really problematic. To assume that someone who lacks a college degree is in that position because he can’t meet deadlines is pretty ridiculous.Report

      • Oh, I find it problematic, too. I also think it works on a less-than-explicit level, with thinking along the lines of, “the pool of people who have degrees is probably more likely to have the work ethic we’re looking for than the pool of people without degrees.”

        Even though I think I see the reasoning, I find even that (i.e., the “probably more likely” part) to be problematic. I’ve known people without degrees who are some of the hardest working people I know. I’ve known people with degrees who can be, frankly, lazy. Those anecdotes and $20 will buy you a Taylor Swift CD. But I think the signals can go potentially several ways.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        It is almost like we should evaluate people as individuals…Report

      • Oh, you “azzies” are all alike!Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Who you calling an azz?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “Who you calling an azz?”

        The law.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I also think it works on a less-than-explicit level

        This is an interesting point, as it raises the issue of how explicit (as an evaluation of a job applicant) are the kind of statistical analyses of applicant profiles that employers do these days, taking into account every available scrap of information relevant to various algorithms they run.

        It also raises the issue of how explicit (in the sense in which you mean this, which I don;t claim to fully understand), any job applicant evaluations have ever been – or really can be (with any consistency, anyway).Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Also: I imagine most hiring folks if questioned would say they don’t hire based on sex or race, but they do. Everybody here who claims they don’t take educational credentials into account is… well, they are probably fooling themselves to some degree.

        Odds are pretty good that if you actually stu died how much time you spent evaluating candidates and how you rated them, you would find a bias there. It might not be pronounced, especially if you don’t have a lot of hires.

        Also also: in medium-large organizations, there are lots of steps between delivery of a resume and evaluation of a candidate, and each one of those steps will have another a layer of bias, making the aggregate effect much bigger than any one individual decisionReport

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Patrick,
        the only way you don’t get age/sex/education in on your hiring solutions is to purposely just look at workproduct. Isn’t that what portfolios are for?

        I know someone who tends to get people hired after looking at their portfolio…Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “I imagine most hiring folks if questioned would say they don’t hire based on sex or race, but they do. Everybody here who claims they don’t take educational credentials into account is… well, they are probably fooling themselves to some degree.”

        No way. Most large corporate HR departments have extensive goals on hiring based upon race and gender. They are held accountable for it and would probably lose their job if continuously underperforming verse goals.

        We would produce monthly reports on “diversity” of hires, promotions, raises, terminations and voluntary departures by race and sex and any deviations from expectations were subject to the shit hitting the fan. This was not just at the corporate level, but also by region, office, department, manager, job title and so forth.

        I cannot express how many countless hours I spent in meetings going over these reports and designing action plans to fix imbalances (aka find, develop or promote more minorities and women.)

        I am sure that this may not be the case with some small employers. But in the world of large corporate America, we did everything to actively try to promote a diverse workforce and have done so for over a generation. (Since at least 1981.)

        Is this not common knowledge?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        And I am not sure why you are suggesting that they are unconsciously making biases for education. They are consciously making biases for education.

        My retort to Saul wasn’t that they don’t consider education. They clearly do. My push back is that he assumes he knows better than them that it isn’t necessary.

        You guys do know that larger corporations (and many medium size ones via outsourcing services) track candidates and hires and do statistical modeling on what more successful candidates look like in terms of qualifications. They then feed this to HR, build it into their hiring goals and sometimes into position requirements.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        As an example, we modeled the performance of those with and without college degrees (corrected for other factors) in jobs such as sales where degrees were not explicitly required. The results were that those with four year degrees had significantly higher sales and lower turnover. This then led to goals and benchmarks on hiring based in part upon degree (along with sex and race and such).

        We didn’t just make this stuff up. And as low as my regard is for administrative/bureaucratic people like those in HR, they were not complete bozos.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw

      “So if we don’t want college to be for everyone, how do we get employers to recognize that high school students have these skills.”

      Was this a typo, or do you actually think you know more about efficient hiring than every employer in the US?

      My only charitable reading of this is that you really meant to say the exact opposite of what you wrote – how do we get high school students to have these skills as a minimum requirement to graduation?

      By the way, how many people have you hired? How effective were you at matching their skills to the job?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Roger says:

        I will state that I am pretty sure “being good at hiring” is a very rare organizational skill. I won’t claim any particular expertise at doing it myself, but I can recognize a good hiring process when I see one and I see them pretty rarely.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

        I do actually know people who have studied efficient hiring (not in the US, of course, we have laws here).

        Patrick,
        Trial by fire (or ‘free work to hire’) tends to be an interesting way to hire folks.

        I think it depends on what you’re looking for. It’s pretty easy to get “easy to intimidate” people. Rather more difficult to get insightful brainiacs who can work together without tar-and-feathering the serverfarm.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        @patrick

        “I will state that I am pretty sure “being good at hiring” is a very rare organizational skill. I won’t claim any particular expertise at doing it myself, but I can recognize a good hiring process when I see one and I see them pretty rarely.”

        Then the logical take away is that hiring is extremely complex and intrinsically uncertain.

        Other potential take aways are:
        1) there is some externality to the hiring activity which is screwing up the process. It could come from within the organization (competing demands?) or outside regulations. My guess is both play a factor.
        2). You and Saul are wrong on your relative superiority at identifying good practices compared to those actually making a living at it (aka professionals).

        I certainly was never able to make perfect hires and agree it is a difficult and frustrating process. But I am extremely proud of my overall success here and at career development as well. It is some of the most rewarding accomplishments of my life.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Roger says:

        Trial by fire (or ‘free work to hire’) tends to be an interesting way to hire folks.

        I think we call them “unpaid internships” here.

        I think that if we looked at the cultural demographics of who is most likely to offer them to whom, we’d see all sorts of things worth politely ignoring.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        The point is, as above, they do track who offers what to whom and people are held accountable for it.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I have a few questions about how the plan will actually work…

    1.) Who exactly is eligible? I have a bachelors and a masters. Can I go take two years worth of classes at my local CC for free?
    2.) More importantly, are the colleges going to send the federal government a bill? Or will the fed negotiate a special rate? If it is the latter, it’d be interesting to see how that impacts college tuition. College tuitions have been raising at approximately twice the rate of inflation for a while now (though I’m not sure if that included CC’s). Assuming the fed negotiates a lower rate (one that presumably better reflects the ‘real’ cost of attendance), CC’s could respond by either A) raising other tuition rates to make up the difference or B) having been exposed for essentially overcharging (or overspending), colleges will start to get their financial houses in order.

    Thoughts?Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy

      To be honest, I know almost nothing about the specifics of the plan. Although I suspect that to your #1, someone who already has a BA wouldn’t be eligible.

      The answer to your second question will probably determine whether in the end I would support Obama’s plan. And again, I don’t knowReport

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      Another question I’d have is whether the degree will be “general” or whether it will allow for majors.

      We’ve already got a huge rift in the whole “should people who get $400,000 degrees in Pop Culture be surprised that the jobs they qualify for don’t really allow for vigorous payment of mortgage-level debt fresh out of college” issue. Are we ready to discuss whether we should provide free degrees in Pop Culture?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Depends… is it the liberal end of the pop culture sphere or the conservative?

        More seriously, given that the fed already subsidizes other types of colleges without qualification, I’d say extend the same opportunities to the CC crowd. If/when people say, “That’s outrageous!” maybe we’ll look at the system as a whole.

        Maybe…Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy

      I share your concerns. To grant a blank check to community colleges is to guarantee (further) inefficiency and rent seeking. That said, there are ways to attach strings to the condition. I hope this has effective strings related to school efficiency and graduation rates.

      I also have concerns on why anyone thinks less intelligent kids need associate degrees. Some people are not into learning. There are other things they can do which do not require degrees. If they do want the opportunity, they should put in the effort to attain a B average or better in school with actual grading on a curve.

      Of course the problem with making actual requirements for students is that someone will immediately notice that grades are not distributed according to the progressive ideal. Thus the likely effect of requiring academic proficiency would be to destroy whatever authenticity exists today in grades, as the benevolent administrators of enlightened society ensure grades are evenly distributed by sex, race and voting pattern. Trying to force reality into idealistic dreams is sure to backfire.

      That said, I think education is a good thing for those serious about it. We should have better high schools for all kids with higher standards. We should allow those not picking it up in high school to have second chances with lower cost adult education classes which have nothing to do with community colleges (confusing cc with high school make up is a serious mistake –or as Murali describes it a serious LIE). And community colleges should continue to be subsidized and affordable (as they are today in most places).Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

        @roger

        “I also have concerns on why anyone thinks less intelligent kids need associate degrees.”
        “That said, I think education is a good thing for those serious about it.”

        I think we run into a problem the moment we start conflating “degree” with “education”.

        Leaving aside whether the attainment of a degree necessarily means one received an education, let’s stop dead in our tracks before we wrongly suggest that the only way one can attain an education is via a degree-granting program.

        Mind you, I’m not saying YOU are doing that, but I think it very easy to stumble down that path.

        I think everyone should be educated. Whether they are educated in the classics or in how to install hot water heaters or in simply how to be a functioning, contributing member of adult society*, everyone should be educated. But not everyone needs or should seek a degree.

        * At the very root of a good public education is this purpose. Which is why I believe in public education in a way that I don’t necessarily believe in other services being ‘socialized’. A society depends upon functioning, contributing adult members. As such, that society has a duty and responsibility to help create such adult members. (Whether or not we do that is besides the point of what we should be trying to do.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

        @Roger

        I completely agree with your last paragraph, other than not being concerned about CC being where adult remedial courses are taught. Agreed, though, that a GED program and an AA program are different beasts.Report

      • Avatar roger in reply to Roger says:

        @mike-schilling @kazzy

        Kazzy, I like the distinction. Well said. Book learning’ aint fer everyone.

        It looks like we all agree with the value of education. My concerns are primarily with unintended consequences of our well intentioned solutions. Subsidizing education unwisely is what got it so expensive already. Lets subsidize it wisely.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

        Electricians and welders get AA degrees. Being a draftsman or a machinist doesn’t take your traditional learning methodology very well.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    Hopefully McMegan’s boyfriend @will-truman will be posting in this thread.Report

  10. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Does the community college system have the capacity and/or the flex to handle the sudden influx of new students attracted by free tuition?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      I’m not certain that the influx will be *THAT* great… but, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that it’ll draw more people who just barely made it into State U. than people who just barely made it out of High School.

      Which may change how I’m thinking about it.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

      @kolohe

      Some back-of-the-napkin math…

      Costs of the program are estimated at $60B over 10 years. That’s $6B/year. Rockland Community College charges $4,299/year for full-time students. Let’s round that up very generously to $5,000 to account for other fees. That would mean there are enough tuition dollars to cover 1.2M students at RCC, which I would guess might be one of the more expensive CCs in the country given cost-of-living in the area.

      Now, at this point, I’m wildly estimating, but 1.2M seems like A LOT of people to take advantage of this program. I just don’t know that there are 1.2M people who want to go to CC but aren’t because of finances.

      My hunch is that a lot of the people who take advantage of this are people who either A) are already enrolled in CC or B) would have gone anyway. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        That’s 24,000 per state… that’s not *THAT* unthinkable (of course, more for California, fewer for North Dakota). My numbers above assumed almost twice that.

        And if we’re talking about people going there who, otherwise, would have been unprepared for the State U., that’s not *THAT* bad of a price to pay… assuming that the degrees won’t pretty much find themselves to be the new High School diploma.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @jaybird

        But that’s only if we average things out perfectly over the decade. If we clear out a huge “backlog” of would-be students in year 1, than we’re only looking at people newly entering that group each year.

        Rockland currently has 7000 students. For whatever that’s worth.

        And I will say that the cost is actually of little concern to me. I mean, $6B is nothing to sneeze at, but it is but a pittance of the federal budget. It falls just south of what we spent on the NSF in 2013 ($7.5B). Now, I realize the trouble with “What’s another $6B?” type thinking. My point is just that among the objections “This is going to bankrupt us!” is not a particular moving one for us. My question is: What will the outcome of this be? How will it change things? This could be $60B very well spent, $60B wasted, or somewhere in-between. Let’s figure out the likely outcome of this plan. Though that would entail actually knowing what the plan is.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        1.2 Million new students would represent a 15 percent increase from the 7.7 million students in community college per the latest figures I could find* A 15% increase seems reasonable, given my current understanding of the scope of the Administration’s proposal.

