Reading Bob Herbert

this morning felt something like, "yes, yes, right on, absolutely, well-said, yes, yes, WHAT? NO!"

I'll explain.

His column laments the current lack of leadership in the US. He mentions the non-issues (Larry Craig) currently competing with, and beating, real issues for politician brain-space, such as it is.

So what are the real issues?

A study released last spring showed that men who are now in their 30s earn less than their fathers’ generation did at the same age. The median income for men in their 30s in 1974, in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars, was $40,210. According to the study, which used Census figures compiled for 2004, those annual earnings had dropped to $35,010.

President Bush’s unconscionable veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program comes at a time when the number of uninsured children is rising and employer-based health insurance is going the way of rotary phones and carbon paper. That’s not neglect. That’s willfully doing harm to children.

And as he points out, this is not doom-and-gloom, here. This is just acknowledging the problems so you can get to fixing them:

In the first two or three decades after World War II, there was a broad sense of optimism, a strongly held belief, despite many crises, that Americans could achieve great things. Men and women of talent and vision gave us the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill, the interstate highway program, the Peace Corps, the space program, the civil rights movement and much more.

Where is the comparable vision for the early-21st century? Who is rallying America with the clarion call that we can do great things?

Yes, yes, right on, absolutely...
One of the paramount challenges of the new era is the task of getting a legitimate four-year college degree into the hands of as many American young people as possible. A four-year degree has become a virtual prerequisite for a middle-class quality of life. The overall benefits to the country of such an explosive improvement in educational achievement are incalculable.
bold = well, yes, that would be nice, but...
italics = are you talking about academics or job training?

When I hear phrases like "into the hands" and "prerequisite" and "quality of life," I'm not so sure you're talking about the Bachelor's Degree. That sounds to me like the High School Diploma, before high school became a way to waste four years of millions of people's lives.

Perhaps I'm biased: I did not finish high school. In 1990, when I was 15 years old, high school was the place I was obligated to be for 8 hours a day, where I learned nothing, aced tests, won arguments against teachers and administrators (but still ended up punished), and so on. About the most valuable thing I did in high school was write my first (since lost, thankfully) novel during classes when I was supposed to be "learning" things I already knew. What was this great education I came in with? I used to go to the library with my dad and read books (history, philosophy, religion, poetry, etc.), play games with my family (logic, math, etc.), and watch science/nature programming on TV (yes, that was more rigorous than taking science classes at my high school). High school was, in short, a dumbed-down total waste of time -- with talent shows. High school left me with a bad attitude, a misplaced sense of superiority, and a desperate desire to go somewhere else. Halfway through the 10th grade, my wonderful, incredible, stupendously insightful mother pulled me out of high school and enrolled me in the local community college, where things were slightly better, and even if they hadn't been, I only had to be there a few hours a day.

Now my understanding is that the quality of American public education has only gone down since 1990, that in addition to being a waste of time, there aren't even as many talent shows anymore -- testing is too important to take a break for that.

So to suggest that the fix for our economic woes to is to shove more people through college really upsets me. Why not take the time and space that's already being used to make them dull and obedient, and re-structure that time so that people leave high school with the prerequisite for that middle-class lifestyle? Because college should not be seen as some hoop you gotta jump through if you want to put food on your family: that's essentially making it into the high school diploma, but telling them they can't have it until they're 23.

Am I wrong?

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