09 January 2020

[Ryan Ralston] - HIGHER EDUCATION: US v. THEM (Minus Loyalty) Pt. IV

The devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. 
The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” 
“He picked up a piece of the truth,” said the devil. 
“That is very bad business for you then,” said the friend. 
“Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to help him organize it.” 
– Jiddu Krisnamurti, Died, February 17th, 1986

The divide within our nation is along sociopolitical positions – and partisan aggression is more widespread - than at any point in the last twenty-five years. This truth is expressed in many ways, both in our neighborhoods and politics (on local, state, and national levels). Ideological thinking is aligned with political leanings. Hate-filled rhetoric dominates headlines, with each party maintaining a “less than favorable” view of their opposition. No longer does productive dialogue and commonality exists within our two-party system. 92% of Republicans are to the right of the average Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the average Republican. 
After the dust settles, who lies amongst the ruins? 
In American politics, dislike between the two parties is not new. It existed well before the Civil War. Today these sentiments are broader and sharper with the rise of the internet and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 
In part one of the US v. THEM series, we studied the roots of policing in America, Reagan’s declared War on Drugs, and the resulting militarization of police forces that directly contributed to division between those communities labeled “dangerous” by governmental entities and the police forces themselves. 
Next, in part two, we questioned the rise of America’s police state, examined the negative consequences of mass incarceration of the poor and minority communities, outlined the need for true criminal justice reform, and discovered the exploitative behavior of criminal courts utilizing private, “for profit” probation companies.  
We then revealed, in part three, how the media is not immune from the same biases that impact the communities they cover and that those biases are direct contributors to poor journalist integrity and story content.   
In our latest installment, we continue our discussion on bias and focus our attention on a troubling issue faced by young adults; the introduction to the divisive nature of our two-party political system while attending a government high school or traditional college. 
Young adults – the majority not having developed uniform political views prior to age 18, characteristically possess moderate ideological opinion - are now inundated by the established partisan doctrine embedded within our traditional secondary education system.  Most young adults believe their representative government should meet “in the middle” to address and resolve social issues rather than punish the whole for the sins of the few. 
The harsh reality remains, the majority political party in control, imposes its will on the minority. 
Historically, Americans see value in a gaining a higher education – regardless if they graduated from college or not. Most believe a college degree is key to helping one succeed, and college graduates themselves say their degree supported the development of the skills needed to be successful in the workforce. 
Yet, fewer than half of today’s young adults are enrolled in a traditional four-year college. Instead, many are turning to technical schools. 
A technical school is a specialized institution that allows one to pursue a course of education related to an industry-needed, specific skillset. Common courses of study are mechanical, electrical, automotive, carpentry, HVAC, and plumbing. These schools also include fields as diverse as culinary arts, music production, graphic design, computer programming, cosmetology, and practical nursing.  
The simplicity of a technical school: get in, get your training, and get to work, creates a defined career path that, by design, delivers a student their desired certification in two years or less. That efficiency, compared to the four years needed to complete a traditional college degree, with extra costs buried in electives and liberal arts studies, is a selling point for young adults. 
It is those young adults, after the dust settles, who lie amongst the ruins. 
There exists a growing frustration among young adults about what role colleges’ play in society, the way admission decisions are handled (i.e. the 2019 college admissions scandal investigated by the FBI), and the perception that freedom of speech is being controlled on campuses. 
These negative views are primarily held by those young adults who self-identify as conservative or independent and lean Republican. These concerns rose from 37% to 59% over the last four years. 
19% of college students who self-identify as conservative or independent and lean Republican said they have no confidence at all in college professors to act in the best interest of the public. 
In comparison, the views of those who self-identify as liberal or independent and lean Democrat have remained consistently positive about the colleges’ role in society (varying between 62% and 68%). Those same college students also believe universities (and professors) are open to a varying range of opinions and viewpoints. 
These contrasting beliefs can ostensibly be linked to our current political climate. 
The rise of ideological control of our secondary education system (traditional colleges and universities) has been much more pronounced since 2010, following the mid-term elections. 38% of traditional college students who self-identify as liberal remain a consistent Democratic voter following graduation. While those who self-identify as conservative appear less dedicated to party ideals – 33% remain a consistent Republican voter following graduation. 
Enrollment in traditional college has declined every single fall between 2011 and 2016. Enrollment peaked at 20.6 million in 2010, but by autumn 2016, there were over 1 million less applicants.
But, why? 