        *which seem at odds with the 12 million figure from a different link above circa 2007 – I would have figured the recession to have dramatically *increased* the community college enrollment, not decreased it.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        I actually expect the total-cost number would be less.

        For one thing, I don’t think you’d see many people wracking up full-year tuition costs. I think the percentage of people who might benefit from CC who don’t attend do not make that decision because of the cost of admission. I think most do so because of the cost of living. I suspect that the vast proponderance of people who cannot afford it now would still not be able to afford the cost of two years of not working. I think most people who did take advantage of it would only be racking up a couple hundred bucks a term.

        And aside from that, I question how many people would really choose to take advantage of it. One of the constants of almost all the places I worked in my adult life is that each place offered tuition reimbursement – -and most of those places had pretty broad rules about what they would reimburse for. Other than those who used it for legally required continuing ed seminars, I can think of only one person I ever heard taking advantage of the benefit.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

        Tuition reimbursement isn’t the same thing as “no tuition.”Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kolohe says:

      Well, we just shuttered some machinist programs. easy enough to start them up again.Report

  11. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    My problem with the whole making sure the “right” people go to college is that inevitably, it seems that Billy and Mary who went to the nice upper middle class suburban school with the Olympic swimming pool are always “right” for college, and well, ya’ know, Maria can get a nice job as a medical assistant and Jerome, there’s a nice welding program for you.

    And again, it’s always amusing to me the horror that some people feel that just maybe, somebody might go to college on the taxpayer’s dime and end up with a degree they’re not immediately using it, but not be worried about the approximately million other ways “their” money is being used worse. Not even getting into the argument over whether somebody getting a degree and not using it immediately automatically means it was the “wrong” degree, anyway.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      @jesse-ewiak

      While your fantasy is a pipe dream, I do admit that I would be more inclined to support vocational programs and apprenticeship programs if they found a way to go after what one famous Harvard President called, the stupid sons and daughters of the rich. The type was evident in Paying for the Party: How College Promotes Inequality. According to the Sociologist authors, the really rich kids in the study ended up with majors like Event Planning (which were called Business-lite degrees because they did not have math requirements) and ended up doing well because of connections from family, friends, and their fellow Greeks. In my (and I am going to be accused of being snobby mind), these kids probably do not belong in college.

      But we live in Bizzarro World and think that the kids who need to be sent to vocational programs are the ones who want to major in English Literature or Asian Studies or Anthropology which are actual academic subjects.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      Is there any one of us who is not entitled to a Humanities class taught by Harold Bloom?Report

    • @jesse-ewiak

      But that wasn’t really what McArdle, or I, was arguing. I’m probably much more supportive of subsidize tuition for humanities degrees than, say, Jaybird or Will Truman seem to be, at least judging from their comments here and elsewhere.

      Also, I think, but am not certain, that McArdle would stipulate that Billy and Mary will almost always be deemed “right” for college, and get to go to college, and get the gentleman’s/gentlewoman’s B+, and that that advantage is at least partially unearned or unfair to those who really have to struggle. I personally view that as an example of why it’s beneficial to be rich. (Which, yes, is a concession that college helps in reproducing wealth, which in itself is a concession of sorts to the point that maybe college ought to be expanded.)

      And I would really like a system in which Maria can go to college, too. So would McArdle, by the way. From her column:

      There are some people who would enjoy and benefit from school, who have trouble getting and staying there because of their family backgrounds. I’m all for a program that helps identify those people, and gives them the supports they need to make it all the way.

      Part of her disagreement with Obama’s plan–and depending on the details it’s my disagreement, too–is that it won’t help as much as Mr. Obama suggests it will.

      Another part of her disagreement, and the part I focused on in my OP, is her claim that college isn’t the solution for every socio-economic problem the country faces. One effect of programs that encourage people to go to college is indeed to help such people attain their dreams and gain more options. But another effect is to make college an expectation that all or most ought to meet in order to do even those jobs that before didn’t used to require a college degree. One function of that effect is to marginalize those who have less formal education.

      Now, maybe we can’t have the one without the other. Maybe if we want to make it easier to go to college, we have to accept a certain by-product of “degree inflation” as the necessary result. But maybe there are things we can do to mitigate that marginalization, to make it easier for people who choose the non-college path. As I noted in the OP, I have reservations about some of her plans to do so, such as wage subsidies for entry-level workers and (although she didn’t say this explicitly in that particular column, I believe she had it in mind) repealing Obamacare, or at least the employer mandate. But most of us can start from the proposition that college shouldn’t be a de facto requirement for participation in our society and our polity.Report

  12. Avatar dhex says:

    somewhat contra jaybird (and saul re: business majors), the actual major in question is not particularly important in many – and perhaps most – cases. things that are less easily measured – diligence, good oral and written communication skills, the ability to think on one’s feet, targeted creativity, etc – are far more important in the job market.

    the degree category focus is a bit of an abstraction that’s become a proxy for other disagreements among various parties.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to dhex says:

      @dhex

      I agree with you on this actually. A major might or might not give a slight bump in the “you look like an interesting person category” and this might or might not help on an interview. I’ve received mixed signals on whether being a drama major and having an MFA in directing makes me more interesting (in a good way) to employers. People certainly want to talk about it at interviews. I think the answer is mixed.Report

      • In the jobs I’ve applied for, I’ve gotten two types of responses to the interviewer learning I majored in history:

        1. “I hate history.”

        2. “I love history,” usually followed by something they read or saw on the history channel about the Civil War or about WWII.Report

      • I actually think that a lot of liberal arts degrees are undervalued by employers and if I were hiring probably would discriminate much against history or political science majors and the like. (Compared to, say, a generic business degree, which I think is probably overvalued.)

        Theater arts and music and creative writing might be a different story (though, in Saul’s case, the fact he went to Vassar might help).Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        When he learned I also had an economics degree, the interviewer at of the last jobs I interviewed for said, “You know that’s not going to help you here, right?”

        OK. I’ll keep it to myself next time.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        the reason i don’t care about the degree is because it’s only use (again this is for interviewing recent college grads) is in listening to them talk about what they pulled from the experience. if they can be interesting and coherent about what they got out of that particular program, that’s simply another tick in the “this person seems ok” bucket. this year i’ve hired an interior design major and a medieval lit/gender studies major. neither of them is interior designing medieval gender, at least on the clock. (their hobbies are their own)Report

      • I actually think that a lot of liberal arts degrees are undervalued by employers

        I do wonder about that, though. Frankly, I believe liberal arts degrees tend to be easier than, say, STEM degrees. By that, I mean one can work really hard to get an A in an upper division liberal arts class, but someone else can work not nearly as hard and get a B, or maybe even an A. I don’t know how that compares to generic business degrees, not having ever taken a business class.

        None of which means I believe liberal arts degrees are bad or that nothing is learned and none of which means that you’d be wrong to value them more than they probably currently. Just that success at obtaining one doesn’t by itself say a lot.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @will-truman

        I think you mean you probably would not discriminate against history majors.

        You would be surprised about how much of studying theatre is studying dramatic theory and history, art and art history, script analysis, history, philosophy, etc. It is a very well-rounded subject if done well.

        I think this debate like the mom and dad paid for college debate depends way too much on anecdotes. I once got into an argument with a woman about what schools like the Ivies and their near equivalents like my alma mater signify and a woman thought they signified merely being rich and the kid who went to State U probably paid his or her own way. When I said that factually, that quite possibly wasn’t the case and elite schools can usually do more for financial aid and scholarships, she got mad.Report

      • I think the reason these debates tend to rest on the anecdotal owes something to the way that “success” happens with liberal arts majors. Most success stories I’ve heard have some combination of the person getting liberal arts degree A, getting entry-level job B that has no relationship or only a tangential relationship to degree A, and advancing up the ladder in entry-level job B or stumbling onto another career in job C. The point is, the path from degree to success (assuming that we are speaking only of financial and job-related success) is not linear and not obvious and needs to some extent to be anecdotal.

        My “side” (if we want to speak of “sides”….I think there’s more agreement than these discussions let on) tends to talk about people who don’t have a college degree but somehow found success in some way.

        Not that there’s no room for more objective and less anecdotal discussion. We could, presumably, track lifetime earnings of college graduates and non-college graduates, liberal arts majors and non-liberal arts majors, and control for what type of university was attended, the class/racial/gender background of the attendees, and the debt load. There may even be something like a systematic way to test causality, to test how much success is just sorting based on who went to college and how much is owed to what is learned in college. (And even if we find that it’s largely sorting, that might be an argument for expanding access because it would suggest college is becoming a de facto requirement. I don’t like that possibility, but it is a possibility.)

        But that’s hard to do. So I go back to anecdotes.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I actually think that a lot of liberal arts degrees are undervalued by employers and if I were hiring probably would discriminate much against history or political science majors and the like.

        The smartest thing would be to actively recruit candidates with liberal arts degrees, to exploit this market inefficiency. Call it BillyHiring.Report

      • Frankly, I believe liberal arts degrees tend to be easier than, say, STEM degrees.

        One aspect of that question that I seldom (if ever) see discussed is the difficulty of preparing and grading a test. I think that that’s a reasonable question to ask about relative difficulty. Say, an hour-long exam intended to allow the student to demonstrate some command of the material covered over the previous four weeks. I’m thinking along the lines of three “essay” problems. (Disclosure: I’ve got an MS in operations research and an MA in public policy.)

        At least in my experience, writing that kind of test for a STEM subject is harder than writing it for liberal arts. In particular, it’s possible to “dumb down” a question to meet the time constraints. Eg, “What should be three major features of a public health care system, and why?” Of course a 20-minute essay is going to sketchy, but it can be done, and you’ll get a reasonable idea of whether the student has been paying attention. For an operations research (an applied math field emphasizing (at the program I was in) optimization) question, there are difficult choices. Should it be a matter of setting up a problem from a textual description? Should it be a matter of solving a toy problem by hand? Should it be an essay describing how you would approach a particular problem? Should it be a proof of a theorem that wasn’t shown in class? Carving off a 20-minute piece is difficult. It’s not surprising that the exam after four weeks in one of the MA classes tended to be an hour-long in-class, and the exam after four weeks in one of the MS classes tended to be take-homes handed out on Friday and collected on Monday (and sometimes required a lot of that three days to complete).

        Does the question make any sense?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Gabriel,
        still better than the interview I had where the only thing we talked about was the “wonders of the internet”.

        Of course, it was with a counseling psychologist, so… I’m sure she learned a lot about me.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        tf,
        that’s the business shorthand for “I’ll bet you’re REAL fun at parties.”Report

  13. Avatar Shelley says:

    Have people training to be plumbers and med techs and car techs read classical 19th and 20th century literature. They can understand it, it widens their world, and their perspective brings literature a grounding it needs.Report

  14. Avatar Patrick says:

    To quote the whole paragraph:

    Of course, community colleges are often dealing with the most challenging students. More than 50 percent of community-college enrollees require remedial work, and of those, more than 40 percent never even complete their remedial courses. Add in family and financial challenges, and it’s not surprising that dropout rates are so high. But this raises a question that most people don’t ask. If you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by your community college, what are the odds that you are going to earn a valuable degree? Why are we so obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system, rather than asking if we aren’t putting too much emphasis on getting a degree?

    This paragraph has some problems. Allow me to pick it apart some…

    add in financial challenges… but earlier in the piece she says,

    The major barriers to completing college do not include community-college tuition, which is low for everyone, and basically free for low-income families (you automatically qualify for a Pell Grant if your family income is less than $24,000 a year, and many others qualify above that line).

    So… um. What? Which is it?

    (note: also, aren’t Conservatives typically on board with getting rid of things like Pell Grants and/or reducing bureaucracy? Isn’t “making community college free without filling out a bunch of paperwork” a better solution than “making community college free with filling out a bunch of paperwork” under the Conservative Principle of “get rid of Red Tape”?)

