Ask Not What Your Education Can Do for You…


While researching this week's column, I was struck by this passage about education in President Obama's recent speech to Congress (emphasis added):

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country—and this country needs and values the talents of every American

The collectivism implicit in this rhetoric is pretty creepy. Evidently all of us have a duty to optimize our educations so we can maximize our earnings and give our country the full benefit of our talents. "Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma," Obama decrees. But why stop there? If someone with strong mathematical and spatial reasoning abilities majors in sociology instead of engineering, it's plain that he will not be giving his country as much value (and tax revenue) as he could. What about the potential doctor who decides to play the violin or the writer who could have been a software developer? Given Obama's premise, it's hard to see why such choices should be permitted, especially when the country is so generously subsidizing higher education.