July 4th, 2400 A.D.

Should your son or daughter earn a college degree? I know college is not for everyone.

However, if you want a future for your children that equals the opportunity you had in your life, an undergraduate college degree is nearly imperative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.7 percent of those with college degrees are unemployed in 2010.

The 2010 high school graduation season is now just a memory. Even though we celebrate the accomplishment of commencement from high school with gifts and praise, it is not the ticket to life’s success it once was. Unfortunately, that is the cold hard truth and we cannot go back.

My father-in-law has an eighth grade education, and he was an aircraft mechanic at Alameda Naval Base. He was able to buy a house in San Jose, a car, send his four children to private schools and vacation in Tahoe every year on one military aircraft mechanics salary.

As opposed to past generations, high school graduates are unable to obtain the number of high-paying jobs that were obtainable a generation ago. The U.S. has been transformed from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based interconnected global one. 

Some say that a college education is equivalent to a high school education four decades ago. My father-in-law’s story could never be played out the same today. He was never unemployed.

The United States ranks seventeenth when compared to all major industrialized nations among those with four year degrees. In addition, we have a high school dropout crisis in this state and country where over 30 percent of the students that begin high school never graduate.

This reality dooms the high school dropout to a life of underemployment, unemployment and minimum wage jobs.

There should be no doubt that education serves as a gateway to increased life options and opportunities. Those with college degrees are generally more tolerant of the perspectives and views of others.

Although, I wonder sometimes about that when I see our democracy play out in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, our own State Capital — and I must admit even on local school boards.

I believe that college prepares us to see multiple sides of issues and this is an essential quality of life in the 21st century, especially in these contentious times. I believe this is true irrespective of what side of the political aisle for which one aligns.

With yesterday’s passing of U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (WV), it was evident that his perspective changed with education and experience. Amazingly, while in his 20s Senator Byrd was the Exalted Cyclops of the KKK in the 1940s.

After going to night school for 11 years he graduated with a law degree from American University’s Washington College when he was 46 years old. Even though he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 — which he viewed as a huge mistake — he was able to endorse Senator Obama for President in 2008. 

Upon taking office, President Obama set an ambitious national goal of increasing the number of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. by 60 percent in the next decade. In order to meet this goal, we must refer to individuals with some college, as the illustrative example of Senator Byrd gives us, who are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Over 50 million Americans fit into this category.

They can complete a college degree in just a few years, and therefore boost the productivity of our American work force. We must be bold enough to fund higher education so our public institutions of higher learning can accommodate the increased enrollment.

I strongly believe in vocational and career technical education as an important cornerstone of our secondary system of schooling. We must invest more in this area now.

As I said, college is not for everyone. Still, we must come to the realization that today we do not have the work force needed for our information-based global economy to prosper. Unless we reduce the high school dropout rate, and increase the college graduation rate, we are on a collision course with our future.

According to history, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire took over three centuries. I fear that in 2400 A.D., if we are not doomed by other man-made catastrophes before then, textbooks in other lands will chronicle America’s decline and eventual fall.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

13 Comments

  1. “Even though we celebrate the accomplishment of commencement from high school with gifts and praise, it is not the ticket to life’s success it once was. Unfortunately, that is the cold hard truth and we cannot go back.”

    ….Of course we could go back.  All it would take is a surcharge on imports that would equal the amount the off-shore manufacturers save on low wages, no workers’ comp, no health programs, no retirement programs, etc.  There is nothing magical about globalizing…it is merely the search for the lowest paid, cheapest, disposable worker.  We could easily remove the advantage that immoral wage rates provide to an unscrupulous employer through an import surcharge.

    “I believe that college prepares us to see multiple sides of issues and this is an essential quality of life in the 21st century, especially in these contentious times.”

    ….College is merely a place for brain-washing into the dominant ideology of the urban-coastal class.  It takes years for critical thinkers to completely unravel the fictions that are taught at any large college in English, education, social science, history, and gender & sex studies departments.  College does not teach critical thinking, it teaches conformity to received ignorance as spewed out by surly, petty professors and teaching assistants.

    Even a federal judge has ruled that students in education at San Jose State must say the “correct” words in classes no matter what they believe.  Saying a creed is simply the first step in brain-washing.

  2. Jay sayeth:

    > ….College is merely a place for brain-washing into the dominant ideology of the urban-coastal class.  It takes years for critical thinkers to completely unravel the fictions that are taught at any large college in English, education, social science, history, and gender & sex studies departments.  College does not teach critical thinking, it teaches conformity to received ignorance as spewed out by surly, petty professors and teaching assistants.

    You Da Man!

    In a more innocent and honest era, this might be characterized as “speaking truth to power”.

    Now it’s more likely just venting carbon dioxide at deaf, learning disabled, tenured bureaucrats who suck money out of the system with no accountability.

  3. > According to history, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire took over three centuries.

    In the case of the US, I think things could be speeded up a bit if we were somehow able to put an incompetent, narcissistic nihilist in charge of the country.

    Especially if it were one who denied American exceptionalism, hated capitalism, the free market economy, individual liberty, and self-determination.

  4. http://www.garynorth.com

    Young Woman with a $100,000 Debt for College May Never Get Out of Debt. Who Would Marry Her?
    Gary North
    May 31,2010

    This woman’s mother wanted her to get in the best college possible, no matter what the cost. The mother did not warn her about the $100,000 debt. She graduated from NYU, not a top-tier university.

