Stop telling conservative teens to not go to college, as some conservative pundits are doing. Conservatives are needed there.
Every conservative in America knows there’s something rotten in higher education. Woke indoctrination, skyrocketing student loan debt, insane COVID rules, outrageous racial quotas, and bizarre education requirements are all problems plaguing American colleges. One may even argue there is no campus for white men.
Seeing this corruption, many conservatives now want young people–particularly young men–to forego college altogether. While rooted in sound motives, this advice just encourages young men to fall even further behind in life. The unfortunate fact is that much of American life requires a college education. Without a degree, many young people would be stuck doing menial labor for scant pay.
Several prominent conservatives insist young people should not go to college because it’s no longer worth it. Tucker Carlson is one of them.
The Fox News host says young men should drop out of college because it’s ridiculous and no longer offers one a solid education. Instead, he advises young men to get married as soon as possible, have a bunch of kids they can’t afford, and take a job they’re not qualified to hold.
Daily Wire host Matt Walsh says there “is no good argument for going to college right out of high school,” and the university system is a total scam.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk wrote an entire book encouraging young people to avoid college. “The vast majority [of] kids that go to college shouldn’t be there at all,” he told Fox News. He recommends high school graduates become entrepreneurs instead.
U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) also wants young conservatives to leave college. “I am proudly a college dropout. If you are not becoming a doctor or lawyer or engineer, I highly encourage you to drop out. It’s a scam,” he told a TPUSA audience in December.
The apparent message is that you can be successful in whatever you choose to do without a college degree. In fact, a college education may even get in the way of your success. Three of the four conservatives listed above (Walsh, Kirk, and Cawthorn) do not have college degrees. They were pretty successful without it, but very few people become congressmen, popular political pundits, or start large conservative student groups. Not every college dropout will turn into Charlie Kirk.
But is this actually good advice? For some people, sure. Everyone knows too many people are going to college, and a lot of them shouldn’t be there in the first place. Their aptitudes aren’t served by a university and the return isn’t justified by the expense. These kids were pushed into college by bad advice when they would have been better off attending trade school.
Fact is, these kids are probably not the ones listening to Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk. They likely don’t follow news and politics at all and struggle in school. Conservatives aren’t talking to the kids barely passing English literature; they’re talking to the brightest students and telling them to avoid college. The high schoolers who follow news and politics are usually not the kids struggling with reading and math proficiency.
In fact, it’s already the case that young men are avoiding college. Males account for just under 40 percent of all college students, and the number continues to decline. As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, the missing young men aren’t becoming successful entrepreneurs outside of college. They’re doing menial labor and earning less than their college-educated peers.
While a college degree isn’t quite the guarantee entry into the middle class it once was, college grads still earn significantly more than high school grads. The median income for a twentysomething college graduate is $52,000, compared to $30,000 for a twentysomething high school graduate. So a college degree is still worthwhile. It’s estimated that 65 percent of jobs require some form of postsecondary education. Not going to college automatically puts you at a disadvantage in the job market.
Young men not going to college also affects family formation. College-educated women complain that they can’t find any suitable husbands due to the disappearance of men from higher education. The number of married college-educated women has declined over the years as a result of the massive gender gap in university admissions. But the marriage rate for college-educated adults still exceeds that of those with only a high school degree. In 2017, 65 percent of Americans 25 years or older with a bachelor’s degree were married compared to only 50 percent with just a high school degree.
“Don’t go to college” appears to conflict with the advice to get married. Both common sense and numerous studies demonstrate that socioeconomic status affects your marriage prospects. A man without a college degree is going to have fewer opportunities to find a wife. He’s also unlikely to marry a college-educated woman as few American women “marry down.” His best hope of getting married is to tie the knot with his high school sweetheart. But fewer high schoolers now even have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s unclear who these college refuseniks are supposed to marry when they don’t have a girlfriend, and all the women in their high school went off to college.
College grads also lead American society, for better or for worse. You can still make a good living and have a wonderful family without a college degree. But your class is not going to be shaping society. All of the influential sectors of American society—finance, law, media, education, etc.—are run by college graduates. College graduates are increasingly liberal, which is a major problem.
Not only does it hurt Republicans in election cycles, but an overwhelmingly liberal elite also ensures liberal cultural hegemony. It would be better to tell bright young high schoolers to obtain good educations and challenge the liberal monopoly over elite institutions. Instead, we tell these kids to become plumbers and allow liberals to dominate our elite sectors and culture.
An erroneous assumption in the advice to avoid college is that modern 18-year-olds are ready to take on the world. The American high school fully prepared them for life and they have the necessary social and life skills to start their own business. That is pure fantasy. The average American 18-year-old is barely competent to work at a McDonald’s, much less start his or her own business. Reading and math proficiency have plummeted among graduating high school seniors. Researchers warn that young adults are far less mature and less responsible than they were in previous generations. Even for past generations, it was ridiculous to think an 18-year-old with no life experience would make a great entrepreneur. You’re not going to buy a car from a child. Eighteen-year-olds also don’t have a vast network of contacts to establish a business.
Teenagers need to mature and develop themselves and their social networks before they can succeed. It’s what college and the military are there for. They’re intended to take immature teenagers and turn them into adults. They don’t always succeed in this mission, but there are few alternatives for most young people.
It is true that most colleges are a mess. They need to be radically reformed and we need to offer more alternatives to teens not cut out for higher education. But that doesn’t mean we should tell bright young high schoolers not to go to college. It’s bad advice. Without a college degree, they’re more likely to be stuck as a Walmart cashier with poor marriage prospects, grim employment opportunities, and a terrible social network. You still need a college degree to better your prospects in those categories. We also put our side at a massive cultural and social disadvantage when we insist on the proletarianization of our own side and allowing liberals to control all of the influential institutions.
Some kids who don’t go to college will go on to have great jobs and happy lives. There are a lot of ways to make a good living without a college degree. It all depends on your aptitudes and what you want to do in life. But not everyone is going to have this happy ending. Non-college-educated whites are the primary victims of deaths of despair. The phenomenon refers to the dramatic rise in working-class whites succumbing to suicide, drug overdoses, and alcohol-induced diseases. Researchers link this disturbing trend to the declining job prospects and work-related injuries of whites without college degrees.
This is the other, darker path of what may await those who don’t go to college.
Conservatives acknowledged this trend when explaining Donald Trump’s popularity in 2016. Now they pretend everyone without a college degree is far happier and far more successful than college grads. There are certainly many happy and successful workers without college degrees, but there are also many deaths of despair.
We should tell bright young conservatives to go to college—but to be smart about it. They shouldn’t take on a mammoth amount of debt to go, they should think hard about what they want to do in life, and they should maximize their four years of school to develop themselves. Colleges need to be reformed and downsized. But you don’t accomplish that by telling all conservative teens not to go. It just leaves universities firmly in the hands of the enemy while young conservatives reduce their chances of achieving the American dream.