A Time When the House Doors were Unlocked

A Time When The House Doors Were Unlocked

A Simpler Time

 I’m sure many of us who are a little older can remember a time when things were simpler and uncomplicated.

I grew up in the 50’s on a small dairy farm in southeastern Indiana.

times were hard , my dad and mom had purchased an extremely
impoverished farm when I was three years old. We ,along with my brother
, who came along later, spent the next several years restoring it to a
more productive state. The farm was so over grown with weeds that after
living there for a while, dad had time to mow the weeds around the barn
and lo and behold! He found a hog house no one knew was there.

soil was totally depleted, the first year’s twelve acre corn crop
yielded a whooping two hundred bushels of corn. Hard to live on that.
Fortunately, about that same time, turkey raising came into fashion,the
following year dad purchased and raised 1000 turkeys. The resulting
turkey by-product increased the corn yield from 200 bushels to 1200
bushels on that very same field.

This was a time when neighbors
were neighbors, we used each others farm equipment and tools like they
were our own, if dad couldn’t find a tool or wrench, it was probably
over at the neighbors. As a result, while picking up one our own tools
he would return one of theirs.

Our doors were never locked, no
one would break in and steal anything. In fact if one happened to be
away it was desired(it almost became a state law) that the neighbors
had to stop by and check the house to make sure everything was OK.

one had a gun, we had several neatly stacked in the corner of the
kitchen, an ample supply of ammunition, and fireworks) could be found
in the cabinet drawer.

 I started hunting with a 22 rifle when I was about 9, a rifle given to me for Christmas
by my parents. Did I or any kid I know pick up or use a fire arm
without permission of their parents, are you kidding? We would have
gotten skun alive. Back in those days parental authority and respect
meant something, and the only rights a child had were the rights his
parents gave him. So, what’s wrong with that?

Did kids take guns
to school? Sure, but they were left in the car, it wasn’t really
allowed to have a gun in the car, but, how else are you going to trade
a gun with your buddy? No one would even think of shooting or aiming
the weapon at a human being. I wasn’t even allowed to aim a cap gun at
anyone. My mom had a fit the ONLY time I ever did it.
The guns were
used not only for hunting but as a crime deterrent as well, ain’t
nobody gonna break into a house if they think grandpa might be sittin’
there with his loaded 12 gauge shotgun or muzzle loader.

We were
taught gun control and safety as well as the importance of not taking
some one’s life unless your own life was in danger. We were taught to
aim for the legs first, and after that, if our life or our family was
threatened ,and if the feller didn’t stop, it was our obligation to do
whatever was necessary to protect ourselves and family.

only in this arena , but in all aspects of our life, it was taught and
assumed that the individual knew better how to run and control his own
life than any government official ever could, it was impressed upon us
by every one in our circle of acquaintances that it was our
responsibility  to keep the government out of our lives as much as possible. Whatever happened to this concept?

days ended in 1963 when the farm was sold and we moved to town. It was
a little hard explaining to the new owners why a key to the front door
was no where to be found.

Written by Gary Wonning


Why the Disdain for Sarah Palin

Why the Disdain for Sarah Palin?

What is it about Sarah Palin that infuriates liberals?

Why does the liberal press and politicians go after her with such fervor?

I find it intriguing that they hang on every word she speaks and every move she makes. If the Washington elite really thinks she is washed up,why do they keep hound dogging her?

Quite to the contrary,subconsciously they don’t think she is washed up. Even though they won’t admit it, most fear she can be a real threat to the Obama regime.They are right, all the polls show her tied with Huckabee and Romney for the very early lead in the 2012 Republican primary. As a “tell it like it is” conservative, she has an 80% approval rating among conservatives and a 40% favorable plurality among independents. In this day and age, I find it interesting that to find favor with the media and the elite, one has to disagree with everything that makes any kind of sense. I find that people who are scorned the most are the ones on the right track.

