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Thu September 6, 2012
Human capital v. college material, which kids go where?
Next week, we're hoping to sit down for a chat with political scientist and author Charles Murray. For the unfamiliar, Murray is a conservative thinker whose writings on race, achievement and the family have been hugely influential and plenty controversial.
His 1984 book Losing Ground changed the debate over how to deal with poverty in America, and served as the intellectual start-point for the 1996 welfare reform act. Murray's latest book, Coming Apart, explores how America is becoming more divided not just economically, but also socially. (Murray also made up a pretty fun quiz to test whether you live in a bubble.)
Tuesday, Murray will be debating Jared Bernstein at the University of Michigan in a back-and-forth about income inequality.
Today, Murray is invoked in a New York Times op-ed piece about which kids should get a shot at a college education. Murray has famously said that not everyone is four-year college material, and that some kids, particularly those who are not high-achievers in high school would be much better served by getting vocational training.
Michael Roth, a university president who wrote the op-ed, sketches a history of vocational education and the concerns of one of it's early critics, John Dewey. Roth, like Dewey before him, wonders whether pushing some kids in that direction (his assumption is that these kids are more likely to be from low-income neighborhoods) will entrench income inequality more deeply.
Roth's concern is that the kids who don't go to college are going to be looked at as "human capital," more specifically lower wage workers or soldiers. He worries that just like capital they would be easily spent.
What do you think? Is college a great equalizer or is it just debt with little benefit?
Can you tell ahead of time who is going to benefit and who isn't?