To the editor:
My Democrat friend and I went to the ball game the other day. There was a young man with him and we all sat down together.
"Do you know my grandson Andy?" my friend said.
"No, how are you, Andy?"
"Very well, thank you, sir." I liked Andy already.
"What are you doing now, Andy?"
"I'm going off to college this fall."
"Oh, that's great."
"I hope it is," he answered. He looked doubtful.
"What are you worried about?" I asked.
"Well, I just read in the paper where McDonald's is requiring a bachelor's degree for someone who wants to be a cashier. If I take on big student loans to get through college, how can I ever pay them off if that's the kind of job I end up with?"
"I think I understand why they're doing it," is all I could answer. "They probably have thousands of kids applying for these jobs, and one way they can try to select is to require a degree. Unfortunately, there are more people unemployed with college degrees than there are without."
"Yeah, but why don't they just require a good grade on an aptitude test that they could create and give you, to find the kind of people they're looking for?"
"The government made it illegal to do that. They discovered a lot of cases where minority kids were doing poorly on those tests and they said that for that reason, they weren't fair and should be banned. I may be wrong on the details of this, but I think that's the gist of why that happened."
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" said Andy.
"If I were in your shoes (which I'm not), I'd do one of two things: Either find the absolutely cheapest college you can find to get through, hopefully with very little in student loans; some colleges are now offering degrees in three years. Or, take a different route: Try to find a good company that you can get your foot in the door to, without a degree, taking any job they offer. Once in the door, whether you have a degree or not will make much less difference in your future. If you prove you're a good worker, you'll do fine and go up the ladder."
"Well, I don't know," he said, and stared out across the ball field, lost in his thoughts. The home team was down 12-3 and we left after the sixth inning. Andy left us.
"What did you tell Andy?" my friend said. "He looked glum."
"I didn't tell him what I really think, which is that four-year college for a lot of people - and remember, I didn't say all people - is a waste of time and money. I promise you it was not conservatives who made those aptitude tests illegal."
"You never get the point, do you?" My friend was getting upset. "Those tests were made illegal because they were discriminatory. The government, by outlawing them, demonstrated that it wants to help everybody get ahead."
I stopped walking and looked at him. "Did you ever hear the old question about fish? Which is, is it better to give someone a fish or teach him how to fish?"
He said, "Well, it depends how hungry he is, doesn't it.?" He looked at me with a grin of triumph.
"Could be," I muttered, "but I'm about out of fish."