Because of her sincerity and “no holds barred” style, Sarah Palin has a lot of political clout, drawing far larger crowds than any politician except perhaps the president. She was the only one who could intercede the Michael Jackson story on the cable TV news channels.

Palin continues to gain public confidence , even while most politicians around the world are falling from grace, these are the same politicians who are belittling her for being incompetent and unqualified. They assume it was a gross political blunder to resign from the governorship of Alaska.

 Have they ever looked at a map, Alaska  is several thousands miles from the continental United States, being close to an 8 hour flight from Washington D.C. it is almost impossible to campaign and stay abreast of things, being that far away.
She is correct in saying that there were too many distractions that kept her from performing her duties as Governor. How well did Obama fulfill his duties as senator of Illinois while campaigning, he wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars. Personally, I think every politician that runs for another office should resign the office they currently hold. Not only is it  fair to their constituents, it also shows a commitment to the new position they are trying to assume.

Not only that , Palin is someone who knows how to talk to people rather than talking at or down to them.

People also  respond favorably to a candidate who does not respond favorably to the Washington political class — nor it to her.

Palin made a wise decision and has a bright future, conservatives need tore-embrace conservative values .Most people realize that McCain would have lost by a landslide,had it not been for Sarah Palin.

This country was founded on individual freedom, liberty, and free enterprise,not socialism and Marxism. We need more leaders who will support these and other conservative ideals, rather than govern by the latest polls,or what Hollywood dictates.

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Bush didn’t Lie, Saddam did.

Bush didn’t lie, Saddam did

You’ll never hear this in the MSM, They don’t want to admit they made a mistake.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq,Saddam Hussein stayed in Baghdad until he saw ‘the city was about tofall.’ Months later, he was caught hiding at the same farm where he hadfled in 1959 after taking part in an attempt to kill the country’sprime minister.  Unclassified FBI interviews conducted during hisincarceration at a U.S. detention center offered new details Thursdayabout the late Iraqi dictator’s life on the run — both before andafter he was ousted.  The documents also confirm previous reports thatSaddam lied about having weapons of mass destruction.  The documentsconfirm that Saddam falsely allowed the world to believe Iraq hadweapons of mass destruction because he feared revealing his weakness toIran.  He was more afraid of Iran than he was us or anybody else. Remember, now, Saddam was captured on December 13th, 2003, eight monthsafter his regime was toppled by our invasion.  An Iraqi tribunalconvicted him of crimes against humanity and he was hanged at the endof 2006. 

 Saddam was lying about his weapons of mass destruction., everyone knew this except for the media, the left knew it , but they were so bent on blaming Bush for everything , the truth didn’t matter.  Well, heallowed the world to believe it, falsified all those reports.  Now,this is not going to satisfy anybody on the left because their template is, Bush lied, faulty intelligence, Bush knew and even ifSaddam was lying, they said Bush knew that Saddam was lying.

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Sarah Palin, Woman on a Mission

Destiny calls Sarah Palin

The future calls Sarah Palin and Alaska

12:00pm AKST – Update from Governor Palin: We’ll soon attach info on
decision to not seek re-election… this is in Alaska’s best interest,
my family’s happy… it is good, stay tuned.

Hi Alaska, I appreciate speaking directly TO you, the people I serve, as your Governor.

People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing’s more
important to me than our beloved Alaska. Serving her people is the
greatest honor I could imagine.

I want Alaskans to grasp what can be in store for our state. We were
purchased as a territory because a member of President Abe Lincoln’s
cabinet, William Seward, providentially saw in this great land, vast
riches, beauty, strategic placement on the globe, and opportunity. He
boldly looked “North to the Future”. But he endured such ridicule and
mocking for his vision for Alaska, remember the adversaries scoffed,
calling this “Seward’s Folly”. Seward withstood such disdain as he
chose the uncomfortable, unconventional, but RIGHT path to secure
Alaska, so Alaska could help secure the United States.