Twenty-five years ago, most Republican voters had unfavorable impressions of the Democratic Party, however, 17% held very unfavorable opinions. Democratic voters viewed their counterparts with the same attitude, 16% held very unfavorable views. 
By 2019 a paradigm shift occurred: 43% of Republican voters and 38% of Democratic voters viewed the opposition party in strongly negative terms.
The new strategy for gaining political power: If loyalty can’t get a voter to the polls, perhaps hatred will. 
Despite the fact 82% of American voters are “disgusted” by negative campaigning, political candidates employ “mudslinging” for one simple reason: the human appeal to anger and its subsequent polarization, works. Voters might not like negative campaigning, but they do take note. 
Roughly 50% of voters for each party say the other side makes them feel afraid and view their policies as a threat.
Two recent examples include: 
 “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” – Republican politician 
“Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” – Democratic politician 
Contained inside this engineered polarization, people feel distant from, and distrustful of, others. At the same time, they feel loyal to, and trusting of, their own – without acknowledging their own biases. 
Who else takes advantage of this divisive political rhetoric? As previously discussed in our series, biased journalists and news organizations. Thus, completing this vicious cycle of endless hatred. The truth and honest reporting be damned. 
When it comes to living their lives, liberals and conservatives self-segregate; it is now next to impossible to exist inside one’s own philosophical bubble. 
Although most Republicans (conservatives) don’t understand Democrats (liberals) – and most Democrats don’t understand Republicans, one thing they can agree on is hatred for the other party. 
Conservatives who utilize social media are more likely to connect with those who share their same ideological opinions, limiting their exposure to differing points of view. 
47% of Republican voters name Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics. 88% of those who self-identify as conservative, view Fox News as “trustworthy.” 
Allsides.com, a website that studies and rates bias in the media, lists Fox News as “lean right.” 

The criteria listed on their website, defines lean right (or conservative) bias as
“A Lean Right bias is a moderately conservative rating on the political spectrum. Sources with this rating may moderately show favor for at least some of the following:
Decreasing government involvement in economic issues
Decreasing federal regulations in general, giving more power to state laws
Belief that government should be as small and non-intrusive as possible, leaving individuals to make their own decisions
Personal responsibility
Freedom of speech
Decreasing government spending, except for defense spending
Decreasing taxes
Preserving the rights of gun owners
Belief in the sovereignty of the individual over the collective
Using military force when it protects American interests
Maintaining strong border security: ensuring all immigrants enter through a legal process and are properly vetted to make certain they are not violent criminals; preventing illegal immigrants from entering or staying in the country
Rejection of laws that impose unnecessary burdens on businesses/the economy
Rejection of entitlements and public funding for private needs (like healthcare)
Outlawing or restricting abortion
A belief that government should be as small as possible
Traditional family values
Aversion to rapid change; belief that tradition and prevailing norms were developed for a reason and contain wisdom that has been handed down and should be preserved
Preserving the philosophy and rules enshrined in the U.S. Constitution
Preserving cultural norms, often as outlined in the Bible, through the use of state laws
Rejection of identity politics, affirmative action, the ‘welfare state’
Balanced government budgets and fiscal conservatism.” 
66% of Republican voters say most of their close friends share similar views on government and politics.

