A couple of weeks ago, I started reading the new book Crossing the Finish Line, which purports to make the case for getting a lot more young Americans not only into, but through college. Almost immediately, I got stuck on the authors' assumption that college does much to increase the human capital of students. That assumption is crucial to their case, but I think it's highly questionable. Many colleges and universities are chiefly interested in processing through as many bodies as possible and have therefore watered down their standards to the point where students can pass courses with only the mental toolkit they had in high school. In athletics, the saying is "No pain, no gain." To keep weak and indifferent students happy, a lot of schools make it possible to get through college without any pain. Whether college adds to human capital or is just a costly period of marching in place is the subject of my Pope Center Clarion Call piece today.
- November 18, 2009