12/10/2010

The Cost of Inclusion

At the school where I teach, we "enjoy" all of the fruits of our inclusive society. We do our best to cater to non-English speaking students, even though we have practically no foreign language skills among our faculty. We try to find a way to include students with all sorts of mental and physical handicaps. At the core, we are a vocational school (as terrible a thing as that seems to be these days) and while our educational focus is directed toward giving students the background for obtaining jobs, our administration (and federal and state law) appears to be disconnected from the fact that some disabilities preclude the possibility of success in some fields of employment.

There is a delusion in the United States that we "can be anything" we want to be if we just want it bad enough. Working hard to achieve success is generally considered to be unnecessary. Having skills and natural abilities is equally superfluous.  All that matters is that we want something and are given a chance to achieve it. This is an extension of the American weirdness that puts individual rights over the obvious needs of society. Not only do you have the right to prepare yourself for an occupation and employers who wouldn't employ you under any circumstances, but you have a right to require the public to provide you with a school loan that you will never be able to repay.

Here's a hot tip: if you are 62 years old, fat, short, slow, and as agile as a wounded hippo, you can not play professional basketball. In fact, if you are any one of the above things you can not play professional basketball. If you can't sing, you won't star on "American Idol." (Of course, if you are the spoiled offspring of a wingnut media star, you might be a finalist on “Dancing with the Stars” because only nimrod wingnuts watch something as dumb as DwtS and they will, obviously, vote for anything if it is stupid enough.) If you are unable to master the basic concepts of algebra, you will be an unemployable engineer, scientist, or math teacher. If you are lazy, you will fail at everything you attempt. (Unless you are a rich kid, then money trumps everything in politics and business.) If you are stupid, you will be doomed to a career behind a fast food counter, hauling garbage, driving a truck or a road construction implement, or (if you are a child of our ruling class) managing one of the nation's financial institutions. No amount of legalistic coddling will convince anyone to hire you for a job for which you have no ability (unless you have Daddy's money). You may have a degree in Creative Writing, but if you can't write you won't sell books (unless . . . you know). You could, however, be an intern editor at most of the nation's publishing houses for as long as your school loans will support you or Daddy's money holds out.

Reality doesn't have much of a grip on political correctness and federal legislation, though. As in everything about our system, it will apparently require a massive, painful, disastrous depression or a population-depleting plague for us to come to our senses. We will keep pretending that little Buford can become anything he wants to become, simply because several of the dumbest people ever born have become President of the United States. It would be worth noticing that any damn collection of cells can make it to the top if those cells come from the ruling class; Bush II being the best ever example of that. However, people who rise through the classes are a whole different breed from the harelipped spawn of our social elites. Like them or not, Ike, Carter, Clinton, and Obama are considerably brighter than the average schmo on the street. We've had a few mental midgets from the working class, Nixon and Reagan come to mind almost instantly, but the majority of ground-up Presidents have been pretty exceptional people. The representatives of the ruling class haven't been so impressive. Other than the two Roosevelt's and Kennedy, you have to go back to the early 1800's to find an example of a brilliant rich kid rising to power. And Kennedy doesn't look so good under close examination.

Since too much of our "higher education system" has become a babysitting service for rich kids, I suppose it makes sense that we've dumbed down the standards of education to accommodate that bunch. I think it's cruel to set these kids' sights higher than Congress, Wall Street, or the other repositories of fools and bums. It would be unfair and unkind to tell a doofus like G.W. Bush that he could "do anything." His whole life was about proving that he couldn't do anything and that's exactly what he proved while he hung out in the White House. So, in the interests of kindness I recommend that federal college loans be given to kids who have some hope of actually being educated. The rest of us should remain content in the knowledge that most of "higher education" is boring, pointless, and barely manages to be poor preparation for a management position at Starbucks.

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