Blog: Educational Elitism and The Chronicle’s Bashing of Michael Clifford

Kevin Carey obviously got beat up a lot as a kid. He sees his power of the pen as an opportunity to fight (albeit in a cowardly and dirty manner) his childhood demons, in this case with Dr. Michael Clifford taking the beating.

How else can you explain the inner conflict that would lead you to take private conversations with an industry insider and make them public in an effort to shame your own source? If Dr. Clifford is such a disreputable man, then why rely on his insights for your reporting? Why use him as a guide through the government’s most recent attack on career education? I believe the answer is simple: Mr. Carey does not see the higher education situation for what it is, or what an education elitist he truly is.

Mr. Carey and other “journalists” of his ilk would have you believe that higher education should only be available to a privileged few. Those “few” would be the wealthy and the educational elite, who, it turns out, need the least amount of actual educating on the route to obtaining a degree. They need a lot less direction and attention from under-skilled and professionally-lacking faculty. They also need to show less improvement throughout their education process because they already know – or have the capacity to quickly pick up – what they’re being taught.

A question posed in the article says it all: “What ambitious president or provost is planning to make her reputation educating $9-an-hour cashiers?” The answer to that should be every single damn one of them – if that student is willing to work hard, if that student has the drive to make something of him or herself to reverse the fortunes of their lower-class family and realize something different and better for their children. If that student wants to learn, that student has should have every opportunity available to learn as those born into better circumstances.

This article would have you believe that the world is better without career education. Mr. Carey celebrates the sector’s near elimination in the 1980s, though most of the educators in the industry at that time would argue that it was far from being wiped out. There is a crowd of people who would rather all career colleges go out of business, hundreds of thousands of jobs be lost, and have no one in place to effectively train Americans for 20th century jobs, all the while relying on the government to create jobs and educate people.

This anger toward career education veers away from genuine criticism to nothing more than mere regurgitation of the opinions that have already been reported by other journalists. Even the criticism of Dr. Clifford is old news, and yet more malicious than the PBS FRONTLINE special that took at aim at the good doctor. The Obama administration has brought "bullying" to a new level and when the people (i.e. journalists) see our elected officials do something, they act as if it’s tacit consent to behave similarly.

Dr. Clifford is the sort of guy who drives liberals – and thereby education journalists – wild. He’s laid back, he’s cool, and he’s successful. He’s also a born again Christian, (a fact that seems to make it into all the reports about him), and he’s a business man. And, we all know business men have no place on college campuses. You can see that in their revenue numbers. But the truth is, Clifford didn’t buy accreditation for the sake of buying it… his group did exactly what they were asked to do by ALL stakeholders. Save the schools and, thus, save jobs.

The truth is there are journalists out here who aren’t going to like Mr. Clifford from the outset … because they think they aren’t supposed to. As stated in the article’s last paragraph, “In such a volatile situation, all kinds of unexpected people make their way into the picture.” The same can be said for columnists waiting to weigh on the latest controversy that involves their beat and very little reporting. Dr. Michael Clifford is like a bug zapper they can’t refuse.

Mr. Carey, if there’s anything you take away from reading my reaction, I hope it’s a better understanding of what’s happening in higher education at the moment. Here’s why we’re in the situation we’re in: Traditional colleges are opposed to change. Their processes are outdated, and their thinking isn’t innovative. With our country facing its worst recession since the Great Depression, our schools thrived while even junior colleges trumped your traditional colleges and universities. Our sector is filled with people who think for themselves, who respond to challenges, who care about helping people. I think leaders of traditional colleges could learn a lot by spending some time with our sector’s leaders, including Dr. Clifford. He has something they might be lacking: a real compassion for reaching students, and an honorary doctorate.

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