People who know me know that besides faith and family, nothing’s more important to me than our beloved Alaska.

Alaska’s mission – to contribute to America. We’re strategic IN the
world as the air crossroads OF the world, as a gatekeeper of the
continent. Bold visionaries knew this – Alaska would be part of
America’s great destiny.

Our destiny to be reached by responsibly developing our natural
resources. This land, blessed with clean air, water, wildlife,
minerals, AND oil and gas. It’s energy! God gave us energy.

So to serve the state is a humbling responsibility, because I know in
my soul that Alaska is of such import, for America’s security, in our
very volatile world. And you know me by now, I promised even four years
ago to show MY independence… no more conventional “politics as usual”.

And we are doing well! My administration’s accomplishments speak for themselves. We work tirelessly for Alaskans.

We aggressively and responsibly develop our resources because they were
created to be used to better our world… to HELP people… and we
protect the environment and Alaskans (the resource owners) foremost
with our policies.

Here’s some of the things we’ve done:

We created a petroleum integrity office to oversee safe development. We
held the line FOR Alaskans on Point Thomson – and finally for the first
time in decades – they’re drilling for oil and gas.

We have AGIA, the gasline project – a massive bi-partisan victory (the
vote was 58 to 1!) – also succeeding as intended – protecting Alaskans
as our clean natural gas will flow to energize us, and America, through
a competitive, pro-private sector project. This is the largest private
sector energy project, ever. THIS is energy independence.

And ACES – another bipartisan effort – is working as intended and
industry is publicly acknowledging its success. Our new oil and gas
“clear and equitable formula” is so Alaskans will no longer be taken
advantage of. ACES incentivizes NEW exploration and development and
JOBS that were previously not going to happen with a monopolized North
Slope oil basin.

We cleaned up previously accepted unethical actions; we ushered in bi-partisan Ethics Reform.

We also slowed the rate of government growth, we worked with the
Legislature to save billions of dollars for the future, and I made no
lobbyist friends with my hundreds of millions of dollars in budget
vetoes… but living beyond our means today is irresponsible for

We took government out of the dairy business and put it back into private-sector hands – where it should be.

We provided unprecedented support for education initiatives, and with
the right leadership, finally filled long-vacant public safety
positions. We built a sub-Cabinet on Climate Change and took heat from
Outside special interests for our biologically-sound wildlife
management for abundance.

We broke ground on the new prison.

And we made common sense conservative choices to eliminate personal
luxuries like the jet, the chef, the junkets… the entourage.

And the Lt. Governor and I said “no” to our pay raises. So much success
in this first term – and with this success I am proud to take credit…
for hiring the right people! Our goal was to achieve a gasline project,
more fair oil and gas valuation, and ethics reform in four years. We
did it in two. It’s because of the people… good public servants
surrounding the Governor’s office, with servants’ hearts and astounding
work ethic… THEY are Alaska’s success!

We are doing well! I wish you’d hear MORE from the media of your
state’s progress and how we tackle Outside interests – daily – SPECIAL
interests that would stymie our state. Even those debt-ridden stimulus
dollars that would force the heavy hand of federal government into our
communities with an “all-knowing attitude” – I have taken the slings
and arrows with that unpopular move to veto because I know being right
is better than being popular. Some of those dollars would harm Alaska
and harm America – I resisted those dollars because of the obscene
national debt we’re forcing our children to pay, because of today’s Big
Government spending; it’s immoral and doesn’t even make economic sense!

Another accomplishment – our Law Department protected states’ rights –
TWO huge U.S. Supreme Court reversals came down against that liberal
Ninth Circuit, deciding in OUR state’s favor over the last two weeks.
We’re protectors of our Constitution – federalists protect states’
rights as mandated in 10th amendment.

But you don’t hear much of the good stuff in the press anymore, do you?

Some say things changed for me on August 29th last year – the day John
McCain tapped me to be his running-mate – I say others changed.