    She cannot escape. The interest owed keeps building. It is almost impossible to escape student loan dent through bankruptcy.

    She could have gotten the same degree for under $15,000. She would owe nothing. A man might marry her.

    Any man who marries a college graduate today had better run a credit check on her. She should do the same on him. Being saddled with a huge debt and not finding out until after the honeymoon is not the way to begin a marriage.

    What are these people thinking of?

    These students are driven by ego. So are their parents. “I want the best.” Fine; pay for it up front. Can’t afford this? Go somewhere cheaper. Simple.

    But in this era of phony symbols and bad economic planning, students and their parents take the bait. They attend high-priced schools whose B.A. degrees give them little or no competitive advantage in the entry-level job market.

    There are ways around this nonsense. Here is my advice.

    http://www.garynorth.com/public/729.cfm

    • Why does college tuition continue to escalate well above the rate of inflation?  The land is owned and the buildings are mostly built, with the new ones mostly susidized by alumni gifts.

      Tenured professors pulling down the biggest bucks, but actually teaching very few classes.  The T.A.s do that, while those that cannot be fired do “research” or “write” a book.

      Add to that the bloated administrative bureacuracy, also headed by highly paid people who add litle to the educational experience, and you have a situation where it takes five years to get out, with a huge debt load.

      And after all that, they cannot find jobs, so they keep the food server jobs they held while attending college.

  5. Having formalized documents of certification (diplomas, etc.) from institutions associated with education might help a person get a better job, but merely being educated is almost a complete non-factor in the vast majority of employment situations.  No one cares whether you’re educated or not, unless you’re doing a specific job that requires a specific skill set associated with academic knowledge.  Being educated can actually work against you, because it often makes you seem weird to most people, and Human Resources ain’t real interested in weirdos.

    The main reason college is so heavily promoted in our society is because high school isn’t capable of brain washing people to the extent the elites would prefer.  In order to create a cadre of people who will implement the policies of a jackass government like ours (from federal down to municipal), you need a pool of people who have been trained for several years in the mentally aberrant lies and morally perverse superstitions which presently constitute much of the higher education curriculum.

  6. I wonder how DiSalvo explains away Sen. Byrd’s use of “white n-g-e-s” on Fox TV on March 4, 2001, to describe some of his white American constituents? 

    DiSalvo says above that after going to night school for 11 years, Byrd graduated with a law degree when he was 46 years old (1963) which “changed his perspective,” Byrd having been “the Exalted Cyclops of the KKK in the 1940s.”

    It appears that Byrd never made a full recovery, that he just learned to hate white people.  Maybe he learned it in night law school. Oh, and he never apologized to those he denigrated.

  7. Having no association with the publisher nor author an extremely worthwhile read is available from J J Luna.
    Further investigation can be gathered when one uses a search engine and either under his name, or Canary I.P., where you can digest the wisdom which comes from one long experienced in how to do what- in very specific as specialized ways.

  8. Many college degrees are worthless in job market and after incurring $50-100,000 debt the students are worst off than their friends who went to vocational school or got police, fire or government jobs

    Most students are not told that what degree you get, what school you attend and a high grade point average is important in your future job success and that you need to come out of school with marketable skills not just a degree

    Starting pay for top school high grade point most desired skill based degrees is 100-200% more than many of liberal arts, history, political, social sciences   ethic studies or degrees with little job demand

    Colleges could reduce 4 year degree to 3 years by eliminating 1/2 to 2/3rds of undergraduate required courses and not accepting students until they pass basic prerequisite courses which would reduce costs and time to get a degree 25-30%

    US is falling behind other countries because many of college degrees granted US students have little or no relevance in job market while students from other countries come to US colleges for engineering , medicine , biology and other hard science or skills degrees

    US has some of best colleges in world and some of worst career guidance for students and therefore many students waste 1 or many years of expensive education while going into unnecessary debt for al most worthless degrees

  9. Take online classes, take AP exams. You can examine out of the first year of two. Read garynorth for more info

    http://www.garynorth.com

    If I had read his info, I would have saved $200k and a loan against my house. And my daughter would have had the same degree!

    Do NOT go into debt for college! Not necessary. Do junior college, online classes, CLEP exam etc

  10. Grade inflation is where the bar is lowered for whatever reason (promote self-esteem, not be judgemental) such that students earn A’s and B’s in High School for good attendance without actually doing good work.  The result is that a High School diploma ain’t worth that much anymore.

    The other side of the coin is that a generic Bachelors degree opens some doors (especially in government sector jobs where HR is checking boxes off to rate or classify you) but outside of vocational degrees doesn’t always match up with the skill sets required on the job.

    Many kids don’t know what they want to do at 18,19,20,21…etc….and our society provides community colleges and four year universities as a relatively painless way to take some time to find yourself and explore some options.

    Military service is considered blue collar and ghetto, but offers the real benefit of educational support after completing a two or three year enlistment which empowers people to go to a school of their choice and take what they want without having to check in with mom and dad on whether its okay and could you help me with tuition this semester.

    I’d suggest military service for any young person who’s frustrated with parental control but not ready to really go to school as a way to really emancipate themselves financially from dependency on either parents or dead end service jobs.

    For those dead-set on hating the military, consider the Coast Guard or Peace Core as alternatives, but doing something is character building and likely to lead to a more solid foundation for adult life.