Charles Murray on Education
By Arnold Kling
it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges…
No data that I have been able to find tell us what proportion of those students really want four years of college-level courses, but it is safe to say that few people who are intellectually unqualified yearn for the experience, any more than someone who is athletically unqualified for a college varsity wants to have his shortcomings exposed at practice every day. They are in college to improve their chances of making a good living. What they really need is vocational training. But nobody will say so…
Large numbers of those who are intellectually qualified for college also do not yearn for four years of college-level courses. They go to college because their parents are paying for it and college is what children of their social class are supposed to do after they finish high school. They may have the ability to understand the material in Economics 1 but they do not want to. They, too, need to learn to make a living–and would do better in vocational training.
Combine those who are unqualified with those who are qualified but not interested, and some large proportion of students on today’s college campuses–probably a majority of them–are looking for something that the four-year college was not designed to provide.
This is the second of three essays. In the first, he points out that it is unrealistic to promise to educate all K-12 students to the same level.
Unfortunately, Murray takes a very strong IQ-deterministic view, which will lead a lot of people to dismiss what he has to say. I believe that the point that too many students are going to college–or, conversely, that colleges are not properly serving many of their students–is difficult enough for people to grasp (although to me it seems obvious). It is too important a point to get tangled up with controversies about the meaning and the nature of IQ.