The top five US lean right or conservative colleges (according to Niche.com) are: 
  1. Brigham Young University, Idaho, Republican Governor
  2. Cedarville University, Ohio, Republican Governor
  3. Liberty University, Virginia, Democrat Governor 
  4. Bob Jones University, South Carolina, Republican Governor
  5. Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Republican Governor  
Liberals are not quite as picky when it comes to their chosen sources of media. They rely on a greater variety of news sources to establish and formulate opinion, generally turning to outlets like NPR or PBS. 
Allsides.com rates NPR and PBS as “center to lean left.”
The criteria listed on their website, defines center (or centrist) to lean left (or liberal) bias as:  
“A Center media bias rating does not necessarily mean a source is unbiased, neutral, perfectly reasonable, or credible. It simply means the source or writer rated does not predictably publish perspectives favoring either end of the political spectrum — conservative or liberal.
A Center outlet either doesn't show much bias at all, or its bias leans to the left and right equally at different times.
A media outlet with a Center rating may omit important perspectives. A Center outlet may leave out valid arguments from the left or right. For example, in the 20th century, mainstream Center media outlets did not prominently cover support for gay marriage. In addition, many issues did not gain coverage in mainstream Center outlets until post-2014, such as arguments for marijuana legalization, criticism of the War on Drugs, the American opioid epidemic, and criminal justice reform.
While it may be easy to think that we should only consume media from Center outlets, AllSides believes Center is not necessarily the answer. By reading only Center outlets, we may still encounter bias or omission of important issues and perspectives. For this reason, it is important to consume a balanced news diet.”
“Lean left bias is a moderately liberal rating on the political spectrum. Sources with this rating may moderately show favor for at least some of the following:
Government services (food stamps, social security, Medicare, student-loans, unemployment benefits, healthcare, education, etc.)
Federal laws to protect consumers and the environment
Federal laws protecting equal rights
Tax increases on the wealthy
Government regulation of corporations
Keeping abortion legal
Decreasing military spending and intervention
A belief that the role of government is to provide for its people, to end suffering and contribute to human prosperity
A belief that government should prevent wealth from concentrating in the hands of a few
A belief that all humans have a right to healthcare, housing, clean water, a living wage
A belief that all people deserve help from the state when they have fallen on hard times
An embrace of empathy, compassion, and tolerance as guiding values
A belief in the importance of multiculturalism and representation of diverse cultures and races in media, positions of political power, and corporations
A rejection of social and economic inequality
Bans on hate speech, i.e., a belief that words can be violent
A belief in ‘live and let live,’ i.e., that the government should not intervene just because someone is acting in ways someone else does not approve of, provided they have harmed no one else
A belief that corporations, if left unregulated, may do harm to workers, society and the environment in the pursuit of profit
A belief in identity politics, i.e., that some groups of people suffer disproportionately greater amounts in society due to identity characteristics, including race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion
A belief in systemic oppression and a need for the government to step in and rectify the wrongs it has committed (such as Native American genocide, Jim Crow-era laws).” 
Liberals who utilize social media platforms are more likely to follow issue-based groups (such as MoveOn.org), rather than an established political party or candidate, and block or “unfriend” someone on social media  – going as far as ending a personal relationship – because of a disagreement about politics. 
The top five US lean left or liberal colleges (according to Niche.com) are:
  1. Mills College, California, Democrat Governor 
  2. Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, Democrat Governor 
  3. American University, Washington DC, Democrat Mayor 
  4. University of California – Berkeley, California, Democrat Governor
  5. NY University, New York, Democrat Governor
For purposes of clarity, if the word bias (referring to any type) is confusing, replace it with the word prejudice and you might better understand how divisive it can be. That’s all bias is; discrimination in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another. 
Another factor drawing young adults away from a traditional college education, according to Business Insider, is the cost, which increased by 260% from 1980 to 2014. The year Reagan was elected, tuition and housing for a four-year college education cost an average American family $9,438. By 2015, the cost skyrocketed to: $23,872.
Why do so many government public high schools push a traditional college degree, when current research shows one’s future is more likely to be spent engaging in a practical trade, rather than sitting behind an office desk?  
The question itself contains part of the answer: government public high schools (meaning the probability of political bias is present). Keep in mind; a non-traditional student who attends and graduates from a technical school, has a greater chance of financially maturing into a self-reliant adult despite government influence. 
Government has a long history of binding its people into indebtedness, i.e. the current $23 trillion dollar national deficit. $1.3 trillion of those dollars is traditional college student loan debt. 
