If community colleges were to screen out those least likely to succeed, they could do better by the ones who do get in. As a bonus, high school students would lose the perceived safety net of community college and would try harder in high school.Yes, and elementary schools that take as a prime objective the inculcation of middle-class habits even among the most desperate and troubled youngsters will have a salutary effect on those course placements. Ecological fallacy or no, common schools that produce less Distressed Material translate into improved graduation rates. Underserved is as much about attitude as it is about resources.
Arguments can be made well or badly, so I’ll reserve judgment on Scherer and Anson’s execution of the argument until I’ve read it. But at the conceptual level, it’s hard not to react.
I’ll start with conceding an easy piece. Yes, we could get graduation rates up if we screened out the highest-risk students. Selective four-year colleges have known that forever. We wouldn’t even necessarily have to set the bar terribly high. Just requiring that students place directly into college-level coursework upon enrollment would, by itself, do wonders for our graduation rate. And a few basic demographic queries to IR reveal quickly who we should target. If you know anything about racism in America, you won’t be shocked. Catering to the middle class is easier than catering to the poor. This is not news.
I wonder if community colleges are too egalitarian, or utopian, for a culture that has forgotten that a significant middle class is a human construct, rather than a natural law. I’d be up for a principled moral argument about whether we want a political economy that’s more like Sweden or more like Brazil. Let’s have that argument, and have it honestly.That's what fifty years of deconstructing bourgeois institutions gets you. Identity politics gives you Asterisk-Americans and Privilege-Americans. The United States is too much a melting pot to have any hope of a Swedish political economy (and in Minnesota, "Finlander green" is a put-down that originated with the descendants of Swedes). Consider, though, whether people are forting up in gated communities (themselves nothing new) in response to that deconstruction.