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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It shouldn’t be this way, but the well-to-do tend to dominate public conversations in this country. The result has been a national preoccupation with the comfort, safety and psychological health of children like theirs — that is, children who go to college.

Thus, the students’ problems get customized attention. Government asks: How can we protect women on campus from sexual assault? How can we stop students who drink too much or are “underage”?

Much has been written about the “two Americas.” One of the sharper divides separates the college-bound from the rest.

It’s hard to believe that sexual predators roam more freely at the dorms than in society at large. Or that there’s more drunkenness around student hangouts than at working-class bars.

What’s striking isn’t so much the worry over kids in college as the lack of similar concern over the other, usually less privileged, young people who don’t go to college. When their bad behavior spills over, police are called. But when students act likewise, their cases may go to college administrators and their teams of counselors.

Clearly, the blanket of protection thrown over 19-year-olds in college is not extended to 19-year-olds working full time at a Target checkout.

And they are in the majority. Most Americans (58 percent) do not obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree. And half the kids who do go to college commute from home.

But listen to who gets the attention in President Obama’s recent speech calling for more action on sexual violence at colleges:

“We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years,” he said, “but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day.”

And the news stories he referred to largely involved professional athletes, whose beating victims — women and children — have spent little, if any, time on a campus. Strange that a kind of violence directed at all groups of women has brought forth initiatives to benefit the generally more fortunate.

Earlier this year, the administration focused a task force on the issue of sexual assaults on campus. It urged the institutions to toughen their policies, encourage women to report sexual violence and protect the women’s identities. It threatened fines against colleges that do not comply. And it set up a website just for those in higher education,

Rape and other sexual violence are serious crimes. They belong in the criminal justice system. But many students want their cases overseen by the supposedly softer hand of college administrators — often to avoid ruining the life of the alleged assailant, who may have been a friend.

In effect, college women are offered two justice systems to choose from. Non-students have one.

As for drinking problems, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has also tailored its services for the academic crowd. Its task force recommended, among other things, programs to help students moderate their drinking and limiting the number of liquor stores near colleges. And it set up a special website,

The task force did ask, “Why target college student drinking?” And it offered reasons: Students die or are injured in alcohol-related accidents. Millions of them drive under the influence, and large numbers are assaulted by other drunken students.

How does that drinking experience differ from the noncollegiate drinking experience? The abuses and attendant problems sound exactly the same, so why not treat college students like everyone else — and like the adults they’re supposed to be?

We all know why. The powers value the well-being of college kids more highly than that of their working-class cohorts. Of course, it’s not fair.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Vegasjon via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Dominick Vila

    Our top priority as a nation must be education. There is no threat greater than an uneducated population incapable of overcoming the challenges of the 21st century, at a time when other countries – such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and most West European countries, are outpacing the United States in college graduations.
    Having said that, our focus must also include greater focus – and educational assistance – to students attending Community Colleges and trade schools.
    We have been falling behind for decades, in part because not so long ago a person working in an assembly line was able to support his family, pursue his goals, and be considered a member of the middle class. Today, a person with a high school diploma is lucky to find a job at a fast food joint, as a landscaper, or stocking shelves at a retail store.

    • FireBaron

      Dom, I agree that education is important. What we really need to look at is to provide training that actually qualifies people to get a job. There are too many Liberal Arts and Fine Arts majors whose daily response to people are “Will that complete your order?” Granted, this is better than “Would you like fries with that?”, but it still is ridiculous. We need to ensure that training opportunities exist.
      OK, disclosure time – I was a college dropout back in the 70s. In 1980, I enlisted in the Navy and after boot camp attended a year of accelerated training in electronics. The training I received was the equivalent or better of what I would have received in a vocational college technical training program. Following that initial training, I received more in-depth training on hardware and software both in the operational and theoretical fields.

      This served me well when I got out. For the past 22 years, I have been working in the Life Safety industry. I started out as a technical trainer, and now I am the lead support technician for my line. In that job, I review plans and documentation, assist with system design and programming, and diagnose problems with equipment, as well as serve as a mentor to junior techs.