Let’s examine another possible contributing factor to the decline in traditional college enrollment: Local boards of education have become political institutions. A subdivided bureaucracy within a bureaucracy.  Members are elected, in part, for the (D) or (R), behind the last letter of their last name. 
The Newton County BOE is no exception. 
Case in point. Taken directly from an online article (Buff Returning to Newton High as Principal) at rockdalenewtoncitizen.com, dated May 3rd, 2017:
“Buff began her career in education at Newton High as a social studies teacher in 2005. She taught ninth-grade American government. She went on to serve as the social studies department chair at the school before getting promoted to assistant principal in 2012. She then moved to an administrative role with the district in 2013 as the director of secondary education.
Her appointment was approved by a 4-1 vote by the Board of Education during a special called meeting last Friday. District 3 Representative Shakila Henderson-Baker cast the dissenting vote.
‘I’ve always made it an important fact for the kids in that school to see someone who has come from the community that they come from,’ she said during a discussion at the meeting. Henderson-Baker is an alumna of Newton High and represents the area where the school lies. 
‘I think it’s important that they see someone that looks like them, doing good things, (someone) that comes from the neighborhood,’ she added.”
What initially appears as an unassuming concern raised by an elected Board member, upon further analysis, is revealed to be dissention, more probable than not, predicated on bias.  
Baker (D), a black female, represents Newton County High School, which has a predominately black study body. Demographics are as follows: 76% black, 10% white, 8% hispanic, 6% other. 
Buff, a white female (non-politician), holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from the University of Georgia, a master’s in educational leadership from Georgia College and State University, a specialist degree in educational leadership from GCSU, and a doctorate from Walden University. 
Buff was selected to be the principal of Newton County High School and is currently the only white administrator at the school. 
Buff’s qualifications were not called into question by Baker. By word, Baker gives the impression she infused bias into a decision-making process, allowing it to potentially influence her vote. Baker’s assertion: an important fact for students at NHS is to see someone who has come from the community that they come from, preferably a predominantly non-white community. Baker claims: it’s important that NHS students see someone that looks like them (preferably a non-white principal, based on student body demographics), doing good things (as their preferred non-white principal). Yet, Baker provides no tangible evidence or supporting testimony from a member of the NHS study body to corroborate her statements. She simply offers unsubstantiated, personal opinion, and by doing so (with or without intent), widens an already deep divide between school administrators, parents, and students. 
Absent political bias, skilled labor is enjoying a resurgence. Not to say a college degree holds little value, it's just not that valuable to everybody. 
A graduate from technical school receives their certification at a cost far less than their traditional college-educated peer. The cost of attending a traditional college continues to rise while the value of that degree continues to decline.
For all the prestige associated with the college tradition, it is the appeal of the technical school that is on the rise. A recent survey showed that 21% of young adults of college age were "considering" enrolling in a technical school, in lieu of pursuing a traditional college education. 
So, is college a bad investment?
Not per se, but it's not necessarily a good one either. 
A young adult must ask themselves: Do I see myself in a cubicle inside an office? Or do I see myself working outdoors, on site at a building project? 
If it's the latter, then a traditional college education may not be needed. 
40% of college graduates are underemployed — working in roles that didn’t require a traditional college education to begin with. The traditional college student carries an average debt of $30,000, not allowing for interest. The average debt for a student graduating from a technical school is $10,000. Technical schools are more affordable and time efficient compared to traditional colleges.  Traditional college is becoming unaffordable (government-backed student loans are readily available, though), while available college-educated jobs are on the decline. Meanwhile, several prominent Democratic presidential candidates, placating to young adults for votes, are proposing the eradication of the debt associated with those student loans (to the tune of $1.3 trillion dollars), by taxpayer funded bailouts. 
Skilled trades are in high demand (especially around metro-Atlanta). For every college degree out there working underemployed, there's a building project without a needed HVAC technician or plumber.  
The lifetime earnings for one with a traditional college degree remains greater than one who possesses a technical certification. But the positive changes observed in the job market indicates a future narrowing of the wage gap. There are compelling grounds for one to go to college. But, if you are unable to do so for financial reasons – and have no desire to incur overwhelming debt - explore the option of a non-traditional education at a technical school.  
A higher education is essential, regardless of how that education is received, by way of traditional college or technical school. However, the “one size fits all” methodology employed by a government high school must be reassessed. It has failed many, for too long. 
The path to success need not include a traditional college education. 
Don’t believe the lie. Reorganize the truth.

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