I'm talking about Barack Obama, the President of the United States. As you know by now, he gave the first State of the Union address of his second term. I always expect a lot of meaningless rhetoric, and more than a few lies, in any such speech from just about any politician. However, even by such dubious standards, Barack made a statement that is stunning in the dishonesty or cognitive dissonance it echoed. On top of that, it contradicted the sentence he uttered immediately before it.
Right in the middle of his speech, he claimed, "Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last four years." That, after he said, "But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt."
Well, Barry, which is it? Perhaps my worldview has been warped by the people with whom this blog has brought me into contact, but I would put my money on the sentence you uttered first. People who can't attend college, or incur "unsustainable" debt by attending, are all around us. You yourself admitted that you wouldn't have been able to pay off your loans were it not for your books.
Perhaps the worst part of Obama's speech--or, at least the worst of the part in which he talks about education--is that everything he said was premised on every wrong assumption held by educators, and people in policy-making decisions. For example, he touted the importance of pre-K schooling and rued the fact that only wealthy families can afford it. Well, how does one explain the fact that in Sweden, kids don't start attending school until they're seven years old, and that they have some of the highest levels of academic skills and achievements among their worldwide peers?
Also, he says that, in essence, the more time you spend in school, the better-paying a job (or more lucrative a business) you will have. That, in turn, makes you more capable of paying taxes and creating jobs.
Now, I'm not saying that education isn't necessary. However, we have to wonder about the degree to which schools, particularly colleges, are responsible for their graduates' successes. While it's true that while in school, we learn some of the things we need to know in order to achieve our goals, we still have to wonder about how much the highly successful owe to their schools. Yes, I know that "not everybody is a Bill Gates". But about highly successful people who graduate, it's fair to ask how much going to School X made them Entrepreneur Y, or whether people like Entrepreneur Y were going to become who they were anyway and just happened to go to schools like School X along the way.
To be fair, though, Obama's understanding of the situation is no worse than that of most other people. In fact, he echoes everything that's accepted as "conventional wisdom". I can't really fault him for that, either: Highly ambitious people who aren't born into privilege so often do exactly that: They tell their teachers, professors, bosses and anyone else with influence exactly what they want to hear, or some reasonable facsimile thereof. I know I did the same thing and, on occasion, catch myself doing it. Perhaps he's been echoing "conventional wisdom" for so long that he doesn't even know--or think about the fact that--he is doing it.
I won't get into the rest of his speech, except to say that it's as much a product of his adherence to, and echoing of, "accepted wisdom" as what he says about education. I have just enough education to know that.