Am I the only man of the people in this gaggle? The three commentaries are all written from the perspective of people for whom the current system works just fine. A central tenet of my argument that we really ought to engage is this: The current system punishes the 70 percent of kids who don’t get BAs, and punishes them viciously. Surely none of the commentators will argue with that when it comes to the social punishments. (I’ll reserve the economic punishments for another time.) The class stigma that goes with being “just a high school graduate” is too obvious for anyone to deny it.
So if you have a system that punishes 70 percent of young people setting out in life, the first question to ask is, to what end? What are the compensating good things that the piece of paper called a BA provides that justify the punishment? It’s not enough to say that it provides information that, faute de mieux, employers find useful. The question to ask is: Can we provide the same information in any other way—and the answer is yes, easily.
Or consider the four years of time that a BA ordinarily requires. If you have the time and the money, no problem—and that seems to have been the case for the three commentators (as it was for me). Hey, I learned stuff, had a good time, and I was sorry to see the four years end. But what about all the young people who don’t have the time or the money for four years? There are a whole lot of them. Right now, we are saying to them that they have to go deep into debt and spend a couple of years that they don’t want to spend, because the BA takes four years, and that’s all there is to it. Why?
I guess I’m asking my colleagues to step back from a system that worked for them and consider the large majority of young people who are not in their position. The current system imposes severe punishments and burdens on them. We shouldn’t be doing it if we don’t have damned good reasons for it. What is it about the BA that necessitates those costs?