    More than 50 percent of community-college enrollees require remedial work, and of those, more than 40 percent never even complete their remedial courses.

    But then again…

    Add in family and financial challenges, and it’s not surprising that dropout rates are so high.

    Well, if financial challenges are contributing to the problem, isn’t making it cheaper going to contribute to the solution? (Maybe it doesn’t contribute enough, but c’mon, if you’re going to make that case, some actual numbers might be a good idea here).

    But this raises a question that most people don’t ask.

    Um, who most people? Skipping ahead a sentence, I’ll grant the question she’s about to ask is relevant, but I don’t know who these “most people” are. This is the sort of phrasing that drives me nuts in Ms. McArdle’s writing. Here, let me re-write that question for you: “This raises a question that needs to be asked”. There. Now we’ve left out the “most people” and how stupid they must be for not asking this question.

    If you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by your community college, what are the odds that you are going to earn a valuable degree?

    That depends upon why you don’t complete the remedial course, doesn’t it? It also depends upon why you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of subtle question-begging in this question.

    This phrasing also irritates me because the obviously implied answer is “well, terrible, God this must be a waste of money”. Maybe a few minutes with some research could have provided her with some actual numbers, again, to frame this as an empirical question rather than an entirely hypothetical one with an Obvious Implied Answer.

    Also, it hardly acknowledges that this is only a subset of the folks involved.

    Why are we so obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system, rather than asking if we aren’t putting too much emphasis on getting a degree?

    I think this framing fundamentally seriously misunderstands why people support this plan. In fact, it fundamentally misunderstands it so badly it occurs to me that Ms. McArdle might need to read more lefties, because she obviously doesn’t understand the reasoning.

    I don’t think most people who support this plan are “obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system” (indeed, if they’re the leftist elitists Ms McArdle seems to think they all are, they hardly consider community college “the higher education system”).

    I also don’t think they’re putting hardly any emphasis at all on “getting the degree”. A community college degree is more valuable than a high school diploma, but it’s not as valuable as a four-year college degree. Again, I don’t think the mythical elitists she’s referring to care about a CC degree, amiright?

    The problem that supporters of this program (or programs like it) are actually trying to address is that we wind up with adults with inferior math and reading skills.

    If we don’t “push them into higher ed”… uh, where are they going to get educational help? They can’t go back to high school.

    The avenues for increasing their schooling (and thus buttressing up their math and reading skills) are pretty much limited to “community college” or “four-year universities”. For these particular folks, getting into a four-year university is already a tall order.

    From the standpoint of the folks who think that folks with inferior math and reading skills are seriously disadvantaged, getting them non-inferior math and reading skills is itself an end goal, and the most readily available avenue for that is community college remedial courses. Lowering the barriers to get those classes is therefore an undeniable good. If nobody takes advantage of it, oh well, at least it is there.

    It’s also pretty cheap. I mean, a remedial math course and a remedial language course at a community college is all of a few hundred dollars. It’s undeniably cheaper than having them go back to high school.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Patrick says:

      Re: student finances, etc.

      Perhaps this has changed since I was in school in the late 90’s, early 00’s, but the financial aid you could get was very often dependant not upon actual need, but upon your parents tax returns, at least until you were 23, married, or an honorably discharged veteran. The reasoning for this was that parents were expected to contribute to higher education, but the reality is that there are a lot of parents that make too much money, but still can’t, or won’t, pay for their kids college (the financial cut-off was a pretty low fixed number, and not dependant upon local cost of living, etc.).

      Perhaps we could just cut this means testing out, or change it so it only applies to students with 529 accounts or the like to draw off of?

      Admittedly, this only partly touches upon Patricks point about red tape & bureaucracy.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick

      Re: Pell Grants

      Of course we can look at why conservatives want to get rid of Pell Grants. I suspect red tape might only be a red herring and the real reason could be that they don’t believe in subsidized education for the poor and that this is conservatism as a maintainer of privilege.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw
        ” I suspect red tape might only be a red herring and the real reason could be that they don’t believe in subsidized education for the poor and that this is conservatism as a maintainer of privilege.”

        If indeed they want to get rid of Pell grants, which I have seen nothing about although that doesn’t mean it isn’t a thing, its because they don’t want to subsidize higher education period. Nothing about maintaining privilege, just trying to balance the books. They really don’t think it is the gov’t place to pay for these things. It’s not some nefarious plan to keep the poor down, as they love to see the poor move up in the world. It’s one of their tenets.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @aaron-david

        I am not sure I fully believe that. There are other ways of balancing the books and I think there is something to the Reactionary Mind theory:

        http://www.amazon.com/The-Reactionary-Mind-Conservatism-Edmund/dp/0199793743

        There are plenty of examples in history of the Conservative Party in various countries being anti-democratic and mainly about keeping the various privileges of the old elite intact and free from change or challenge.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @aaron-david

        Even if you are completely right in your interpretation, there is still the effect of maintaining privilege by taking away a much needed social welfare program.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw
        Before you read any other books, I am going to suggest that you read Haidts The Righteous Mind. It might help you understand how roughly half the country thinks and feels about subjects that you hold dear. Because I seriously don’t think that you have any idea of how the other half thinks.
        http://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion-ebook/dp/B0052FF7YM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421808469&sr=8-1&keywords=righteous+mind

        Seriously, go read it. It has lots of footnotes, which I know you love. (Well, it’s MLA style.) And I am not just saying this to be snarky either. There are just as many conservatives who feel that liberal policies are designed to keep the poor and middle class in their places. And I will say the exact same things to them.Report

      • @aaron-david

        That book sounds interesting. I think I’ll put it on my list. (However, my list is very long.)Report

      • @saul-degraw

        there is still the effect of maintaining privilege by taking away a much needed social welfare program

        I probably agree with that argument more than you’d think from my own position on this topic or on any number of topics. What I like best about that argument, though, is the style. You’re focusing on the supposed effect and not on some allegedly nefarious motivations. Focusing on effects can be debated and can also opens the way toward conceding the good faith of others.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Corey Robin’s theory always struck me as too self-congratulatory for liberals and leftists and too problematic. One problem with it is that conservative and reactionary forces have always had a decent amount of support from people allegedly hurt by it under Robin’s theory. Marxists liked to explain this away by arguing these working class and lower middle class conservatives just lacked the proper class identity but that is a very problematic argument. It is nothing more than dismissing people who you think should agree with you but don’t.

        Haidt’s The Righteous Mind has similar problems in that it is too self-congratulatory for conservatives in that it argues that conservative morality is more compelx because they consider more factors when determining whether something is moral or immoarl. This sells liberal morality short.

        The real issue is that there just simply many mutually contradictory ways of looking on the world and how it should be organized. What makes great moral sense to one person is the incarnation of evil to another person. People often disagree simply for the sake of it in many cases. Any working political system has to take this into account. A political system must expand or contract to meet the whims of the population in most circumstances. The political and social systems that try to impose one system on an entire population, what I call high ideologies, for all eternity will fail.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I suspect red tape might only be a red herring and the real reason could be that they don’t believe in subsidized education for the poor and that this is conservatism as a maintainer of privilege.

        In other words, you don’t believe that conservatives actually exist in the real world, only in the highly caricatured imagination of the left.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Worth noting that Haidt’s theorizing, particularly in politics, is largely speculative, and the data is mostly preliminary. His views are not the consensus, and while they present interesting starting points for research, they should not be considered settled science or anything even remotely close to it. They are about as valid (and about as far off, I suspect, which is to say pretty) as Lakoff’s a decade ago (and two) on the same subject (e.g., Moral Politics).Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        [Not going to say “the embourgeoisée of the working class,” not going to say “the embourgeoisée of the working class,” not going to say…]

        Anyway, the Marxist analysis of the working class is a bit more complex than that, regardless of its validity. Robin’s I haven’t read, and Haidt’s suffers from the problem mentioned above (basically the problem with most books that take science in its infancy practical long before it should be so taken: pulled-out-of-ass syndrome, which for some reason is often accompanied by self-righteous-scientific-maverick syndrome).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @aaron-david @j-r

        Suppose I take Haidt as being correct and take conservatives at face value when they say that their real concerns are not enshrining privilege but a firm commitment to limited government as the best way to preserve liberty.

        What then?

        Am I supposed to give up on my liberal ideals and give up on fighting for liberal policy?

        I still think conservatives are wrong on the supposed ideals and virtues of limited government and that it preserves liberty.Report

      • Avatar aaron david in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw
        “Am I supposed to give up on my liberal ideals and give up on fighting for liberal policy?”

        Absolutely not. I believe that you come at your ideals honestly, and thus honestly believe them. But do others the favor of respecting them as you wish to be respected.

        I had an interesting conversation with my son the other day. He is to the left of you (Peace and Freedom party) but while his mother and I worked when he was young, he was watched by her very conservative, religious father and stepmother. He saw first hand the actual opinions and beliefs of the right, watched them deal with the issue of his very troubled, alcoholic aunt coming out to them (whom they supported as they are good people.) None of his high school friends knew any conservative people, and the issues they valued seemed foreign to them. My son knows that they actually believe these things (god, country etc.), and that doesn’t make him any less of a liberal. It just helps him put his money where his mouth is, so to speak.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        jr,
        Conservatives have never forgiven us for making Acadia a public park.
        Those conservatives, unlike the ones you mention, actually have enough money to be influential.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Patrick says:

      @patrick

      You raise a very good critique of what McArdle wrote, and although I stand by the second half of her article, which discusses the issue of snobbery, I’m not sure I have an answer for the meat of your critique.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        The biggest problem I have with Megan McArdle is that she just cannot for the life of her seem to abandon her framework. Like, she has serious trouble acknowledging that she even has one.

        That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have things to say, it just means that I can’t get through two paragraphs without gritting my teeth at how she plants rhetorical land mines everywhere. Not that she’s the only writer that does this.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I’m waiting for the day someone tells her about the Problem of Evil and she solves it in 800 words.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes.

        Done! In 10. When do I get my well-paid writing gig and the contempt of millions?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I’m waiting for the day someone tells her about the Problem of Evil and she solves it in 800 words.

        In point of fact, one of the drums she keeps beating is that the existence of a problem doesn’t imply the existence of a satisfactory solution.Report

      • @patrick

        You’re the first person I’ve encountered here who actually has what strikes me as a good critique of her style (in addition to the good critique of what she wrote in the exact article in question). Although I’m not sure I see her the same way as you do, I can respect that you see what you do.

        It’s probably the case that many of the writers/pundits who bother me (Brooks, some commenters at OT, a few others), bother me because they don’t seem able or willing to abandon or look beyond their framework. And yet, that’s probably true of me, at least in some cases, and probably in more cases than I realize.

        @chris

        I do worry that my own views tend toward that direction and that I meet (almost) every attempt at making things better with a hyper-analysis of the costs or perverse effects. (That’s clearest in my resistance to the minimum wage on the grounds that it likely retards job growth.) But I don’t think McArdle, at least in the article in question, is being Panglossian. She evidently doesn’t believe we inhabit “le meilleur des mondes,” for if she did, she’d want no return to the era where one didn’t need a college education to make it. I grant that era was a myth, even if it did exist, because it wasn’t all plums and roses. I just wish success and participation in our society/polity weren’t becoming increasingly linked to the amount of formal education one has.

        But then again, as Will Truman says in a comment somewhere above (or maybe it’s on Saul’s “Who is college for” post), liberals tend to have a lot in their basket of policies aimed at helping those without college degrees.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Let us work without theorizing; ’tis the only way to make life bearable.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I was just solving the Problem of Evil in under 800 words, to beat her out.

        Confession: I don’t read McCardle. I mean, a few times when she’s been linked here, but I may not have read 800 of her words total.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @brandon-berg

        “The existence of a problem…”

        Hey, that’s my line.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        It should be everyone’s line, then we wouldn’t have to keep repeating it all the time.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        The biggest problem I have with Megan McArdle is that she just cannot for the life of her seem to abandon her framework.

