Chris Powell: Worthless educations; yes, exploit working-class fears


From President Obama to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, elected officials are boasting aboutimprovements in high school graduation rates. But last week even The New York Times acknowledged that it's a fraud. For higher graduation rates are comingmainly at the expense of educational standards, since, while graduation ratesare up, "measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower."   

"The most recent evaluation of 12th-graders on a national test of reading andmath found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college-level work," TheTimes reported. "College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high."   

Recent testing of Connecticut high school students and state government’s ownmost recent survey of college freshmen show the same thing: Most students arenot mastering grade-level work but are promoted and awarded high school diplomasanyway, and most freshmen in the state university and community college systemsrequire remedial high school math or English or both.   

That's because Connecticut's educational policy now is formally one of socialpromotion. Promotion and graduation require no actual learning. Rather, onlysimple attendance is required. Promotion and graduation are left to thediscretion of local school boards, which have lost the nerve to enforcestandards that measure learning.     

Students and parents may be fooled by this dumbing down of education butemployers are not. While students eventually find out, leaving college withdegrees in politically correct fluff like "women's studies" and incurringcrushing student loan debt only to find themselves qualified to be only cashiersand burger flippers, by then it's too late. The education racket has taken theirmoney, and their futures, in the guise of protecting their self-esteem, whichshatters soon enough anyway.   

If mere higher graduation rates are the objective, Connecticut should distributehigh school diplomas with birth certificates. Actual education will requireimposing standards and measures of learning -- serious testing -- and riskinghurt feelings earlier.  

NO WORKING-CLASS HERO: President Obama complains that presidential candidateDonald Trump is exploiting the fears of the working class, and of course Trumpis. But those fears are entirely valid, since living standards for mostAmericans have been declining for several decades. Somebody should exploit those fears politically.     

To some extent the Obama administration has tried to assist the working class.  That's how the national medical insurance scheme dubbed "Obamacare" was meant, though increasingly it seems to be failing, driving up costs while leavingpeople with deductibles so high as to make it prohibitive for them to use theirinsurance.   

Meanwhile mergers and acquisitions in the economy have exploded, fueled bygovernment’s suppression of interest rates and the preferential access that bigbusiness has to capital. By one estimate mergers and acquisitions in the UnitedStates this year reached a record $2.5 trillion in value. These combinationsdiminish competition and thereby drive costs up and employment down. The ObamaJustice Department's Antitrust Division has slept through them.

FOOL, BRITANNIA: Trump wants to use religion to prohibit certain people fromentering the United States, whose anthem nevertheless identifies it as "the landof the free and the home of the brave."   

Responding to a petition protesting Trump, Britain's home secretary, Theresa May, says she might bar the presidential candidate from visiting thatcountry because she has the authority to exclude people who are not "conduciveto the public good." That is, she might keep people out for being controversial.    One of the U.K.'s several anthems says: "The muses still with freedom found/  Shall to thy happy coast repair." But soon those muses may be admitted only ifthey sing the right tune. 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.