Let me speak to that for a minute.

Political operatives descended on Alaska last August, digging for dirt.
The ethics law I championed became their weapon of choice. Over the
past nine months I’ve been accused of all sorts of frivolous ethics
violations – such as holding a fish in a photograph, wearing a jacket
with a logo on it, and answering reporters’ questions.

Every one – all 15 of the ethics complaints have been dismissed. We’ve
won! But it hasn’t been cheap – the State has wasted THOUSANDS of hours
of YOUR time and shelled out some two million of YOUR dollars to
respond to “opposition research” – that’s money NOT going to fund
teachers or troopers – or safer roads. And this political absurdity,
the “politics of personal destruction” … Todd and I are looking at
more than half a million dollars in legal bills in order to set the
record straight. And what about the people who offer up these silly
accusations? It doesn’t cost them a dime so they’re not going to stop
draining public resources – spending other peoples’ money in their game.

It’s pretty insane – my staff and I spend most of our day dealing with
THIS instead of progressing our state now. I know I promised no more
“politics as usual,” but THIS isn’t what anyone had in mind for ALASKA.

If I have learned one thing: LIFE is about choices!

And one chooses how to react to circumstances. You can choose to engage
in things that tear down, or build up. I choose to work very hard on a
path for fruitfulness and productivity. I choose NOT to tear down and
waste precious time; but to build UP this state and our country, and
her industrious, generous, patriotic, free people!

Life is too short to compromise time and resources… it may be
tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along,
and appease those who demand: “Sit down and shut up”, but that’s the
worthless, easy path; that’s a quitter’s way out. And a problem in our
country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and
“go with the flow”.

Nah, only dead fish “go with the flow”.

No. Productive, fulfilled people determine where to put their efforts, choosing to wisely utilize precious time… to BUILD UP.

And there is such a need to BUILD up and FIGHT for our state and our
country. I choose to FIGHT for it! And I’ll work hard for others who
still believe in free enterprise and smaller government; strong
national security for our country and support for our troops; energy
independence; and for those who will protect freedom and equality and
LIFE… I’ll work for and campaign for those PROUD to be American, and
those who are INSPIRED by our ideals and won’t deride them.

I WILL support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the
RIGHT reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at
all. Inside Alaska – or Outside Alaska.

But I won’t do it from the Governor’s desk.

I’ve never believed that I, nor anyone else, needs a title to do this –
to make a difference… to HELP people. So I choose, for my State and
my family, more “freedom” to progress, all the way around… so that
Alaska may progress… I will not seek re-election as Governor.

And so as I thought about this announcement that I wouldn’t run for
re-election and what it means for Alaska, I thought about how much fun
some governors have as lame ducks… travel around the state, to the
Lower 48 (maybe), overseas on international trade – as so many
politicians do. And then I thought – that’s what’s wrong – many just
accept that lame duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck, and
“milk it”. I’m not putting Alaska through that – I promised
efficiencies and effectiveness! ? That’s not how I am wired. I am not
wired to operate under the same old “politics as usual.” I promised
that four years ago – and I meant it.

It’s not what is best for Alaska.

I am determined to take the right path for Alaska even though it is unconventional and not so comfortable.

With this announcement that I am not seeking re-election… I’ve
determined it’s best to transfer the authority of governor to
Lieutenant Governor Parnell; and I am willing to do so, so that this
administration – with its positive agenda, its accomplishments, and its
successful road to an incredible future – can continue without
interruption and with great administrative and legislative success.

My choice is to take a stand and effect change – not hit our heads
against the wall and watch valuable state time and money, millions of
your dollars, go down the drain in this new environment. Rather, we
know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in
time, on another scale, and actually make a difference for our
priorities – and so we will, for Alaskans and for Americans.