        I am trying to figure out exactly what this means. She makes an argument. It comes from a certain point of view and from a certain reading of the facts. You seem to be implying that her point of view and her reading is so obviously flawed or contrived that she’s holding onto it out of sheer desperation, just to keep justifying her starting position.

        Maybe that’s the case, but I haven’t seen anywhere that you adequately prove that it is the case. In fact, in your critique of McArdle above. I see a whole lot of projection. For instance, you say:

        note: also, aren’t Conservatives typically on board with getting rid of things like Pell Grants and/or reducing bureaucracy? Isn’t “making community college free without filling out a bunch of paperwork” a better solution than “making community college free with filling out a bunch of paperwork” under the Conservative Principle of “get rid of Red Tape”?

        What does what conservatives typically on board with or not have to do with McArdle’s argument?

        This phrasing also irritates me because the obviously implied answer is “well, terrible, God this must be a waste of money”.

        Again, something that just is not part of McArdle’s argument.

        It’s certainly fair to ask for empirical evidence on what effect a free community college program might have or might not have, but I don’t exactly see the supporters of the president’s plan clamoring for proof either. This seems like a pretty clear case of holding people who disagree with you to a much higher standard than you might hold someone who is saying things with which you agree.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I am trying to figure out exactly what this means. She makes an argument. It comes from a certain point of view and from a certain reading of the facts.

        Yes. Most do.

        You seem to be implying that her point of view and her reading is so obviously flawed or contrived that she’s holding onto it out of sheer desperation, just to keep justifying her starting position.

        No, maybe you’re projecting there.

        Or rather, to be fair, she’s not particularly consistent on sticking to her foundational principles, either (that’s germane to your next point, which I’ll address in a sec), but that’s not what I’m saying.

        There are two ways to compare arguments.

        (a) here’s mine, and there’s yours, and now lets go home.

        * (see: almost everything written by a “-ive” pundit, most everything on the Internet, 99% of our political discourse) I take Gabriel’s criticism of Brooks here as relevant, Mr. Brooks does the same thing a lot. So do most ideologically-bent pundits.

        (b) here’s mine, and there’s yours, and I can see how yours comes with some normative principles that mine doesn’t some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t, but let’s talk about that…

        * (see: the still-too-occasional good conversation we have here and that I see very few other places happening ever, if at all)

        That is, if you cannot adopt frameworks other than your own, or if you willfully ignore the fact that they exist, you’re not actually “arguing” a fucking thing. You’re preaching, and you’re really only preaching to the folks that already agree with you.

        I’ll go ahead and admit by bias against McArdle’s writing… my impression of the stuff she writes (and I don’t read her all the time, so this may be a selection problem) is not only that she relies far too heavily on the framework argument, but she *always* peppers her writing with these sorts of sly, elided rhetorical questions that you don’t notice at all if you’re conservative and you find really goddamn snide if you aren’t. Again, there are folks on the left that do this so it’s not limited to -right or -leftism.

        My impression of her response to how her writing is critiqued among the folks that don’t already agree with her… well.

        She cannot be completely clueless to the fact that folks that already disagree with her think she comes across as snide, as she’d have to be an idiot not to see this, and she’s clearly not and idiot… so the conclusion I reach is that she is well aware of this and does it particularly because of the reaction it provokes. That just pisses me off (it’s the Bill Maher attitude, in a nutshell).

        The first step in having a constructive argument is to have a coherent argument. I wish I could say this is child’s play, but it isn’t, because most folks can’t even get that far, but still… it’s just the starting point. This is the bare minimum. You don’t get kudos in my book for being able to do that. You get an A-ticket for it.

        The second step is to be able to address the things that people that don’t already share all your normative principles will say about your argument. That’s hardly above the bare minimum. That’s like a B-ticket.

        The third step is to be able to convince folks that even given the fact that their normative principles and your normative principles may conflict, in this specific case you’re addressing that conflict, you’re showing why the other side should regard your overall argument as compelling in spite of it. That’s a D-ticket.

        The last step is being able to do all of the previous stuff plus actually convince somebody that doesn’t agree with your normative principles that you’re correct in this case. That’s the E-ticket. I can think of maybe a half-dozen pieces written here for the League that did that.

        You know, if you actually want to convince somebody that doesn’t already agree with you that your proposal is the correct one in a particular incidence.

        If you don’t want to do that, then really, what the fuck are you doing? Preening about how smart you are? Preaching to folks that already agree with you? Do we not have enough of that?

        What does what conservatives typically on board with or not have to do with McArdle’s argument?

        When I see framework arguments (and the staggering majority of arguments are framework arguments so this is not limited to McArdle) I find it super-dooper annoying when those framework arguments are also inconsistent with some foundational principles without resolving them.

        Like, it’s okay with me if your operating principle is, “I think additional layers of bureaucracy are generally bad, because they increase administrative costs and audit costs, and all other things being equal additional costs are unwarranted”.

        That’s a perfectly reasonable default stance. Not even really debatable. Trucking it out as a point is largely a waste of time, who disagrees with that? Strawmen liberals? Crazy people?

        I think it’s also okay to say, “Although I generally think additional layers of bureaucracy are bad, I think in this specific case additional audit costs are necessary because historically folks have taken advantage of this program (or, generally, there is actual data to suggest that while my general principle may hold generally, it does not in this specific case).”

        That’s also perfectly reasonable: you have a default principle, you recognize that it is limited, you look at a specific implementation to explain why you are not following your default principle in this case.

        You know. Show your work, that sort of thing. Admit that your general principles are guiding principles and explain why they are not guiding you in this instance.

        I think it’s generally lazy ass argumentation when you say, “A million times before, I have referred to this principle but in this specific argument I’m going to refer to something that is exactly the opposite of my general principle but I’ll just elide over that and not mention it at all because I’d rather argue that this specific thing is bad for some other general principle entirely”.

        That’s the worst type of framework argument because you’re just lazy, and it makes you appear to be inconsistent. It makes your general principles things you’re happy to pull out whenever they apply to a specific case, and something you’re unwilling to take the time to address if they don’t, or if the specific case actually goes against that general principle.

        It’s not much better than word salad. If your general principles always apply generally but you only address some of the general principles in a case where they apply and forget the others, you have zero established public sense of your priorities or how you manage the trade-offs when your general principles conflict.

        Which, hey, they do. For everybody. Liberals have this problem, Conservatives have this problem (it’s practically the single most central problem for Libertarianism because they can’t even agree how their general principles should be aligned when they conflict for any three given libertarians on the planet.)Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        “You know, if you actually want to convince somebody that doesn’t already agree with you that your proposal is the correct one in a particular incidence.

        If you don’t want to do that, then really, what the fuck are you doing? Preening about how smart you are? Preaching to folks that already agree with you? Do we not have enough of that?”

        It really makes you mad when someone publicly declares that they don’t care about you or your opinion, doesn’t it?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        When I see framework arguments (and the staggering majority of arguments are framework arguments so this is not limited to McArdle) I find it super-dooper annoying when those framework arguments are also inconsistent with some foundational principles without resolving them.

        If your entire argument boils down to pointing out that McMegan is seemingly inconsistent with her foundational conservative principles, this might be the time to point out that McMegan isn’t a conservative.

        You see what I mean by projecting?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @j-r

        Perhaps she isn’t, but she certainly has played the “government should be smaller so it’s not wasteful” card, now, hasn’t she?

        @jim-heffman

        No, it doesn’t make me mad (unless they’re making me read their stuff all the time, which McArdle certainly isn’t).

        It does make me exasperated, because the whole reason we have terrible political dialogue is precisely that folks talk about their own opinions as if they’re interesting by the fact that they hold it (for some collective they that isn’t everybody), rather than actually trying to do the work of convincing people that they have something to say.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @patrick

        As soon as you say, Perhaps she isn’t, you are admitting that you are trying to hold McArdle for things that she did not actually say, but that you imagine she might say.

        Why even finish that sentence? Why not just admit that maybe you are misrepresenting her? I guess you really want to hold onto your framework.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        It probably wouldn’t surprise people here that I have been reading McArdle for as long as she has been writing under the name Jane Galt.

        I do so because she says what I wish I could say better than me, she brings things to my attention which I am interested in and because she frequently changes my mind.

        I certainly don’t agree with everything she writes, and she has written a few total stinkers (who hasn’t?) but some of her stuff on minimum wage, Walmart, health care, and such have been great. Another moderate libertarian/classical liberal I used to like reading was Will Wilkerson.

        If memory serves, she does follow this blog at times and I think she has commented before??? In addition she had one of our regulars guest write for her when on vacation.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Jesus, J.R., the site does not need another Duck.

        If you don’t want to focus on the substance of what I’m saying but on the particular bit you think you can dissect to show that I’m as bad as McArdle is, uh, I never said I wasn’t.

        Although if you read the stuff I write for the site, I usually do a couple of things: I write about what I think is important to say, and I write about what people of varying contexts might think about what I’m saying. Precisely because I’m trying to actually get somewhere, typically.

        That’s not what she does. She writes about what she wants to say, and she largely doesn’t seem to acknowledge that people of varying contexts might care about what she writes, except to piss them off. Hey, that’s her right, I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m just pointing out that I consider it a weakness is her writing style. Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe if you don’t.

        As soon as you say, Perhaps she isn’t, you are admitting that you are trying to hold McArdle for things that she did not actually say, but that you imagine she might say.

        Do I really need to find a post where Megan McArdle makes a statement regarding getting rid of bureaucracy is a win, here?

        Arguments are just as much about what the context you bring to the table, J.R. You cannot take them all in a vacuum. Like it or not, if you write, people bring a context to what you’re writing, and part of that context is their impression of what you write about, based on what parts of the stuff you’ve written that they’ve read. If she wants to carry the “not a Conservative” label, and she doesn’t want to accept another one, that’s fine with me. I don’t particularly want to carry a label myself. But I’m willing to accept that people label me and try to present the case with that in mind, generally.

        Why not just admit that maybe you are misrepresenting her?

        Part of reading anybody charitably is admitting that you might be misrepresenting them, because what you infer is not necessarily what they are trying to imply.

        What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Maybe I am misrepresenting her. Maybe that’s my fault, in this case. But communication is a two-way street… she must know that people have a context about her that maybe misrepresents her. She can do two things about that: not care, or try to correct it.

        If she doesn’t care, hey, okay. Free Internet and all. If she does care, then maybe she should try to correct it… which means actively trying to write in such a way as not to encourage people to infer things that you’re not actually implying.

        Or go to the other side and to actually write things that imply things to one set of people and imply something else to another set of people, but I’d argue that makes you at best manipulative and at worst a terrible member of a dialogue.Report

      • For whatever reason, a lot of people really intensely dislike McArdle and treat her incredibly uncharitably. She is often accused of being stupid when she hasn’t come close to earning the criticism. Considering her writing frequency, I’ve always been impressed with the quality of her work.

        Like Roger, I’ve read her since she was Jane Galt, but I’ve never managed to figure out why people can have such strong negative reactions to her.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @patrick

        Do I really need to find a post where Megan McArdle makes a statement regarding getting rid of bureaucracy is a win, here?

        That would help. Or you can keep pretending that your caricature of her is the same as her.

        Either way is cool with me.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @vikram-bath

        Like Roger, I’ve read her since she was Jane Galt, but I’ve never managed to figure out why people can have such strong negative reactions to her.

        Like I said elsewhere, the reasons are pretty banal.

        It mostly comes down to a combination of being a libertarian woman, whose ideology and politics are close enough to progressives to make them think that the only reason that she herself is not a progressive is because she is somehow clueless and has failed to dot some “t” or cross some “i.”Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I hate McCardle because ya’ll won’t shut up about her as a person rather than whatever the hell it is she’s saying. Also, because unlike virtually every other person discussed here, ya’ll almost always refer to her by a silly hypocorism.Report

      • Chris, in our defense, she has used McMegan the way I do trumwill.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Another reason to hate her! 😉Report

      • the reasons are pretty banal

        I suspect you are right, but part of me can’t help but hope that you’re wrong. I want it to be for some big important reason that I just haven’t figured out yet and I will figure it out and unveil my Grand Theory of Hating on McArdle, and then I’ll show them. I’LL SHOW THEM ALL.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        She should change her name to Megan Koch. That would head off all the irrational haters.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Roger,
        inflicting those people on another person would be criminal.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

      Well, I think that part of the problem is that if the average IQ is 100 and if something like 60% is 15 points on one side or the other of 100, then we’re stuck hammering out what to do about the folks who are on the “100 and lower” part of that.

