Conservative culture war keeps kids out of college and hurts economic future


College enrollments fell dramatically in 2021 for the second year in a row, especially among young men, a result sparked not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a more worrying trend.

The declining proportion of young Americans participating in higher education threatens the country’s economic competitiveness and reflects the country’s political divide. The partisans make of all that we say, do, think and believe political talismans by which to judge others.

This culture war, however, is hurting our children.

Today, less than a third of American workers have a college degree. In the 1960s, a high school diploma was all most people needed to find decent work. A full-time job paying minimum wage could support a family.

Recently, I explained why a four-year degree is not the only path to economic success, and I stand by it. However, the jobs of the future are increasingly technical and require post-secondary education, as evidenced by the millions of job postings for people with advanced skills.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s goal is for 60% of Texans to have some sort of advanced certificate by 2030. We’re not going to get there at this rate; young people are not learning the skills employers need.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment in undergraduate university courses has fallen 3.2% this year after falling 3.4% last year. Community colleges that offer skills training for good, middle-class jobs have seen their enrollment drop 14.1% since 2019.

Young men skip post-secondary education more often than women. Their schooling is down 9.3% since 2019 compared to women at 5%. Women now make up 60 percent of students at four-year universities.

The trend sparks debate and pearl catches.


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Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has used this national dilemma to stigmatize feminists and liberals. He calls them anti-men, anti-masculinity and argues that they are ruining this country for young men.

“Can we be surprised that after years of being told that they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are retreating into the enclave of idleness, pornography? and video games? the senator said at a conservative rally, according to the Washington Post.

As a center-left globalist and the son of a single mother, I call Horse Pucky. After seven years in the military, I graduated in humanities and later worked in nine war zones. I even know how to use power tools.

As a sergeant, I trained young men and taught them to treat women with respect and to reject bigotry. Such things do not ruin their mind.

What discourages them from pursuing university studies is growing up with people who denigrate “college students” and make fun of “liberal professors with the head of egg”. When older men reject science and formal education that do not match their worldview, younger men will emulate them. I also know this from personal experience.

A new study from the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, a relatively conservative institution, found that a student’s success in Texas was directly correlated with his family’s culture.

Students whose parents attended college tend to enroll in the more lucrative majors at the top colleges. They also get higher degrees and earn higher salaries later in life, the analysis has shown. Researchers have found that a university’s faculty and programs play a minimal role in a student’s success.

I understand why Hawley wants to blame the Liberals for everything; crop warfare is a proven tactic that serves the Conservatives well. Nothing motivates a voter like hearing that their way of life is threatened. I have seen it operate with surprising success in Rwanda, Somalia and Iraq.

Texas conservatives have joined the GOP’s national campaign to vilify educators, condemn intellectuals, and ban books. Elected officials have publicly condemned my book “Forget the Alamo” because it threatens traditional myths.

Pew Research polls show that about 40% of Americans in 2019 believed colleges and universities were hurting the country, up from 26% in 2012.

Breaking these numbers down, 59% of people who identify themselves as Republican or Light Republican say colleges and universities are having a negative effect on the country. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly endorse higher education.

Feminists don’t kick young men out of universities; their anti-intellectual families and friends hold them back.

Business leaders, however, need a workforce with an advanced education. The nation’s economic future depends on technical skills and innovative thinking.

Making people hate our best educated academics who train our brightest young people may be good politics for some. But the culture war has unexpected consequences for our children and our economic future.

Chris Tomlinson writes commentary on business, economics and politics.

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