Let me go back to a comfortable analogy for me – sports… basketball.
I use it because you’re naïve if you don’t see the national full-court
press picking away right now: A good point guard drives through a full
court press, protecting the ball, keeping her eye on the basket… and
she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can WIN. And
I’m doing that – keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound
priorities – smaller government, energy independence, national
security, freedom! And I know when it’s time to pass the ball – for

I have given my reasons candidly and truthfully… and my last day
won’t be for another few weeks so the transition will be very smooth.
In fact, we will look to swear Sean in – in Fairbanks at the conclusion
of our Governor’s picnics.

I do not want to disappoint anyone with my decision; all I can ask is
that you TRUST me with this decision – but it’s no more “politics as

Some Alaskans don’t mind wasting public dollars and state time. I do. I
cannot stand here as your Governor and allow millions upon millions of
our dollars go to waste just so I can hold the title of Governor. And
my children won’t allow it either. ? Some will question the timing. ?
Let’s just say, this decision has been in the works for awhile…

In fact, this decision comes after much consideration, and finally
polling the most important people in my life – my children (where the
count was unanimous… well, in response to asking: “Want me to make a
positive difference and fight for ALL our children’s future from
OUTSIDE the Governor’s office?” It was four “yes’s” and one “hell
yeah!” The “hell yeah” sealed it – and someday I’ll talk about the
details of that… I think much of it had to do with the kids seeing
their baby brother Trig mocked by some pretty mean-spirited adults
recently.) Um, by the way, sure wish folks could ever, ever understand
that we ALL could learn so much from someone like Trig – I know he
needs me, but I need him even more… what a child can offer to set
priorities RIGHT – that time is precious… the world needs more
“Trigs”, not fewer.

My decision was also fortified during this most recent trip to Kosovo
and Landstuhl, to visit our wounded soldiers overseas, those who
sacrifice themselves in war for OUR freedom and security… we can ALL
learn from our selfless Troops… they’re bold, they don’t give up,
they take a stand and know that LIFE is short so they choose to NOT
waste time. They choose to be productive and to serve something greater
than SELF… and to build up their families, their states, our country.
These Troops and their important missions – those are truly the worthy
causes in this world and should be the public priority with time and
resources and NOT this local / superficial wasteful political

May we ALL learn from them!

*((Gotta put First Things First))*

First things first: as Governor, I love my job and I love Alaska. It
hurts to make this choice but I am doing what’s best for Alaska. I’ve
explained why… though I think of the saying on my parents’
refrigerator that says “Don’t explain: your friends don’t need it and
your enemies won’t believe you anyway.”

But I have given my reasons… no more “politics as usual” and I am
taking my fight for what’s right – for Alaska – in a new direction.

Now, despite this, I don’t want any Alaskan dissuaded from entering
politics after seeing this REAL “climate change” that began in
August… no, we NEED hardworking, average Americans fighting for
what’s right! And I will support you because we need YOU and YOU can
effect change, and I can too on the outside.

We need those who will respect our Constitution where government’s
supposed to serve from the BOTTOM UP, not move toward this TOP DOWN big
government take-over… but rather, will be protectors of individual
rights – who also have enough common sense to acknowledge when
conditions have drastically changed and are willing to call an audible
and pass the ball when it’s time so the team can win! And that is what
I’m doing!

Remember Alaska… America is now, more than ever, looking North to the
Future. It’ll be good. So God bless you, and from me and my family – to
ALL Alaska – you have my heart.

And we will be in the capable hands of our Lieutenant Governor, Sean
Parnell. And Lieutenant General Craig Campbell will assume the role of
Lieutenant Governor. And it is my promise to you that I will always be
standing by, ready to assist. We have a good, positive agenda for

In the words of General MacArthur said, “We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

Obama Forever?

Obama Forever

Obama Forever, is the the change you voted for?


A resolution, H.J. Res. 5, was introduced into committee on January 6, 2009 which seeks to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, thus removing term limits for U.S. presidents.

