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March 2, 2016

Wake Up America

Wake up America. If you’ve been paying even a little attention to national affairs, something shocking is afoot and it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, a frumpy East Coast socialist, is getting a near 100% pass on college campuses across the country. Who is raising these kids, and who told them that I owed them a college education?

This is NOT just another example of progressive status quo. The far left has monopolized political thought on college campuses for years. That’s not news. It also enjoys a virtual lock on political conversation in our public secondary schools. Tragic, perhaps, but also not news. A lock-step ideology in public school explains the pressure to make school choice a reality, but none of this explains the Bernie Sanders phenomenon.

My wife and I took out several student loans to provide our children the opportunity to earn their own first-tier education. At least our kids (unlike many of their peers) took REAL classes — there is not a social science degree amongst them. I’m sixty years old and will no doubt be calculating student loans into my social security budget. Like most middle class families, our children also took out their own loans. Now thirty-something adults with kids of their own struggle to pay these old bills. I get it. It’s tough to make old financial commitments as important as critical new expenditures. On the other hand, being a productive citizen and raising a family is a privilege, not an entitlement. Sooner or later you have to pick a path.

I have a major issue with the current system, but it isn’t about the debt we all willingly took on. The expensive education provided to our children simply isn’t living up to the hype, and certainly not to the income-generating potential that we all expected. In spite of the sacrifices and the real money spent, a majority of today’s young adults lag their parents in age-adjusted income, and the gap is widening rather than closing. This does not bode well for the future.

Hard truths. Today’s typical bachelor degree education (at least in the U.S.) is a poor return-on-capital investment. Specific undergraduate degrees might be worth the cost if used as a springboard to wisely-chosen graduate classes. Know, however, there are signs in the marketplace that the value of a graduate-level education is also eroding. Maybe, just maybe, we should be worried about the cost and the quality of our present matrix rather than trying to make a mediocre educational system free to every student.

Much of today’s education degradation is cultural rather than financial. World economic markets are based on measurable productivity. At present we have an educational culture that drones on endlessly about potential and inclusiveness. At the same time, we all but prohibit politically incorrect conversation about things like individual drive, ambition, competitiveness and personal responsibility.

Setting on this weak foundation, our national choices are not ideal. We either abandon the premise of world economic leadership, or we radically change direction and find ways to compete in a world market. Our universities have already made their choice — welcome to third-world art appreciation and pacific-rim language studies. The slow decent into economic obscurity is unlikely to change unless/until business leaders wake up (finally) and tell the educational cartel that they will no longer hire their graduates — at least until they actually teach them something practical and unfiltered.

In the meantime, somebody needs to start telling these young adults with heads of mush that free isn’t free — EVER! There is no such thing as free healthcare, free child care, and certainly not free education. The public high school education that most of these idealists received was hugely expensive and, in its current form, not designed to make them successful in a competitive world.  Graduates are having a hard time finding a job because, frankly, they don’t have the skills and knowledge that employers need. So sorry. It’s a cruel world. Reality sucks and results really do matter.

Bernie Sanders is not the populist that he tries to sound like. At their secret core, next-step progressives like Sanders oppose genuine populist thought.  Their world view is not about empowerment, it’s about control. A snake-oil barker, Sanders sells utopia but produces only mediocracy. The adults in the room need to take ownership of this educational mess. And parents, for crying out loud, set your college age kids down and teach them something while there is still hope!

As a society, have we become so socially bankrupt that a patronizing Yankee socialist controls our own children’s thoughts and behavior? Here is the hard truth for those of you who can handle it. A lifetime of free lunches and participation awards will simply not prepare our children to take their place on the world stage. The last thing on this planet I want to think about is some marginally motivated nitwit reaching into my pocket to pay for a four year hall pass from reality!

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