It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country—and this country needs and values the talents of every American.
According to Sullum (and I agree),
[t]he collectivism implicit in this rhetoric is pretty creepy. Evidently all of us have a duty to optimize our educations so we can maximize our earnings and give our country the full benefit of our talents. “Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma,” Obama decrees. But why stop there? If someone with strong mathematical and spatial reasoning abilities majors in sociology instead of engineering, it’s plain that he will not be giving his country as much value (and tax revenue) as he could. What about the potential doctor who decides to play the violin or the writer who could have been a software developer? Given Obama’s premise, it’s hard to see why such choices should be permitted, especially when the country is so generously subsidizing higher education.
“Diversity” is pregnant with the same collectivist logic, as I’ve noted more than a few times:
1) If the yield [of admitted minority students who chose not to attend the University of California] has declined over the past 10 years, that is not the result of 209. That is, 209 didn’t keep those who were admitted but chose not to attend from attending. That was their own choice. [Not altogether frivolous aside: If “diversity” is as important as its advocates claim, draft them! Why should they be allowed to choose not to attend a college that needs them so much when K-12 students who want to attend a different school from the one to which they are assigned are often held hostage to “diversity,” i.e., not allowed to transfer because their leaving would deprive the remaining students of the advantage provided by being exposed to them.
2) If our national security really depends on having more women engineers, perhaps women should be drafted and sent to engineering schools.
3) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if “diversity” is important enough to the education of non-minority students at selective institutions to justify sacrificing the right of applicants to be free from racial discrimination, it’s important enough to draft some minority students and require their attendance at those schools. Why should their merely personal and individual interest in their own freedom of choice trump the needs of large numbers of otherwise diversity-deprived students to be exposed to them, especially since the trespassing on the drafted minorities’ freedom of choice would affect only a relatively small number of individuals.
And as I concluded here,
If you agree with the preferentialist assertion that education is impossible without sufficient “diversity,” drafting a few minorities and women to provide such an essential service would seem to be a small price to pay for something on which our society depends.
And here I stretched the point a bit more (some, but not I, will think beyond the breaking point):
It seems to me that the underlying principle urged upon us by the Louisville and Seattle school boards and their defenders is that “racial balance” is fundamental. Non-discrimination might be nice, but it’s not essential. What is essential, I believe they claim, is that the need for “racial balance” trumps everything. They often claim ... that they are speaking of “voluntary” programs, but these comments always strike me little more than political fluff, since they also argue that the promotion of “racial balance” is “compelling,” justifying what harm is done to those whose wrong-colored skin keeps them out of the school of their choice....
In order to elucidate the preferentialist principle a bit further, let us step outside bounds of actual, practical controversy and consider this hypothetical scenario:
First, if “racial balance” truly is a compelling national interest, then students in schools — indeed, almost all students in some entire states — are being woefully deprived of the education they need to succeed in our new global marketplace, etc.
With that in mind, what if the governments of, say, Michigan and North Dakota (black population: 0.7%) agreed (“voluntarily,” of course) to pay all the expenses associated with relocating several hundred black families from Michigan (many, but not all, from inner city Detroit) to North Dakota, to provide at least a modicum of “racial balance” there. If there were not enough Michigan volunteers, the National Guard would round up the balance, choosing those whose material conditions would be most improved by the transfer.
Some of those involuntary transferees, to be sure, would complain that they preferred for their children to attend schools in their current neighborhood (“Or at least in the same state!” a few of them might shout). Officials from the Michigan and North Dakota state governments, mayors, and involved school board officials from both states would no doubt think it unfortunate that some people were forced to relocate because of their race, but they took solace from the assurance of the City of Louisville in its recent brief to the Supreme Court that
[t]he small harm done to a few students who do not get their first choice of schools [or states] … is outweighed by the value of [providing] an integrated school system … [to an entire state].
Is the difference between what Seattle and Louisville are doing and my hypothetical scenario a difference in kind, or only in degree?