      I would love to see US corporations adopt the German program whereby they invest in local training programs for the purpose of developing their next generation of employees. This could be things like CAM/CAD, CNC machining, electronics, 3-D printing, technical writing, etc. Who cares that a good chunk of the bill comes from a private company and not the “state”! In this, companies would be investing in America’s future, and, maybe, High School guidance counselors would no longer worry about making their “Freshman Admittance” numbers!

      By the way, technical training in the electronics and machinery fields in the Military DOES translate into good civilian jobs!

      • JPHALL

        The problem has been since the 1980’s an over emphasis on college. Most
        middle and high schools no longer offer arts, shop or training for
        work. Many students during this period lost interest in education. This
        is especially true since constantly studying for the “test” is more
        important than learning.

        • joe schmo

          Most High Schools don’t even come close to what college teaches. Many prospective students drop out because they are way to unprepared for the stringent studying that universities require.

          Nowadays, to be successful in this world you need some college. Not only does it prepare you for the high stakes of life it gives a young person more confidence to go out and kick butt.

          I believe that primary and secondary schools need to be stricter. Just like in college, the grade you earn is the grade you get. No pacifying, it only makes a young person weaker in the face of an over-productive world which they will not be prepared for.

          • Sand_Cat

            Well said.

      • Dominick Vila

        I agree with everything you said. There is an abundance of people with Liberal Arts degrees, and not enough jobs in their fields of expertise.
        I understand what you said about military training. My 22 year old grandson is serving in the ARMY, he is currently stationed in Washington State. He attended a 6-month course at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency at Ft. Belvoir, in Virginia, and it was outstanding. Most of his friends had no problem finding good jobs when they left the military.

    • idamag

      Absolutely! We are seeing the effects of our treatment of education now. We have a society that is proud of being ignorant.

  • latebloomingrandma

    When I look at the amount of information kids should learn nowadays compared to what I had to learn, it is overwhelming. When was the 180 days of school started? Perhaps it’s time to increase these days. I think many European countries and South Korea have longer school years. Other countries also teach English starting at an early age, yet we don’t start foreign language instruction until high school . Maybe because our students don’t even know proper English, due to an overabundance of slang in our culture.
    It’s true that not every one is college material. There should also be a re-emphasis on trades and craftsmen (and women). We recently had some kitchen remodeling done and had to wait 4 months because the contractor was so busy. When he finally got here, 2 men did the job in one day, and it was expertly completed. Is there a lack of good craftsmen in this day and age? The building trades now use computer generated plans. All this requires a specific type of education. The elementary grades are so important to instill the basics and love and excitement of learning. Heading toward high school should be a time perhaps for, rather than testing for testings sake, testing and evaluating where the interests and talents lie. This is occurring in some places. My nephew, age 15, is taking an advanced music theory class in a public high school. My granddaughhter, age 12, is very good at art. She says–I paint what comes in my head, I don’t plan it. She struggles with math. Of course, she needs to know math, but should she “fail” because she may never “get” algebra, yet has a painting i an art museum already?

    • Sand_Cat

      The big thing we ALL need to learn is true objective, critical thinking.

  • idamag

    I have twelve grandchildren. All, but two, have graduated from college. The two that haven’t: one is in college and the other just graduated from high school and is going on a mission before he starts college. Most of them made the dean’s list. That doesn’t mean any of them are better than those who do not go to college. The men, who are picking up my trash this morning, are more important to society than corporate lawyers or career politicians.

    • idamag

      Oops. I do have one that chose not to go to college. I erred

  • charles king

    I am (85yrs young) I just want to hip all of you younger than I out there in the land of plenty: Learn How? to think, there are many ways of going about in getting the knowledge on “Learning How To Think”. Education works, Music works, Exericise works, Fruits and Veggies works, Obamacare works, Social Security works,Medicare works, Unions works, Love your neighbors work, and doing the right things along with critical thinking of yourself then I think you will be on your way to a happy (100yrs) lifestyle. Life is a short trip so hang out with the one’s you are happy and content with and if you have What? you want and all that you need then I think you can say that “You have succeed in life. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING P. S. Keep an EYE on those Plutocracts and Greedy Capitalistic Pigs.

  • Sand_Cat

    We as a culture need to value education. That’s not to say we shouldn’t care about those who can’t afford college, or who feel they are temperamentally unsuited.
    But if everyone had some kind of REAL education, this would be a better country.