In America today we believe that everyone should be educated and seek some form of higher education. We also believe that everyone should be entitled to the same educational opportunities and given every chance to become a productive member of society. Because of these beliefs it has made us the strong democratic country that we are today. In William A. Henry III's essay "In Defense of Elitism" he believes that everyone should not be given the same educational opportunities; because he believes that not everyone is competent enough to make it in college. Henry thinks that a college education should only be offered to an elite few. He believes that if America would follow his method then the educational standards would rise and make college more prestigious. Henry believes that too many students in college today are only there to make more money in the future and he believes that this is the wrong reason to seek a college education. Because of this it is creating a tremendous downfall in our education system. Henry is not alone on this belief. Benjamin R. Barber shares this same belief in his essay "America Skips School." Barber also agrees with Henry in the belief that there should be a very distinguished line separating vocational and academic education. Even though they share some of the same beliefs, they begin to clash when it comes to their ideas of improving America's education system. Barber believes that we have failed to educate our youth. We have created a money hungry generation and by not allowing them to go to college will taking away the only opportunity they have to become well educated and a productive member of society. Barbers ideas and beliefs outweigh those of Henry, because he realizes the need and importance to have well educated citizens in order to preserve and strengthen the strong democracy that America has worked so hard to achieve.
William A. Henry criticizes America's views on education. He thinks that having this egalitarian outlook is degrading our educational values and taking away from the hard work and accomplishment of getting a college degree these days. Henry backs up his point by stating that there are too many students enrolled in college and eventually the standards and requirements for college will drop. Henry believes that it's normal for your average young adult to receive a college degree and the prestige of possessing one is no longer there. Ultimately, he thinks we have allowed too many people who are unqualified to receive a college degree. Henry would like to see elitism brought back to America's education system. Therefore he proposes that we reduce the number of high school students who go on to college by giving every senior a standardized test and shutdown down schools depending on the students performance. Henry thinks that every student is ultimately responsible for their own future and eventually they have to step up and take responsibility for their own actions. By separating the ones that care about their education from the ones that don't will restore our education..
Benjamin Barber has a totally different outlook. Unlike Henry he realizes the importance of having a higher education in America. He shows us that the American democracy was created upon the basis of a well educated public. Barber argues the fact that if we can educate our youth and ourselves we can create that well educated public that will preserve this strong democracy in America. He believes that public education is the key to our youth becoming knowledgeable and receiving the skills that they need to succeed in life. Barber truly believes if we educate our youth properly and instill them with the traditional values of liberty and freedom. We can ultimately strengthen the democracy in our country.
According to Henry "Half a century ago, a high school diploma was a significant credential, and college was a privilege for the few." (319) Now "30% of high school graduates ultimately receive a four year baccalaureate degree." (319) Henry favors countries like Great Britain, France and Japan because of the fact that they restrict college to "a much smaller percentage of their young." (319) Henry thinks that our 30% to high compared to these countries "typically 10% to 15%." (319) Henry says that "now high school graduation is virtually automatic" and "a college education is these days a mere rite of passage, a capstone to adolescent party time." (319) Therefore a college degree is "no longer a mark of distinction or proof of achievement." (319) We can all see that Henry is not presenting the truth here by considering education easy and so called "automatic." (319) Anyone who has attended college knows the amount of work and determination it takes to receive a four year degree and that it will always be considered honorable and a "proof of achievement." (319) A college degree is a personal goal and is an investment in ones future. What Henry fails to mention is the positive side of the "30% of high school graduates" who go on to college. (319) Because he thinks that Americas higher education system "probably ought to be judged a mistake." (320) Henry truly believes that one hundred and fifty billion dollars is too large of an investment in "human capitol." (320) Asking "whether the investment pays a worthwhile rate of return" (320) is not a question that should be asked when it comes to the education of our youth. Due to the fact that Henry only focuses on the negative aspects of the educational opportunities given to our youth, it tends to make his argument invalid
Benjamin Barber presents a better over all view and better way of regaining the failing education system in America. In Barber's eyes the older generation has failed at the task of educating our youth and it has caused "a dire illiteracy" in this country. (335) Barber tells about the "critics who have condemned the young as vapid, lazy, selfish, complacent, self-seeking, materialistic, small-minded, apathetic, greedy, and of course, illiterate." (335) This is one of the ways Barber shows us "the illiteracy of the young turns out to be our own reflected back to us with embarrassing force." (337-338)
Unlike William Henry who seems to think that our youth are self invented, Barber shows us that they are products of their environments. That is why "they are society smart rather than school smart." (336) Barber truly believes that we need to take a step back and look at our own generation. Our youth are following are examples and the only thing we have taught them is "that it is much more important to heed what society teaches implicitly by it's deeds and reward structures that what school teaches explicitly in it's lesson plans and civic sermons." (336) Barber uses these negative aspects to show us that "our children's illiteracy is merely our own." (338) But Barber contends that it's not too late to redeem our future generation. He shows us this by using a quote from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote "cherish therefore the spirit of our people and keep alive their attention. Do not be severe upon their, but reclaim by enlightening them." (340) Unlike Henry's so called "modest proposal," Barber presents us with a better way to "reclaim and enlighten" (340) our decaying education system instead of cutting funds and closing schools. (Henry 323) As opposed to Henry's belief that our youth are solely responsible for their own future. Barber shows us that it's our responsibility as a country to see that they are educated.
Barber knows they only way to reclaim our youth is through a college education and that is why he refers to our nations history. "Jefferson and Adams both understood that the Bill of Rights offered little protection in a nation without informed citizens. Once educated, however, a people was safe from even the subtlest tyrannies." (340) This is why Barber knows the importance of educating, where as Henry thinks you should just learn it on your own. Unlike Henry, Barber tries to show us that college education is more than just trying to make more money. It's about learning things like liberty and freedom. That's why Barber tells us "the logic of democracy begins with public education, proceeds to informed citizenship, and comes to fruition in the securing of rights and liberties." (340) Where Henry claims that we are spending too much money on our public education, Barber shows us that "we have forgotten that the public in public schools means not just paid for by the public but procreative of the very idea of a public." (340) Without a good college education we will not be able to turn our so called young and lazy "into the conscientious, community-minded citizens" (341) they need to be. Not allowing our youth a college education will certainly rob them of their chance of learning how "to think critically and act with deliberation in a pluralistic world, and the empathy to identify sufficiently with others to live with them despite conflicts of interest and differences in character." (341) Once our youth possess those critical thinking skills then they will become them informed citizens that Jefferson and Adams spoke of.
If America wishes to survive as a country, we will need well educated citizens. That is why Barber points out the facts of teaching them liberty, freedom, civility, and critical thinking. This democracy that we cherish in our country allows our citizens to vote. Benjamin Barber describes it best when he say "democracy is anything but a natural form of association. It is an extraordinary and rare contrivance of cultivated imagination." (341) That is why he stresses the importance of sparking our youths attention to our government in hopes that they will become more involved with it. By being educated and possessing the necessary skills they will be able to make informed opinions and vote accordingly. That is why it is important that people ignore William Henry's elite plan. Because if our nation was to allow Henry's plan into action then we would be giving "the uneducated the right to participate in making collective decisions" for our country and we will certainly fall victim to the "tyrannies of opinion" that Barber describes. (341) If we only a college education to an elite few the "American dream of a fee and equal society governed by judicious citizens," (341) will be nothing but a dream and the democracy that men have fought and died for will certainly fail.