Stop Dumbing Down America

Today’s WSJ reported on the continued dumbing down of America, at least as shown by SAT scores.

Education in America today elicits mixed feelings from me but mostly I’m not impressed.

First I'm very much an intellectual. Twenty years ago, I would have impressed on any kid that college is a must. However, in today's world, high school kids face two issues – 1. Outsourcing, and 2. Expensive college educations that can leave them burdened with debt.

Thus, I find myself changing my view on college – and believe me it’s a shock.

I now wonder if many of today's teenagers will fair better over the course of their lives if they instead focused on learning trade jobs, like being a plumber or an electrician, because those jobs can't be outsourced. And a kid can always aspire to be an entrepreneur and own his or her own trade-related business.

That said, I also think if a kid does aspire to be a white collar worker, then he or she should expect to be knowledge-based worker. And that makes a good education of paramount importance – starting in high school and continuing into college.

I’m a product of a state college and believe I received an excellent and affordable education. Thus, while I can understand why some parents and kids may salivate over an Ivy League education, I don’t believe that’s the only passage to the promised land.

In fact, realistic studies show that an Ivy League education may not always lead to riches. The true economic value of any college education – whether from an from Ivy League or state school -- is determined by the amount of student debt accrued versus lifetime income (actual and potential). If the student debt is high enough and takes long enough to pay down, then the higher lifetime salaries earned by a college graduate may not appreciably outstrip those of a high school only worker.

Now we can argue whether a kid should go to college or not. But one thing we can’t is whether a kid should receive a good high school education. It’s essential. We’ve got to stop dumbing down America or we’ll really be left behind.

Your thoughts?