      We here in this little walled garden probably average north of two standard deviations to the right. Just think about the list of professions we’ve got on the roster of the usual suspects here. Looking at culture, how many of us were raised in a house where it was an open question of whether we’d graduate from High School? I mean, I hate to bring up “privilege” but all of us here have the privilege of being pretty dang smart and, most likely, surrounded by other pretty smart people at our jobs and in our houses.

      I don’t know how many of us spend a lot of time around below average people or, for that matter, average people.

      As unpleasant as it may be, I wonder about how many of the people who are being pushed into a college prep education but have trouble with remedial courses are people who, at the end of the day, won’t really benefit from it. I don’t know that sending these people to community college will benefit them or the college or the other people going there.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird

        You’re right. That is unpleasant. But it also informs at least part of my thinking on the matter. But I’m more conflicted than my OP suggests.

        On the one hand, I don’t want to push people to take on the cost of education if it won’t help them. And even “free” cc can carry an opportunity cost, and on some margin even that opportunity cost can hurt. And I certainly don’t want people to feel like lesser members of society just because they don’t have formal education credentials.

        On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be too fatalistic about it. I’ve read somewhere recently–I forget where–that people who study such things seem to be coming to the conclusion that IQ, or whatever measure of intelligence you prefer, is not static, but can be developed and grown. (Or, since at least one person has started quoting Voltaire, one can learn to cultiver son jardin.) I’d like to keep the door open for people to take advantage of such opportunities.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

        I wonder about how many of the people who are being pushed into a college prep education but have trouble with remedial courses are people who, at the end of the day, won’t really benefit from it. I don’t know that sending these people to community college will benefit them or the college or the other people going there.

        Well, there’s two ways of looking at this, I suppose.

        One is that higher education is a scarce resource and thus being efficient about how we distribute it is a vital issue.

        The other is that access to higher education is a normative good because we cannot predict ahead of time what people will get out of college (maybe that IQ 90 guy has zero spacial math skills and thus will always be an IQ 90 guy, but will be a brilliant mid-19th century political philosopher who writes the definitive translation of Hegel for the next generation), and giving people a crack at self-improvement through education shouldn’t be a scarce resource and we should take steps to make it as accessible as possible for folks, even the ones who may not get anything out of it.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        “I don’t know how many of us spend a lot of time around below average people or, for that matter, average people.”

        I sometimes get the sense that some of the folks here really don’t have much exposure to the gaping chasm that separates them from the half of the population with IQs in the 90s or below. These folks have no real interest or reason to pursue further book learnin’. It would be like everyone trying to convince me to spend the next few years practicing to be a singer or gymnast. It would be a total waste of energy.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am all for good education and substantially more demanding standards in high school, and the top half should be encouraged to CONSIDER community college, and the top third to go beyond that. But the others need to be encouraged to do something else productive and rewarding where they have comparative advantage.

        I am always amused when I see Saul put down apprenticeships and such alternative paths (he fears they will lead to sorting by class or race). He is probably right. But so does education. It sorts into successes and failures.

        Half to two thirds of people are being herded into a system where they are guaranteed to lose. We could create alternative, rewarding paths for them which allowed them to flourish in the areas of their strength. This would of course lead to disparate results which would insult the fiber of those on the left. But is it fair to throw half the population under the bus to protect a dysfunctional worldview?

        But here we tread into the Land of Mokita.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        Patrick,

        Yeah maybe. And maybe I will dance in Swan Lake next year.

        I would respond more with things like opportunity cost and the difference between encouraging and allowing, but I cannot believe you are serious in this comment.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird says:

        Land of Mokita

        I had to look that up. Good word, I like it!Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t know how many of us spend a lot of time around below average people or, for that matter, average people.

        This is evident in pretty much everything some people write here. Everything.

        Though I suspect that “average” is the wrong way to think about it, and IQ definitely is. There are some incredibly smart people who have little or no education, and no interest in reading A Comprehensive History of the Court of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania, 1388-1391, or talking about whatever pundit someone things is the greatest evil or the most important read of 2015.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

        Chris,

        Exactly this. One thing I’ve noticed in more “cultured” folks (and this group is dominated by self-identified liberals) is viewing a person – and more specifically for this discussion, that person’s intellectual abilities – in very strict “what do you do for a living, what is your educational background, have you read/done/been to/etc” terms. And I think more than just intellectual abilities are being judged. A whole slew of other status markers are included in there as well.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        It seems to me you have to work much harder to be as sheltered as some folk are than to actually “go under” and interact with the bulk of the world.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t disagree Chris, and this just reinforces the point that further education isn’t the best path for everyone, for their benefit or the general benefit.

        My best friend growing up was about the furthest thing one can imagine from a rocket scientist. He really had trouble reading and picking up any subject in school, and probably still does. But he was better than me at at least half the things we did. Better at fixing bikes and mechanical objects. Better at interacting with people and maintaining relationships. Better at selling. Better at working with animals. Much better at sports. I could go on, but the point is that he has tons to offer others. But in the right fields, with the right encouragements.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        The Land of Mokita.

        I hope more look it up. Even if we never discuss it, we can allude to it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve purposefully stayed out of this discussion in part because of the shelteredness of some of the more vocal participants. Now, I don’t think “college for everyone” makes sense (though perhaps apprenticeships, skills or technical training, etc., for everyone would be great), but I’ve known a lot of people, some geniuses some not, who wish they’d gotten more education than they did, whether that means not dropping out of high school or going to college or not dropping out of college, and I suspect there are a lot more people who just don’t say anything. And it’s easy to see why: there are a lot of diploma-shaped key holes in the job market. So of course I think college should be accessible to everyone, just not the only option.

        As long as their are degree-shaped key holes in the job market, there will be unjust inequalities in that market based on pretty obvious inequalities in access to education. Seems pretty obvious that, if removing the key holes is unreasonable, removing the barriers to access is the right thing to do.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Jaybird says:

        @chris

        As long as their are degree-shaped key holes in the job market, there will be unjust inequalities in that market based on pretty obvious inequalities in access to education. Seems pretty obvious that, if removing the key holes is unreasonable, removing the barriers to access is the right thing to do.

        I agree with this, but in deciding to remove the barriers we haven’t necessarily solved the problem. We’ve only begged the question of what the barriers are. Some people think that the major barrier is cost. Others think that individual choice and behavioral factors are more important. And still others, like @roger, look to inherited IQ.

        My sense is that all of these things are important and to focus on any one to the exclusion of others is a mistake. Of course, I don’t know where that leaves us from a policy perspective.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Inhereted IQ” is just the wrong idea. Statistically, there just aren’t a whole lot of people whose IQs are too low to make associates degrees, say, out of reach. And like I said, any program of access is going to include a lot of other educational stuff, including remedial education, because one of the biggest barriers to access to college is a lack of quality primary and secondary education opportunities (perhaps because of the schools in one’s area, or because of familial poverty, or whatever), but also trade, skills, technical stuff, and apprenticeship programs. Hell, people shouldn’t have to choose just one: get a technical degree or certificate, work in a field for 20 years, and then still have the option of taking night classes or part-time classes or whatever towards a 2 or even 4 year degree.

        We already offer a lot of help like this under TAA, and the people who administer that program can probably tell you all about what works and what doesn’t.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

        I would respond more with things like opportunity cost and the difference between encouraging and allowing, but I cannot believe you are serious in this comment.

        I’m perfectly willing to discuss the difference between encouraging and allowing.

        As to whether or not I’m serious about the comment, it’s largely not the point. Lots of folks are. (See my comments above about taking on another context.)

        Making the case for or against something requires making the case for or against it on a playing field other than the one you like to play on. You know, again… if you want progress or something.

        Personally, I’m largely convinced that the sort of mechanism they use in Germany is far more efficient and likely to produce better alignment for the majority of folks than what we use here.

        I’m also largely convinced that this sort of mechanism railroads folks by erroneously assessing their proclivities and more or less forcing them down a path they’re not actually inclined to take.

        Is it better? I suppose that depends on the circumstances.

        If the first group is huge and the second is tiny, that’s a different problem than if the first group is tiny and the second group is huge.

        Probably, in the real world, it’s much more efficient (which means more resources for everybody, which is good), and for the folks who don’t fit the model, it’s subtly very damaging.

        Here in the U.S., I imagine that for the folks who don’t fit the model, it would also be subtly very damaging, and I imagine a high correlation between “folks that don’t fit the model” and “folks who are already underserved by our political structure”, so… yeah.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        On the IQ thing, also: I believe you will quickly find that if you remove other barriers, like access to quality primary and secondary education, then the IQ thing sorts itself out: people who find higher levels of school more and more difficult, as people with low enough IQs to make a difference here inevitably will, will tend to take other routes, routes with less resistance. IQ is less a barrier to access than a determiner of preference when other barriers are removed.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        I would focus on fixing inequities in the underlying education system and creating other than college opportunities for self advancement for those not college material (aka most) and then promoting better colleges at a tiny fraction of current cost for those best needing it.Report

      • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think Chris, and others, are right on here. For better or worse there are a number of jobs that now require some sort of post high school education/certificate/degree (think nurses aid, some machinists, mechanics, etc.), and it makes sense to try and level the opportunity to pursue those jobs. And, that in addition to the remedial aspect that Patrick noted above. This isn’t, at least on my reading, an attempt to get everyone a four year liberal arts degree.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I would focus on fixing inequities in the underlying education system and creating other than college opportunities for self advancement for those not college material (aka most) and then promoting better colleges at a tiny fraction of current cost for those best needing it.

        This would leave the keyholes, and create unnecessary inequalities.

        And I think most people are college material at some level. Perhaps not 4-year, tier-1 research university, but 2-year associates degree in some practical field level? Sure. And maybe after 20 years on the job, they might just be 4 year, tier-1 research university material.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s not trying to get everyone a four year degree, but my understanding of it is that it is only for those trying to get a two year degree and not for those trying to get remedial learning. (I don’t know where the certifications @lyle refers to fall here, which affects my level of support greatly.)Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I suspect a lot of people’d be surprised at how important associates degrees are in today’s job market. A lot of credentials that take less than 2 years are also important, if not for getting hired, then for getting ahead (a lot of industries have credential programs specifically for existing employees).

        Texas has been pushing associates degrees pretty hard over the last few years because their research has found over and over that its what employers want where they used to just require a high school diploma, while applicants for those jobs still only have the high school diploma.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yeah, it should be allowed to sort itself out and we should have other paths for the wonderful, valuable people who have things to contribute other than the narrow kinds of skills taught in colleges. There are millions of valuable roles for people to serve each other.

        I certainly would not promote lowering standards at CCs to allow people with IQs in the eighties to thrive. Nor would I use CCs as Second chance high schools. Either action just destroys the value of the accomplishment (in both education results and signaling).

        Fix high schools. Fund adult education. Support a voluntary dual path system. Maintain high standards. Cut all the outrageous fat at public funded universities and subsidize those worthy of entering.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        I don’t doubt it. In part because a high school degree carries so little currency. There are multiple reasons for that, but two are how ubiquitous they are and at least the perception that the standards have fallen.

        I’m not very sure the same won’t happen at the cc level. Especially if some of the incentives talked about backfire in the form of grade inflation.

        Some will take this as concern trolling, but I’m not actually opposed to community college being free to students as a goal. There’s just (a) a lot to sort out, (b) I’m skeptical it will actually solve the problem it sets out to, and (c) I disagree with some of the assumptions of those who advocate the policy. All of which lead me to sound skeptical, though none of it actually means that it can’t be good policy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think that if you open other avenues, you’ll find employers care less about associates degrees. Right now, employers care about associates degrees because they have little else to grasp onto. Create a system with multiple options that allow people to train for careers (but keep open other educational options should chosen careers turn out to suck or get outsourced entirely or whatever), and employers don’t have to worry about suboptimal, extremely general criteria that just tell them “This person is not a blustering idiot who can’t stick with something for more than a short period of time.”

