“Completing this form is a critical start to completing your education,” noted First Lady Michelle Obama. It was a Wednesday in February, and she had traveled from the confines of the White House to a nearby Virginia high school to lecture students on applying for “free” federal financial aid for college.
“You don’t have to be the valedictorian” Mrs. Obama continued. “You don’t have to major in a certain subject. You don’t even have to be at the very bottom of the income ladder to receive the money. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your future.”
Determining the “single most important thing” for a young person’s future is a task that might otherwise make parents, teachers and counselors pause and contemplate. But for the wife of our current President the answer is obvious: get your government handout before you do anything else.
Sadly, the generation that is being told to “just sign up” by both the President and his wife is a generation that will feel the pain of America’s decline, likely worse than any other. And both present-day high school and college students, along with recent college graduates, are already feeling the pain of at least a few decades of flawed policies that have emanated from both government and academia.
Consider these harsh realities:
America’s “information-based, knowledge-based economy” has reached its limits: For at least the last twenty-five years or so the U.S. has been on a pathway of not manufacturing much, not exporting much, and not utilizing its own natural resources. In the early days of the digital technology revolution this approach to constructing our economy worked pretty well – our technological components may have been built in China, Vietnam or India, but the blue prints, the “intellectual capital” that laid the ground work for it all, came from “educated” Americans.
But as technology has matured, the demand for new “blueprints” (and for those who create them) has substantially slowed-down. Now suddenly in the second decade of the 21st century knowing how to operate a lathe or a drill press is once again a valuable bit of knowledge, and the jobs that aren’t being created for our lack of using oil, timber and mineral resources are painfully apparent.
The global economy has changed, but academia hasn’t adequately adapted: From K-12 to the post-secondary level, the world of American education perpetuates itself with phrases and clichés: “Be cool, stay in school.” “Education is the key.” “A college education gives a young person $1 million to $2 million more in lifetime earnings.”
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.