What if Charles Murray is right?

Murray has made a career of the contrary. He just loves to piss people off and that can make it easy to miss or ignore important truth in his suppositions. AEI reviewed his newest book, Real Education, and outlined his four points:

Ability varies

Half the children are below average

Too many people are going to college

America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted

All four warrant full discussion, but tonight I’ll focus on #3 because career and technical education professional stopped me in the hallway of a district office today and whispered, “what if Charles Murray is right.” The real problem isn’t that we’re sending too many kids to college, it’s that we’re sending too many unprepared kids to college where most of them drop out. And as Murray points out, even prepared students are often ill-served by a watered down survey curriculum.

We could learn a lot from the Danes, who revamped career education a decade ago.  They offer a large percentage of young people two valuable options after a year or two of technical training—take a family wage job or continue with further and higher education. President Obama and the Gates Foundation are on the right track with a focus on community colleges—our best hope for upgrading and expanding access to career education.

To Murray’s other points, I’ll just point out that he undervalues the role of effort in achievement (school and life) and places no value on equity of opportunity (much less equity of outcome) when millions of kids still live in historically underserved communities. We’ll both be happy when education becomes far more personalized and tailored to individual gifts and needs.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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