        I mean, part of the reason associates degrees have become important is employers want employees who know more stuff relevant to what they’re going to be doing than they get with a high school diploma, and right now, “diploma after a high school diploma” is their only real option.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        I concur with Chris’ last comment.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

        @chris Are associate degrees important in today’s job market because they signal valuable skills and expertise, or because they distinguish one candidate from many others in a loose labor market? I’m sure that the correct answer is some flavor of “both,” but insofar as the second mechanism makes them valuable, expanding access will dilute the value of the degree in direct proportion to the increase in people with associate’s degrees, right?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

        @patrick

        Ok, I am following you now. Sorry to be so slow. I may need some remedial education myself.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        insofar as the second mechanism makes them valuable, expanding access will dilute the value of the degree in direct proportion to the increase in people with associate’s degrees, right?

        Perhaps, but of course McMegan’s argument is that that won’t be many people because the people who don’t already complete at least associate-level degrees have got to be mostly dunces who won’t be able to do it even if we just freaking drive them to school and don’t ever send them a bill, don’t they?

        So maybe if we do it there will be some happy equilibrium reached between these.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Don, if all we did is say, “OK, everyone go get an associates degree if you’re not going to do the time and get a 4-year degree,” then associates degrees would suddenly be worth what high school diplomas and GEDs are right now, which is to say, not that much. However, if we offered a comprehensive post-secondary educational system, instead of just two flavors for everyone — 2-year or 4-year — we’d have less of a problem. I believe we can find models for this sort of system in other countries, though they have their own access issues.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Michael, if that really is her argument (it appears to be Roger’s as well), then ugh. The barriers to post-secondary education go well beyond “innate intelligence.” I think the people who are so focused on innate intelligence probably have no real sense of the distributions we’re talking about. I mean, they might be able to point them out on a piece of paper, but the actual areas under the curve are not registering for them, or at least not influencing their thinking. I mean, if we’re going to get out of IQ range for a typical community college programs (and even at least some 4-year degree programs), we’re probably talking about a pretty small portion of the population, statistically (under 15% of the population, I’d bet even less). And again, the level of focus on IQ is just misguided, fake definitions of words from New Guinea aside.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        Another point is that if way more people got associates’ degrees and they became as ubiquitous as HS diplomas, it’s possible that they wouldn’t help you get a job in competition with others, but that everyone’s productivity would be higher even while it wasn’t actually distinguish yourself from everyone else who was better educated, and as a result, overall, labor at the ‘basic’ education level would be more productive, and therefore pay more, and also be more sought-after in general by more employers, so that there would be fewer who were left unemployed when all was said and done. The jockeying to get ahead would seem much the same while everyone was doing it, but in the end more people would be employed and making more than if that expansion of degree-achievement were did not happen.

        Maybe. On the upside. Just a thought.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Jaybird says:

        Markers for educational success (that I can think of off the top of my head):

        Innate intelligence
        Self discipline
        financial security
        time management skills
        determination
        familial/social support

        etc.

        You can have an IQ of 140 (for whatever IQ is worth) & still fail at University if one of those other markers is sufficiently degraded. Likewise the guy with a 90 IQ can succeed at college with enough of the others.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        Chris, I agree. It’s a reason I hope certification would be a part of the equation. Flexibility on how community colleges are used would be beneficial.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        It’s one of her arguments, though just to be clear to everyone my joking characterization of it is something of a spoof of liberal reaction to her, and to the caricature of liberals as education snobs all at once. (I thought it was pretty damn effective too, if I do say so…)

        I thought Gabriel quoted that part of it in the OP, but maybe I’m wrong – I did click over and read a bit of the orig., but I didn’t think I saw it there, I thought I saw it here. In any case, it’s one of them. She obviously doesn’t call them dunces. She says we need to respect them and value them much, much more and all that. And hire them? I guess? She just doesn’t necessarily think we should judge them capable of completing associates degrees in a lot of instances.

        Hypocritically (but then I don’t get paid for this shit), my issue with McArdle is that she is, even for me, just insanely long-winded. You have to really want to spend like a half hour reading a post perfectly pitched to come off as both primarily aimed at and as intending to lecture liberals in order. Some folks really like to spend their time that way a lot more than others, which to me is the big reason for the big split in gut-level reactions to her.

        When I do work up the attention, the substance is at least sometimes good enough for me to not be blindingly furious that I’ve spent the time on her, at least.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        …Yeah, it’s @gabriel-conroy ‘s first quote in the OP:

        “If you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by your community college, what are the odds that you are going to earn a valuable degree? Why are we so obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system, rather than asking if we aren’t putting too much emphasis on getting a degree?”

        …Now, it’s fair to say, “But she’s not talking about ‘people who haven’t completed an associates degree,’ she’s talking about people who “graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by [thei]r community college.”

        But she’s also talking about the president’s plan and whom it’s “obsessed” with pushing into community college. And that’s by no means in general the lagging group she describes. Maybe some of them will be pushed into it, and maybe for some that won’t be the best, but certainly the plan’s point is not to do that; it’s to expand access to those who want access. No one has to give up the opportunity cost of the time to go to school just because the government proposes to make it free. It’s still your choice.

        This is another reason that at least I, personally, have a hard time with McArdle. She makes use of this kind of elision-by-assumption about others’ ideas and proposals (and just about facts in the world when talking about her own ideas) all the time.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I were held to the same standard McArdle is, I would have just stopped talking a long time ago.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        @will-truman

        I have put McArdle completely on my no-go list until just now for a counple of years now because it’s just not worth it.

        OTOH, I give *you* the business pretty much without restraint. And let me assure you, next to her stuff, there is precious little to pick apart in yours, @will-truman . You never grant yourself conceptual elisions as capaciously self-generous as the one I just laid out, for example. She does it all the time.

        If I were debating her for the Vice-Presidency, this is what I would say to her: “I know @will-truman , Ms McArdle. I (very sporadically) co-blog with @will-truman . You, Ms. McArdle, are no @will-truman .”

        She’s a pretty decent writer who’s vastly over-employed at it. I stay away from critiquing he stuff because it’s so capacious and filled with self-generous assumptions that I never really know where to start with it.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        …’No-go,’ that is in terms of engaging her work as a subject of conversation here, that is. Not worth it for the same reasons Will has expressed in the past… the brouhaha just isn’t worth it. People don’t see eye-o-eye on her at all. I do still sometimes read her.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Michael, yeah, it’d been a few days since I read the post (and I mostly ignored the debate herein, until today).

        Of course, mastery of specific academic skills is not necessarily an IQ issue, particularly in secondary education, as there are a lot of factors like, say, parents’ SES and access to quality primary and secondary education that determine that. And we should definitely pour energy and resources into universal access to quality primary and secondary education.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        …I.e. even just now, I really wasn’t looking to trash her or engage on the subject of the quality of her writing (it is always, for all its girth, proofed impeccably!). I was just looking to point out how the “there’ll be so many people with associates’!’ meme goes against one of her basic points, so why not give it a try?

        I made a joke doing it and thought I should soften that a bit, and Chris asked about it, so I explained a bit more. Then a few of the real reasons I do ave something of a problem with her occurred to me, so I shared them.

        But trust me, I’m really never looking to discuss McArdle around here. We’re fine without her. I’m just kind of amazed that Will chose to re-engage on the topic.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

        Sometimes I say a sentence to keep myself from saying five paragraphs.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        Oh, me too, of course. If by “say,” you mean “click ‘Post Comment’ on.” …Or just the other kind of “say,” for that matter.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

        I regularly spend time with someone whose IQ is well below normal. More than two standard deviations, in fact. But he’s less normal than I am, and smarter to boot. (IQ tests and learning disabilities do NOT get along).

        I think that an AA as a welder or machinist or bricklayer ought to be encouraged for a lot of people with difficulty with reading or maths.

        Not all AA work needs to be within the liberal arts framework.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Kimmie, when I say “IQ”, I’m not meaning “that thing that IQ tests actually measure” but “that thing that, ideally, IQ tests are trying to measure”.

        I agree 100% that, in practice, the only thing that IQ tests accurately measures is whether the test taker thinks like the test writer.

        So let’s say that all of that is hammered down.

        There is still a there there when we’re talking about intelligence, even if we have no freakin’ idea of how to measure it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jay,
        you know me. You know I hang with comedians. I’d put a lot of my relatives down in the “under 100” IQ range, simply due to cognitive inflexibility (and I’m not exactly the best person to talk, if you know what I mean).Report

  15. Avatar Chris says:

    I certainly would not promote lowering standards at CCs to allow people with IQs in the eighties to thrive.

    The 80s? Oh, man. I mean, between 85 and 90 we’re still talking about people inside of 1 standard deviation from the norm. There are already a whole bunch of people with IQs in the 80s doing just fine in community colleges, and even 4-year colleges. I mean, the mean IQ for some college majors is probably right about 100, and while the distribution is going to be truncated, you’re still going to find plenty of people within 1 standard deviation below the mean.

    I admit I’m always suspicious of any invocation of IQ in these contexts. It’s a statistical device that correlates reasonably well with educational success, but there’s a lot of variance in educational success that can’t be accounted by it, and people who focus on IQ tend to have really impoverished views of how this stuff works.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

      I’ve been avoiding this discussion, because the longer I’ve been in academia the less I think anyone talking about this has a clear idea of how education works, what it’s actual problems are, or how to fix them. Lord knows I don’t.

      And when it comes to IQ, I know a little about the topic, but not nearly enough to make confident sounding claims about what level of IQ is sufficient for college success, or in what fields. So I appreciate both your hesitation on weighing in, and your contribution about IQ.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        There was a paper just a couple years ago in Nature (I’d have to go look for it, because I don’t remember who wrote it off the top of my head, and it’s not in my EndNote for some reason) that showed IQ tests varying by as much as 20 points during adolescence (test-retest). If we were going to use IQ as a guide for post-secondary education, when are we going to take it? Adolescence, right? We’d better be damn careful.

        Edit: As my son’s 6-year old little brother would say, “FOUND IT!” Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        For the record, I’m not using “IQ” to mean “that thing that IQ tests test and the resulting scores should be given to administrators to use to sort children”.

        I’m more trying to use it to mean “ability to quickly master and retain the skills that we’re talking about when we’re talking about ‘remedial skills'”.

        Getting the authorities involved is probably the worst thing we could do. A couple of steps down, however, is pretending that we’re not talking about anything meaningful when we’re talking about intelligence.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yeah, I meant use more conceptually than officially. I didn’t think anyone was proposing actual testing.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

        Chris,
        owch. I’d wonder what the correlates are on that one.
        Certainly I’ve known people with enough weirdness that certain bits of various IQ tests are undoable for them… but this seems like it might… correlate with focus, if you know what I mean.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Chris says:

      Just to clarify, as I am pretty sure you are aware, was not suggesting IQ tests or IQ screening to get into community college. I am fine with meeting the graduation requirements of high schools (though I believe these should be higher — like reading and math at grade level). The point was that we should not lower college standards for all to accommodate the “thriving” of those that are cognitively challenged. And as Chris said somewhere above, this sorts itself out.

      My second point was that we should create alternative paths of opportunity and development for these folks rather than abandon them.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

        Roger,
        I’m always a bit wary about this sort of thing.
        You see, I knew someone who failed algebra four times in high school… while passing physics and outscoring the rest of the state on the physics exam.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        You are wary of what kind of thing? You are wary of NOT lowering academic standards at schools?

        Or are you wary of developing opportunity tracks other than education?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

        your requirements: the need to be at grade level.
        Personally, I feel like if you’re going to CC to be a bricklayer, maybe you don’t need to know algebra…
        CC does a decent job at remedial education, anyhow (I should know, I helped!).

        Opportunity tracks other than education are far… more difficult to incentivize, I fear. How do you pay companies for taking on more paid interns? I feel like, if they want to do that, fine. If they don’t, we’re better off having some sort of “public education.”

