Elizabeth Warren’s “Free” College and Loan “Forgiveness”


January 25, 2020

Photo: nattanan23, Pixabay, License

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

There was a minor dust-up on the campaign trail the other day when a dad asked Senator Warren if he, as one who had planned, hoped, scrimped, saved and worked multiple jobs to pay for his daughter’s college tuition and other costs, would get his money back under her plan.  She sneered at him and replied, “…Of course not!…” as if his was a dumb question.  Unfortunately, no commentators on any network who covered that exchange touched on the key point:  What would “free” college devolve to?

When the government makes things free, it has, of late, become a corollary that since the government pays for it, any such good or service must be “equal,” and “equal” can take on myriad definitions, depending on one’s circumstances.  Public schools are free in America, but the outcomes – based on standardized test results and even post-graduation outcomes — are not equal.  And thus, school districts in more liberal parts of the country scurry to find reasons (or villains) as to why some ethnic groups score higher and succeed, while others perform less well.  In fact, in the San Francisco area, school “watchers” and “minders” have concluded that arithmetic is racist and want to drop it from the elementary school curriculum because of disparate outcomes.  No, you can’t make this up!  Numbers and sums are not to carry the same values in this school district that they do elsewhere throughout the world?  Hold this thought.

Now let’s consider what universities are for – or at least have been since the Middle Ages.  They are supposed to be centers of “higher learning” and “excellence.”  Got that?  So where in that purpose does equality of outcomes come into play?  You’re right, it doesn’t – YET!   But once college becomes a freebie for the students (and yet another burden for the taxpayer), lots of analysis will be done to seek answers as to why some groups do better than others.  Some ways to remedy disparate higher learning outcomes will be to deliberately “dumb down” the course material, which has been done in lots of high schools, or to eliminate tests, or to simply dumb down grading to “pass,” “fail,” or “incomplete.”

But the very idea of “excellence” and “higher” learning means that differences are real and DO matter.  That’s precisely why colleges have special tests for those wishing to become physicians and lawyers and the like.  The applicants’ aptitudes are tested in advance to screen out those most likely to fail.  Those tests not only save the colleges grief and enable them to better set class sizes, but also save the expense and embarrassment of those students who would otherwise reach beyond their abilities and fail.  Worse yet, who would want to be on the operating table, under sedation, about to be sliced by a “special-needs” surgeon?

Not every student is a genius, nor is every one a dolt; but the quality of output suffers when “minders” and “watchers” claim unfairness because some groups routinely outperform other groups.  Life isn’t fair.  Some are tall, some are short.  Some are fast, some are slow.  We love all kinds, but we also note the differences.  Some get rich and some fail miserably.  The idea of the university as a center of excellence means that there will be sorting and sifting to achieve results.  Not everybody gets a trophy.  And frankly, some are simply not cut out for the academy.

At Headquarters Air Force, and even while serving in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I struggled to understand how a few of those who worked for me – each of whom had a college degree – could not write a proper letter.  They were good folks; they just couldn’t put thoughts together in an acceptable fashion, which suggested that not everybody who did well at unit level would be suitable for work at headquarters.

“Free of cost” is a pipe dream.  Everything has costs in various shapes and forms and degrees.  Universities can either have quality and excellence or become dumbed-down like many public high schools.  Not everybody is cut out for college.  Not everybody will nor should work in an office.  Many skills can only be performed after years of hands-on training and practice – and we all are willing to pay for those skills.  I commanded an air base.  I ran a very successful business enterprise.  I did well in college.  But I cannot fix my air conditioner, nor replace my water heater, nor diagnose the transmission in my car.  I need folks with “hands-on” experience and talents.  I’ll pay them what they charge.

Don’t support Liz Warren’s dumbed-down idea!  It comes at way too high a cost – in many ways.

Old Frank

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