The other morning as I was getting ready to go out I heard talk on the news, AGAIN, about the president’s push to have everyone go to college, which is stemming from his push to make community college free for everyone. My first thought was:  why are we still having this conversation? A secondary thought was: if we pressed our children to learn what they were supposed to in grades K-12, they and their parents would be prepared to guide them after high school. But that is another issue.

Later, I heard that the top 20% of income earners in America pay more than 84% of all Federal Income Tax, and from what I’ve read in the past, I believe this is a kind number or an understated reporting. Nevertheless, by today’s report, the bottom 80%, which is most Americans, don’t pay any taxes. Some get refunds (whether or not they pay taxes) and many of this 80% are simply given things from the government. Since colleges must be paid, making it free to all is a misnomer because that top 20% will again have to pay.

But taxes, who pays them and entitlements are other issues too.

My colleagues and I at AE Stevenson High School in the Bronx pretty much knew that breaking the big schools into small schools would not “fix” anything and actually would not change anything much. In fact, it hasn’t. Stevenson now houses nine schools. Several have failed and are gone or in the process of being phased out and the ones remaining are hit and miss at best. The powers that be would have everyone believe they have done something wonderful in education and things are better. But the fact of the matter is that much of what actually occurs in the little schools is underground, hidden and kept so for the purposes of maintaining the illusion that schools are improving. The idea of fixing things was a charade being played upon the public by our leaders back then and it still is now, only now it goes all the way up to the presidency.

Back to everyone going to college.  Why?  Why is this being pushed at us? At Stevenson before it was broken up, we had an active auto shop. Students who were so inclined could graduate as auto mechanics or as ready for taking the state tests. The auto shop teachers boasted they had placed more students to work as mechanics in the Bronx than any other school.  More than this boast, they boasted that the nearby repair shops relied upon the school for manpower. The last I saw, labor rates at the auto shops were about $100.00 per hour and mechanics make more money than mid-level teachers. Why go to college?

My colleagues and I knew that the small school movement would kill preparing kids for the trades, which it did, which launched the later debate over how to make kids job ready, which led to some development of job-prep high schools. I have a Doctorate in Education, but the carpenter, plumber, electrician, mechanic and all other trades people I use because I have no trade skills make more than I do and many of them make more than I did even at top salary as a teacher in NYC. Why college? Why push the people who don’t’ want college to head there?

Whatever happened to the idea that you could be what you wanted in America?

When I started teaching, we taught a curriculum that prepared kids to be useful, productive citizens. It encompassed everything from college prep to learning a trade, and the kids, with their parents, met with guidance counselors to discuss their future. Education now is merely a government control issue like most big programs are. Make no mistake. That is what the push is about:  government control and power.

So we knew way back when that not everyone is meant to go to college. Not everyone wants to. We talk about the learning modalities—some kids are tactile and just great with their hands and want to use them in how they make a living. Typing on your computer hardly qualifies as using your hands. It is not politically correct to say that not everyone is suited for college because in our oh-so-careful world such a statement is construed as racist or sexist. In fact it is realistic.

Why are we still having the everyone-must-go-to-college discussion? Why is today’s Federal Government (and many State Governments too) insistent upon controlling more and more of our lives?

I believe we all know the answers if we look deep inside ourselves, and when we do this, we see that so many of the “rights” issues in effect take away rights and/or serve as cripplers to our individual initiative, creativity and well-being.