… Michelle Obama wants to make ‘em go to college.
I have to admit, I can’t stand Michelle and never could. I think I dislike her even more than I dislike her husband. He seems to me like a glib con-artist of a familiar type; he can be engaging when he wants to, though his more Presidential manner — sanctimonious, didactic, in a word, Wilsonian — is extremely repellent. But at bottom, he runs on jive, and that’s not the worst type of human character. One has known plenty of jivers, and they’re more fun to be around than your average professor(*).
But Michelle … Michelle really seems convinced of her own righteousness, her own deservingness; of the credit entirely due to her for her own undoubted, blazing success. This note of self-congratulation, mixed with censure for everybody else, booms like a basso ostinato through a recent talking-to she gave to a hapless captive audience of Washington teenagers, at a facility oddly called the Bell Multicultural High School (as opposed to a monocultural high school?).
Note her admonitory, accusing finger, always a dead giveaway:
Here’s a sample of her treacle-and-brimstone style:
I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story…The details might be a little different, but so many of the challenges and triumphs will be just the same….
I couldn’t afford to go on a bunch of college visits, I couldn’t hire a personal tutor. I couldn’t enroll in SAT prep classes. We didn’t have the money.
… Some of my teachers straight-up told me that I was setting my sights too high,” she continued. “They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton…. [Once there,] There were times when I felt that I could barely keep my head above water.
She terrorized her audience with the usual dismal forecasts: by 2050 a PhD will be required to run a cash register at Wal-Mart, etc. etc.
My story can be your story. Every one of those kids at the Bell Multicultural Indoctrination And Prison Prep Center can, and should, come to live in the White House. All at the same time, in fact, having all graduated from Princeton in the same class and with the same GPA, all tied for valedictorian.
No doubt she’s right that credential creep will continue; it creates a considerable wealth transfer to the credentialling sector, after all, which is now an important industry, though it sells a very mediocre product. But it is surely obvious to the meanest intellect that although anybody can get on a bus — or, judging by some recent tenants, into the White House — everybody cannot get on a bus. A bus isn’t big enough for everybody. Not even the White House is that big.
So Michelle’s message, correctly generalized, is that you will have to work ever harder, and spend ever more time in one pedagogical feedlot after another, if you want to be declassed a bit less rapidly than your less compliant or energetic schoolfellows. We’re going to shaft you all, she’s saying; but some of you are going to get shafted worse than others; and you’d better get that nose to the grindstone, and burn that midnight oil, if you prefer the slightly smaller shaft.
(*) Of course there are exceptions. I’ve known plenty of likable professors too. Though none of them were law school, or “Political Science”.