August 22, 2011
By Bruce Walker
Soon millions of students will be headed to college at a huge cost to their parents and themselves. Americans are obsessed with college. Dopey proposals like the Dream Act assume that illegal aliens who get a college degree in America somehow become more valuable as legal residents here. But it is not just the left which is bewitched by in the incantations of academic hucksters; conservatives have created scholarship funds for the children of those who have fallen in the fight against global terrorism and state governments in very conservative states have created programs to help students go to college.
It is wise and good to help our children get a good start in life, particularly this new generation which will be saddled with crushing burdens of entitlements for their elders. But how does whiling away four years, incurring often mountainous student debts, and absorbing the dull and false rhetoric (passing as academic teaching) help anyone but the bureaucrats of academia and their lazy, bigoted professors?
There is, of course, true learning in many colleges, but there is no reason why this learning must, or even should, be processed in college classrooms. The tools for learning have never been more diverse and these tools have never been cheaper. Moreover, these days a society which does not plan for lifetime, more or less continuous, education faces real problems. Learning is just as important to our economy and to our society for fifty-year-olds as it is for eighteen-year-olds. More important, perhaps, because to the extent that we can keep our older Americans productive and happily employed, the fewer actuarial nightmares our pension and entitlement systems will face.
The best education is self-education and a lifelong habit of self-education, in all areas of human understanding, is the most perfect system of learning we can give to our children. The greatest gift we can give in vocation is to let our young adults find out what they love to do and what they are good at, and then help them into that sort of work.
Working as a cog in some vast organization is the grim fate of most young Americans. A college education, which usually grants no true skill or insight but which is a prerequisite for many jobs in the bureaucracies of corporations and governments, leaves graduates with few options. Many thousands of dollars and several years of their lives have been sacrificed on the Altar of Academia, but that translate into a narrow range of rigidly defined jobs in the bowels of some impersonal beast.
Why not encourage, promote and offer something other than scholarships or college funds to these young Americans? Why not offer, instead, an Un-College Fund? Why not provide a financial incentive system through which these young men and women could open a small business in some field that interests them? It is dead certain that a young adult who sets up and runs a small business will learn a great deal more about the real world, and will be compelled to stay at the forefront of innovation, than a bleary eyed, often hung over, student at the back of some huge classroom.
These young folks would also be contributing to the economy and learning the intangible lessons of self-reliance, customer service, productive work and other values which will put them on the right path in life. They would gain confidence which no sheepskin can provide. They would find out what they liked, and what they did not like, about working for themselves - as well as what sort of work they really enjoyed.
The Un-College Fund might also allow them to buy into established businesses or otherwise invest in their work. Perhaps, as an incentive, the federal government might waive for the first year such noxious bothers as self-employment taxes, FICA, and related costs - but with a pro forma calculation of what the costs would have been, so that this entrepreneur can grasp how much of his hard earned dough will be snatched up by Uncle Sam.
The goal should be to encourage self-employed Americans who love their work and who can be counted on to roll with the punches of economic downturns. That is the real way that our nation can overcome the very scary prospects of the federal debt, dull and sluggish organizations, government pensions and Social Security Hiroshima.
More than that, an Un-College Fund would protect our kids from the creepy leftist bigots who populate our campuses and so disempower such nice folks as Ward Churchill, Bill Ayers and Anita Hill. Private enterprise, of course, is the salvation of our economy, but even more than that, small businesses operated by owners are the most resilient members of our society. Why not make more of them, and fewer leftist drones seeking a niche in some paper-shuffling bureaucracy? Why not ditch programs which actually encourage our kids to sign up for re-education camps and, instead, help them learn the joys and the responsibilities of real work?