        Because there’s always someone fresh out of prison, and who’s gonna hire THAT guy?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

        so the debate shifts on whether we are talking about real college, or college to really complete high school.

        Would I be crass if I pointed out this is a perfect example of how those on the left spend other people’s money? Let’s spend six to ten thousand per pupil per year for twelve years in a government program, and when we graduate students who have not accomplished what is expected we will just let them make it up at an additional cost of $3000 per year. The fact that we can tax people we don’t approve of (the most productive) just adds a cherry on the desert.

        I am all for fixing schools. I am all for supplementing high school with adult education to make up for lost ground. I am even all for free CCs to truly needy families who will take it seriously (as proven by first attaining high school level proficiency and second by subpccedgully rising to the challenge required academically at a college level.

        I am also for alternatives for the HUGE segment of population not equipped to thrive in an academic setting.

        Can we not agree to common ground here?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

        Roger,
        how do you do adult education other than community college?
        My experiences in the field of adult education OTHER THAN community college have been DIRE. And not because of the pupils — they hired me, for god’s sake! And do I strike you as a good teacher??

        You seem to think most people aren’t equipped to survive in an academic environment.
        https://www.ccac.edu/Trades/

        Okay, so if these people can’t be counted on to learn how to be a Plumber, what are we gonna teach them? Are we going to let them be mailmen?

        I think that a lot of kids have learning disabilities, and that you can improve most people’s intelligence (It’s a bit like exercise. pretty painful).Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Roger says:

        I do agree to the common ground Roger suggests there, given that it doesn’t seem to resist even doing what the president suggest, much less saying that it isn’t a part of creating a society that values people. He just wants to do more,mother things still. Awesome!

        The only thing I can’t be on common ground on is agreeing to say that proposals like the president’s, especially when it in fact includes facilitation of alternatives to community college (are we getting caught up over one word here? Go investigate that major apprenticeship programs in your town. I bet very many of them are facilitated by or are simply programs of a local community college, unless we’re going to get in a finicky terminological dispute over terms. I went and got my hair but at a barber school today. I don’t know why I should consider what was happening there as meaningfully different from a variety of things that I am 100% sure are also happening at community colleges in my town.) are snobbish, condescending, or fail to value people or acknowledge that all people have equal basic human worth.

        (Though, on that: Jonas Salk and Adolf Hitler. Equal human worth? Or are we just saying that people at this stage in life? But, of course, in a program like this, we’re talking about people in a variety of stages in life. Indeed, to a nontrivial extent, we’re talking about convicted criminals. But I’m willing to go with that. Certainly we should treat people on their way to Harvard and people maybe on their way to community college or maybe not as of equal human worth. I just don’t understand how offering them some tuition-free studies remotely affects whether we’re doing that.

        I may try to have more to say about my trip to the barber school at a later date.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

      between 85 and 90 we’re still talking about people inside of 1 standard deviation from the norm

      Just as between 110 and 115, we’d still be talking about people inside of 1 standard deviation from the norm.

      Now, I’ll quote from Groening’s “School Is Hell” and give the example from one of his cartoons: “The gold and silver reading groups will stay here — the brown group will go to a special room in the basement”. I’m pretty sure that this is the wrong way to do it… but I’m also pretty sure that putting everybody in the Silver Group is the wrong way to do it too (let alone putting everybody in Gold or Brown).Report

  16. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    @patrick

    Probably, in the real world, it’s much more efficient (which means more resources for everybody, which is good), and for the folks who don’t fit the model, it’s subtly very damaging.

    It seems to me, though, that this is a problem with a ready solution – allow people to re-test (or whatever they do to determine the track) every few years (e.g. 10 years). Let the guy who was slotted to auto-mechanic have an opportunity to learn engineering, or the guy who went into finance opt for a lower stress path later on.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      I don’t think Americans would support a dual (multiple?) path program which didn’t allow and encourage people to choose and switch paths as long as they met the standards. The idea is more opportunity and diversity of potential.Report

  17. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    “People who drop out of community college really are every bit as valuable to the world as those who emerge summa cum laude from Harvard. The way we acknowledge that is to create a society that values them as workers and citizens, not to declare that we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as they get cracking on that diploma.”

    That’s not a perfect halfway meeting point. It does restate the contentious assumption that the other “side” is overly focused on college. But I think we can all, or mostly, stipulate that people without formal education deserve respect “as workers and citizens” and, I’ll add, as human beings with their own talents and perspectives to offer. Where this actually takes us in terms of policy, I don’t know. But it’s a good starting point.

    So, @gabriel-conroy ,I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think this can be a basis for finding common ground so long as one side sees something like a proposal to make community college free for some people as the equivalent of “to declare that we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as they get cracking on that diploma,” or so long as we all know that the agenda for how to create the society envisioned by people who say “People who drop out of community college really are every bit as valuable to the world as those who emerge summa cum laude from Harvard. The way we acknowledge that is to create a society that values them as workers and citizens, not to declare that we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as…” is to institute a very particular set of libertarian reforms – which in this case it is very much is.

    I’m not really sure why you thought this would be the basis for common ground. As you say, it reasserts the basic point of contention, and it also carries with it a very particular political-economic agenda in actuality.

    The point at which you can get McArdle and those who echo her arguments to come here and say that by “to create a society that values them as workers and citizens” she is willing to give equal consideration to the progressive/liberal/labor/public-services agenda for doing that as to the libertarian/entrepreneurial/less-regulation/lower-taxes vision for it, that’s when maybe that statement could be the basis for finding common ground.

    But even then, there would still be the issue of interpreting a proposal like the one that occasioned McArdle’s post that emphatically does not say to anyone, ‘we’ll be more than happy to help you . . . just as soon as you get cracking on that diploma,’ as saying, “we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as they get cracking on that diploma.” Anyone looking for common ground in this discussion needs to come down off that fallacy as a prerequisite, as well.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      …Because, look. If you would have gotten into a discussion with a liberal a big part of whose agenda was expanding government services and subsidies before this discussion to start talking about ways to create a society that values people as workers and citizens, almost certainly early in the conversation you would have herd a proposal to expand access to education, lower the debt load that comes with it, lower the price, and maybe even make it free in some cases. Yet the quote you suggest as a basis for common ground explicitly defines such a proposal as “not” “creat[ing] a society that values them as workers and citizens.” It sees programs like that as devaluing them to the extent they aren’t inclined to pursue education. I think the liberal just rejects that interpretation out of hand.

      More broadly, what of other planks on the liberal agenda, on the hypothesis that education snobbery is a special case? Is it really the case that expansion other kinds of services wouldn’t be seen as condescending to people in need of help about what it is they really need in their lives? Because some people don’t have as much use for education as others, therefore it fails to value them as citizens and workers for the government to offer expanded access to it, goes the argument. Why shouldn’t that be the case for child care? For non-community-college job training? Etc.

      I realize that you, @gabriel-conroy , don’t think those things, but I have to wonder whether that’s where the conversation would head if we tried to base common ground on something that Megan McArdle said, unless we somehow decided to cut her out of a conversation based on something she said. Because to me, that’s what’s implied by the fact that I know what her agenda for “to create a society that values them as workers and citizens” entails. Even if she wouldn’t say that other proposals condescend the way that proposals to expand access to community college do, I still know that her agenda really doesn’t include those other things. And there’s nothing wrong with that being her agenda. It’s just not the basis for common ground. It’s a whole other fight.

      But even if she didn’t feel that way about other government programs that provided access to services – even if she felt that the snobbery problem was unique to expansions of access to education or just higher education, there’s still the problem that the “other side” simply doesn’t see expanding access to higher education as being detrimental to “creat[ing] a society that values people as workers and citizens.” They see doing that as contributing to it. Yet the quote you wish to build common ground on has as its premise the idea that it is detrimental, which also happens to be the basic idea we’re arguing about on this topic in general. That a program like Obama’s free community college program condescends to people who aren’t greatly inclined to pursue higher education by lowering the cost to them should they decide they want to.

      I don’t see where that quote can be the basis for common ground. Maybe just the “create a society that values people as workers and citizens” part with nothing else attached. That’s unobjectionable enough that we can all agree on it. The conversation won’t go much further from there on common ground, though, because, beyond that, filling in the meaning of that invokes all of the usual fights, plus this to-me new one about the condescension of proposing expanded access to higher education in the form of community college. But we can probably at least agree on that short snippet.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew

        Your argument is longer than Megan’s and frankly hard to follow.

        I read her as saying there are more ways to help people than making something which is already affordable (and quite probably already free to qualified poor people via grants) free. This is especially true considering that most people entering CCs today aren’t graduating and many are using it as high school make up. She lists possible unintended consequences, which few seem to be actually disputing.

        Her shot at elitist snobbery was aimed at those believing that the only path to value is education. It isn’t. Book learnin’ ain’t for everybody, and it isn’t the only path.

        The common ground I see her as looking for is the best interests of young potential workers, specifically including those unlikely to ever excell at higher level abstract cognitive functions. And sure she offers some ideas which you reject, though I am not sure what your reasoning would be.Report

      • Her article is 1646 words; those two comments together are 980.

        I believe that by “to declare that we’ll be more than happy to help them . . . just as soon as they get cracking on that diploma” she means to say that proposals like the president’s community college proposal do that.Report

      • @michael-drew

        It seems to me you’re arguing the following (but please correct me where I’m wrong):

        McArdle’s “every bit as valuable” statement is not really a basis for common ground because…

        1. …it’s a loaded statement (which I admit (and which you admit I admit)); and….

        2. …it represents a generalized charge against the basket of liberal programs as “elitist”; and….

        3. ….her actual prescriptions for creating a society that recognizes the “every bit as valuable” standard amount “to institut[ing] a very particular set of libertarian reforms – which in this case it is very much is.”

        My answers. To the first argument, I plead a little guilty, because I’m not naive enough to really believe that such a statement will be read as charitably as I, who (as @patrick might say, with some truth) already agree with her.

        To the second argument, I guess it depends on whether McArdle meant to extent to charge of snobbery to everything in the liberal program. I’ll admit that those columns of her that I’ve read seem to target and focus on the more paternalist elements of those programs formulated to help others. And because I’m a believer in tragedy–because I believe it’s an almost iron law that we’re bound to do at least a little harm, even when we’re trying sincerely to do (and succeed at doing) good–that target/focus appeals to me. However, in the article itself, she’s focusing on education, and as @roger said, “[h]er shot at elitist snobbery was aimed at those believing that the only path to value is education.”

        To the third argument, I’d say first that her proposals are not all libertarianish. She argues, for example, for wage subsidies for entry-level workers. But let’s assume she believes that a putatively “libertarian” approach will nudge us along the way toward valuing people. I see that as a “how do we get there” question and not a “is ‘there’ a place we even want to get to” question.

        Finally, I’ll clarify what I see as the potential for common ground from that quote, and it’s this: We can all agree that someone who drops out of community college (or who doesn’t pursue a post-high school degree in the first place, or who drops out of high school, or middle school) is “every bit as valuable” as that summa cum laude grad. In a moral sense, I submit we in this post-Enlightenment all really do agree she’s right. That non summa cum laude grad is morally worth as much. In a slightly less moralistic, but in my opinion still important, sense, I think we, or most of us, can agree that the non-college grad can offer something very valuable to our society.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        First, without going into various specifics except one or two, let me admit generally to some mistakes in my response. It was slightly on the ranty side – I’d been stewing on yr call for common ground for a couple of days and I kind of just wanted to get past that.

        The main mistake was widening the aperture out past the proposal at hand to the rest of McArdle’s ganeral program. That only confuses matters.

        The other mistake was importing that in to stand in for McArdle’s program for valuing people. I’ve since seen that was included in the piece, and indeed it contains a lot that can be built on.

        So that leaves what remains as the problem, to the extent ther is one. There may not be, because in this comment you clarify what part of the excerpt you used actually represents potential common ground, and it’s the same part I said could be common ground. (I’m on a tablet and can’t grab quotes easily, but it’s the small bit about “creating a society” before she gets into what doesn’t do that.)

