Bernie is coming in for a lot of abuse in these parts, and I don’t disagree with most of it, but he’s on to something when he offers young people free college. I think he has it wrong, though.
We all know college, or some form of post-secondary education, is almost certainly the necessary credential for a middle-class station in life. But college the way many of us experienced it — four years, consecutively, at one school, with either the full or partial support of our parents — is swiftly becoming a thing of the past.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve written a couple of times about so-called early college or middle college programs. They’ve got a little toehold in Michigan, mostly with kids considered at-risk, though lord knows why. It’s a great idea: Instead of four years of high school, you go for five, and graduate at 19 with a high-school diploma and either an associate’s degree, a technical certification or up to I-can’t-remember-how-many college credits, that will transfer to a four-year institution.
The one I wrote about in Flint is pretty typical — it’s connected to a community college, and students move back and forth between the high school and college buildings freely. I came away thinking of it as high school minus the bullsh–, errr, those little extras that make it so. Few or no extracurriculars. No sports, no music (although students could play sports at their “home” schools, or participate in music via the college classes and ensembles. But no prom, no pep assemblies, none of the stuff we make movies about. Kids enter in 10th grade and are sort of eased into higher ed; it’s like a splint between the two worlds, and one reason I think “at-risk” kids tend to respond well to it is, they’re treated like adults, and they like that.
And it’s all free, paid for by the state’s per-pupil allowance.
If this is what Bernie means by free college, then bring on the free college. I wonder how many years we’ll have to wander in the wilderness before a generation or two rinses away the rose-colored hindsight about the best years of our lives, etc.
And, of course, we’ll have to build a lot more facilities attached to higher-ed institutions. Which will cost money. So of course it will never happen.
In other news at this hour, I read this excerpt from Frances Stroh’s memoir — or “debut memoir,” as the editor’s note says, which makes me wonder how many more may be coming — today. It’s called “Beer Money,” and of course you know which beer we’re talking about here. Fire-brewed Stroh’s, once proudly made in Detroit, now just one of those brands you cringe to remember. But when it was big, it was very very big, until the family succumbed to Kennedy Syndrome and drank and frittered it all away.
Hence the memoir.
It’s not bad at all; she’s a good writer, if a little on-the-nose about touching all the Grosse Pointe rich family bases: Indifferent to food, check. Topsiders without socks, check. Mother with freckled calves, check. Family in sprawling, icy house, check. And so on. But this part brought me up a little short:
I turned the car around by the yacht club and started heading back. The lights of Windsor were just coming on across the lake: Canada — our unlikely neighbor.
Never mind why it’s unlikely that Canada is next door; where else would it be? The problem is, you can’t see Windsor from the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club. It’s just all lake when you look out from there, maybe some blobby forms way out there on the clearest day, but not close enough to see the lights coming on.
This sort of thing drives me nuts. I know it’s poetic license and all, but it still does.
I’d like to pin down someone who writes regularly about a real place — Laura Lippman, maybe, or one of her confederates — about when you can invent streets and geography. It always takes me out of a story. One of Elmore Leonard’s kids writes novels (not well) and at in one had a couple “skidding to a stop in the gravel” alongside I-94 in Detroit. There is no gravel alongside I-94. It’s an urban freeway, not a fucking goat trail.
OK, enough bitching for now. No links today, and besides, you guys always have better ones.