COLLEGE, THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley wants to make that a policy.

Mayor Daley suggested Thursday that high school be extended for a fifth year to defray college education costs now squeezing working poor and middle-class families.

Unless something is done to loosen the college tuition collar, Daley warned that the “birth rate will go down in the United States and our knowledge-based economy will not grow.”

Okaaaay ...

“America had better come to grips with this….If we’re a land of opportunity and we want to be a knowledge-based society and we want to compete against India and China, we had better educate our children. These young kids should not be worried about financial assistance — all worried in the [senior] year. Every principal will tell you that. They’re in their offices trying to figure out,
‘Can I get $500? Can I get $1,000, $1,500?’ We have to set our priorities and our priorities should be giving everyone an opportunity to go to college….I hope in 2008 there is a huge national debate on that issue alone.”

Daley had no shortage of ideas when asked what he believes should be done to bring down the rising cost of a college education.

“Well, I think we better reevaluate what college could be all about, maybe — whether it’s four years or should it be three years? Whether, basically, we should look at high schools and extend high school for a fifth year and basically have that fifth year through the state — that one year to really help them through the state system. There’s a lot of ways you can look at it,” he said.

“Now, we have students in senior year who are qualified who are taking college courses and get credit for that. That’s what you’re looking at. There’s a lot of different avenues to look at…There’s experts out there. We have all the experts you want in higher education. They should evaluate that and look at it…We have studied elementary and high school. You’re going to hear from principals saying, ‘Why don’t we study higher ed? Why can’t they do a better job?’ ”

Why not make senior year optional for advanced placement students, who are probably happy to get away from the time-serving status-anxiety hell that high school often is? For that matter, why not make the Chicago high schools more effective? With six in a hundred Chicago high school freshmen finishing college, Hizzoner Boss Da Younger is asserting it's higher education that ought to be doing a better job? Mightn't it be the case that the high price of college is driven in part by a positional arms race among parents desperate to get something resembling a proper college education, or at least the possibility of interacting with other motivated youngsters, rather than to have their childrens' future diminished because of all the remediation those Chicago graduates are imposing on Illinois public colleges? If the issue is matching the calculus preparation of Indian and Chinese students, more of whatever passes for public secondary education is not likely to be the resolution.

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