        Maybe we can leave it at that, since that’s the part you now highlight. But I would say it’s a pretty… limited territory that inevitably becomes more contested as we try to fill in what the few words we can agree on might mean.

        Let me try to explain where I saw the problem to lie, though, before this clarification from you. I’d actually direct you to my response to Roger on the point you refer to for this.

        Again, bringing her larger program in was a mistake. But if you look at the passage you reproduced, it does contain this statement about telling people we’re willing to help as soon as they get cracking on this degree. I thought you were asking for common ground on that. And Roger can say whom he thinks that was directed at, but in fact it’s opaque, and given that it sums up the article, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think we were meant to take that as saying that proposals like e president’s do that. And the thing is, proposals like the president’s simply are going to be part of the liberal program for creating a society that values people as workers etc. There’s a fundamental disagreement about whether such programs condescend, fail to value people, etc. In fact, it’s *the* disagreement we’re having.

        So asking for common ground on that seems like just asking for a concession of the basic difference in intuition that’s at the heart of all this. Which you can do, but you won’t get it. But it sounds like you didn’t intend to do that.

        So yes, common ground on the small snippet of what you reproduce as the potential common ground that talks about creating a society that values people.

        I should stop there. But I’ll go on to say that it doesn’t mean much until we try to figure out what that means a t least a little bit. and I’m dubious about how long the commonality lasts after we do that.

        Though I am actually mad more optimistic after reading McArdle’s suggestions. The thing is, I’ not at all clear why a prosal like the one from the president should be seen as an obstacle or and alternative to those. And I’m not sure why it needs to be cast as a detriment to the creation doc a society that values people. It seems like that raises the temperature about all this in a way that I don’t understand why it has to happen. Proposing free community college has to be met with implied or explicit charges of snobbery and suggestions that the people doing the proposing are insufficiently interested in creating a society that values people? I mean, why?That’s gut-punch-type stuff, when the background reality is that the other stuff McArdle proposes would be met very receptively if she just proposed it without that kind of accusation relating to the proposal she’s making the counterproposal to. Would anyone on either side really have cause to make that kind of charge if we just ended up doing everything on both lists?

        I mean, ultimately, the question for me is, what is so bad about proposing free or subsidized community college (and I believe apprenticeship programs as well are in there) that it makes it seem like going down this rhetorical road is a good idea? I just don’t get it.Report

      • Well, I think I can agree with this:

        But I would say it’s a pretty… limited territory that inevitably becomes more contested as we try to fill in what the few words we can agree on might mean.

        As for what you say about the actual proposal, I’m agnostic about it. I was encouraged to hear Obama mention the apprenticeship programs. (Maybe he read my post? 🙂 ) But since I haven’t read the proposal, I should probably forbear forming too strong an opinion one way or another.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I have heard rumors the President does follow this blog. He may even be commenting under a pseudonym. “Kimmi” if memory serves.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        ” I’m not at all clear why a prosal like the one from the president should be seen as an obstacle or and alternative to those. … Proposing free community college has to be met with implied or explicit charges of snobbery and suggestions that the people doing the proposing are insufficiently interested in creating a society that values people? ”

        Even some of the regulars here from the left agreed with the academic education snobbery comment. It isn’t that offensive of a comment, and it clearly has a ring of truth to it. People with post graduate degrees who have always done well academically defaulting to a paradigm of “we can make them more like us with a few more years of good education.” Sorry, no you can’t, and no you probably shouldn’t. Two more years of Opera training will make not me a good singer.

        Heck I would even say this paradigm has roots back in the “knowledge is the one true path to progress” myths of the 18th century. The assumption was that people are basically good and if we just enlighten them that they will see the truth and become smart, productive, peace loving and altruistic egalitarians (because these are self evident to the enlightened).

        The reasons this may be misguided were touched upon in the article and the comments of this post.

        It’s already extremely affordable (and often free to the poor.)

        There are already probably too many unserious students wrongly wasting time and money exploring this path today (as exhibited by how many years they churn and how few actually graduate)

        Wasting this time and money is also a waste of their lives if they could have done something more valuable with the time instead of being herded into an academic program made for someone other than them.

        To accomodate universal CC risks devolving (unanticipated outcomes!) into further lowering standards and accountability in colleges and in high schools.

        It misdirects or mischannels people who sorely need more opportunity, and opportunity is not equivalent to academics.

        So why would anyone dispute free college? Because it may harm the people it intends to help, it may harm others, and it costs money, which harms those it is taken from. Spending money to hurt people is not something we should align on. Helping people is something we can agree on.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Roger,
        so if we don’t want these blokes to be plumbers or machinists, or any of the other trades AA degrees, what do we want them to be?
        Education is VERY important to folks who just got out of prison. It allows them to establish “yes, I can actually show up on time and be a functional human being” — and gives them a solid reference or two.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It isn’t that offensive of a comment

        It is, and I don’t see why it’s a necessary or true charge. There are education snobs out there, but a proposal for free community college is unrelated to education snobbery.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        On the rest, Roger, I’m happy to allow a discussion of the merits of the proposal along the terms you’re pursuing there to go forward without objection. But that discussion need not lean on assertions about a proposal like this indicating or implicating that those who make it do not seek “to create a society that values them as workers and citizens.” We probably already knew that McArdle and the president might disagree somewhat on exactly how to do that. But in terms of this issue area, it’s unnecessary to make the implication that a proposal like this indicates a lack of interest or commitment to that in abstract terms, as she did.

        And given that’s the extent of the common ground @gabriel-conroy is now saying is available here – basically that simple impulse before it’s filled in with policy content – merely maintaining a presumption of the “other side’s” good intentions on that score wanting to create a society that values people, with no more explication of that idea than those words) here could have kept us assured that we were always still occupying that common ground – ground such as it is. All we (that is, Megan McArdle) ever needed to do to affirm that was not raise the suggestion that is wasn’t the case.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        …As to other liberals having a different take on this (the snobbery point in particular, but the value of the program perhaps as well), maybe divisions on how people see this matter just don’t break along traditional ideological lines. That would be… pretty much unremarkable. And if it’s the case, then it really doesn’t indicate anything that some liberals see it differently than I do.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        @michael-drew

        The educational snobbery comment is aimed at spotlighting an underlying fallacy, or paradigm error. Maybe she should have said is that if all you are used to is hammering every problem looks like it can be served with better and cheaper hammers for the hammer deprived.

        Every problem isn’t solved by hammering, and we already have cheap and plentiful hammers, and we seem to be wasting a lot of time with remedial hammer lessons by people who prefer other tools.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Hammer snobs.Report

      • You can try to change what she wrote or pretend to be better-positioned than me to interpret her, Roger, but neither trying nor pretending will make either happen.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Hammer time!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Michael Drew says:

        It is silly to try to apply the same solution to every problem, when all we need to do is get government out of the way and let the market solve it.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Cute response. Would be better if this is actually what any of the involved parties remotely suggested.Report

  18. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    So reading the Intertubes today, and I find that Obama wants to pay for free community college by taxing college savings plans (i.e. the 529 plans).

    Unless he is planning on making the first two years of university free, or the tax is going to be very, very small, I’m not sure how this is going to really be helping people?Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      As I understand, from this Slate article, http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/01/20/obama_wants_to_tax_529_savings_it_s_a_great_idea.html

      “Strictly speaking, they are correct. Obama’s proposal would hit some families that earn below the quarter-million-dollar mark. It’s also still a great idea. Unless, that is, you’re really determined to subsidize college tuition for families with six-figure incomes so they can send their kids to Amherst or Brown. ”

      Presented without comment..but serious eye rolling.Report

    • FWIW…

      My understanding of all of this is that the particulars are not all that important, because this isn’t a proposal that is meant to succeed. It’s a proposal that is meant to have Republicans knock down prior to an election.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Not sure if you mean the tax proposal in particular or the free community college and the tax together as a proposal. But either way, it raises the question of why there needed to be the tax offset at all. If the community college program is so important, why not just propose it as a new spending program on its own? Or propose a spending offset. Or a simpler income tax hike? Or just point to the proposed bank tax as being enough of an offset? None of this is an exact science anyway – no one knows exactly what the community college program will cost or how much these various taxes will bring in. Proposing the college savings tax is itself statement that, of all the ways to raise revenue for the community college program, this is the best. It doesn’t have to be education-related tax breaks that offset it, if there even needs to be an offset.

        The Weissman defense is really weak. 47% of families who use 529s make over $150,000 so the tax would really only hit the wealthy? So… what about the other 53%? Even though they know this won’t pass, the WH is making a statement about their view of good ways to raise revenue by proposing this tax hike… rather than, as I say, even proposing no offset at all for the community college program. I’d like to know what they take that statement to be. I’m sure that exists somewhere. Sadly, I suspect it’s not a much better statement than the one Weissman makes.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Well hell, the tax proposal almost guaran-damn-tees it!

        BTW, that Slate article Damon posted says that 47% of 529 plans are held by folks making $150K or more, so it’s OK to tax it because it’s just a subsidy for the rich. I don’t have numbers on hand, but in most major cities, $150K is not rich, it’s pretty solidly middle class, especially if that $150K is a two income family. Perhaps if we lived in central WY, $150K a year would be wealthy, but in the Puget Sound area, it’s just “doing OK”. I suspect NY Metro, the Bay Area, Chicago, LA, and the like are all pretty similar in that regard.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        …We can go down a rabbit hole on the who’s wealthy debate, but what makes that argument weak isn’t the number $150,000, it’s the number 47%. I mean, I suppose 47% would be less weak if the income level it was describing was $1.5M, but even then, that would be a lot of people hanging out below that number, presumably in the middle class, using the tax shelter.

        If they’re going to work on the 529 system, I’d rather they look at it for ways it’s abused. Probably not that much money there, but that’s what I’d want done with it. It still beggars belief that, given the opportunity to make a statement that they know won’t go anywhere about how best to raise revenue for the community college program, this is what they came up with.

        The only thing I can say in its defense is that the tax they’re raising is one that was eliminated in the 2000’s, long after 529s were well-established as a very useful vehicle for helping families save for college. So they’re proposing going back to a prior 529 status quo of sorts, where the principal is still never taxed, but the gains are taxed. It seems to me that in the case of middle class families, those gains are likely to be way more modest than in the case of well-off families, making this indeed probably a vastly smaller tax for them, and something less of a tax haven to be used by the wealthy not necessarily for education, or for “education!” (negative-income summer internship with a cruise line!). That’s all speculation, though.

        I guess the other thing I can say is that, in my experience, it takes some savvy not to have college savings swallowed up when financial aid officers assess families’ overall ability to pay, such that having savings, again, in my experience, can detrimentally affect the financial aid offer. But that really concerns the whole enterprise of saving for college and different levels of financial savvy among different savers, not just whether it’s taxed, how much of it is taxed, etc.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @michael-drew

        He does kind of whitewash that 53%.

        Re: savings

        I mentioned this elsewhere, but very often the parents ability to pay is weighed heavily against student financial aid. This has always struck me as wrong. Parents should not be on the hook for their adult offsprings education. It’s nice if they do it, but it should not be an obligation. I mean, I get that if it wasn’t, some wealthy family would send their kid to school via financial aid because they were evil/greedy/whatever. The problem is that the numbers were always too low and never took into account local cost of living, and a lot of middle & lower middle class families were left seeking loans they could not afford. And there are the families where the parents are just assholes, or really bad managing money (e.g. my parents – I probably could have gone to college on what they spent every year on cigarettes). It seems to me that a 529 is a great way for financial aid officers to know exactly how much aid is needed, as it gives a clear number to how much the parents were willing/able to afford to put toward education.

        As for how to pay for an educational program, we could examine something like the GI Bill. When I was a green recruit, I put $100/month into my GI Bill account, and when I got out, I had $14K to draw off of. Of course, if I didn’t use it all, the balance would be absorbed by the program, but still, that is a hell of benefit and one of the most successful of all social benefits. Why could we not do something similar?Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Nothing new here. The left has been waging a war on savers for quite some time now, as part of their “No seed corn left uneaten” initiative.Report