Yes, you read it right. Democrat Representative Jose Serrano of New York wishes to allow unlimited terms for President Obama.

The presidential term limit was ratified as an amendment to the Constitution in 1951. However, our founding fathers adhered to the principle of a two-term limit on their own accord. The only president that served more than two terms was Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt, who served four non-consecutive terms.

Shall we go the way of the Venezuelan dictatorship? Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and President Obama both expressed opposition to the recent ousting of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, calling it a coup, rather than a legal overthrow of a president who was violating Honduran law and attempting to change their constitution to permit him to stay in office indefinitely. The action had gone through the proper legal process, was voted on by the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress, and had the support of the majority of the people.

According to an AP report,Obama stated, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there. It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the realm which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections,” he added. “The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions. … We don’t want to go back to a dark past.”

What’she afraid of? Why would Obama side with a tyrant rather than the people of Honduras? Could this “precedent” be a threat to his future plans?

The AP article also reports that Obama said the United States will “stand on the side of democracy” and work with other nations and international groups to resolve the matter peacefully. What does this mean – “work with other nations and international groups”? Does this mean he intends to intervene in the results of the Honduran political process in ousting their tyrant?

I am outraged by our president’s support for a power-hungry tyrant over the will of the people.

Article reproduced from the Rush Limbaugh show.

 Gary has been a writer/ photographer for over 20 years, specializing in nature,landscapes and studying native cultures.Besides visiting most of the United States, he has traveled to such places as Egypt,the Canary Islands,much of the Caribbean. He has studied  the Mayan Cultures in Central America, and the Australian Aboriginal way of life.Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in many different parts of the world!

He has published several books about the various cultures he has observed.

For more information and a link to his hard cover and Ebooks,and contact information: please check his website.www.commonsensejourneys.com

Your comments appreciated





Most thinking people are dismayed that President Obama was reelected for a second term of office. Many are worried that America as we know it will be no longer, falling into socialism and become a welfare state. Many fear worse that we will fall to communism or Marxism.

The situation doesn’t look good; from all indications that is exactly where we are headed. But be not dismayed.

Art Prints

Don’t get that College Degree

Makes sense to me.




June 28, 2009

The four-year college degree has come to cost too much and prove too little.

It’s now a bad deal for the average student, family, employer,professor and taxpayer.

A student who secures a degree is increasingly unlikely to make up its cost, despite higher pay, and the employer who requires a degree puts faith in a system whose standards are slipping. Too many professors who are bound to degree teaching can’t truly profess; they don’t proclaim loudly the things they know but instead whisper them to a chosen few, whom they must then accommodate with inflated grades.Worst of all, bright citizens spend their lives not knowing the things they ought to know, because they’ve been granted liberal-arts degrees for something far short of a liberal-arts education.

I’m not arguing against higher learning but for it — and against the degree system that stands in its way.


Consider two childhood friends, Ernie and Bill. Hard workers with helpful families, each saves exactly $16,594 for college. Ernie doesn’t get accepted to a school he likes. Instead, he starts work at 18 and invests his college savings in a mutual fund that tracks the broad stock market.

Throughout his life, he makes average yearly pay for a high school graduate with no college, starting at $15,901 after taxes and peaking at $32,538. Each month, he adds to his stock fund 5% of his after-tax income, close to the nation’s current savings rate. It returns 8% a year, typical for stock investors.

Bill has a typical college experience. He gets into a public college and after two years transfers to a private one. He spends$49,286 on tuition and required fees, the average for such a track. I’m not counting room and board, since Bill must pay for his keep whether he goes to college or not. Bill gets average-size grants, adjusted for average probabilities of receiving them, and so pays $34,044 for college.

He leaves school with an average-size student loan and a good interest rate: $17,450 at 5%. The $16,594 he has saved for college, you see, is precisely enough to pay what his loans don’t cover.

Bill will have higher pay than Ernie his whole life, starting at$23,505 after taxes and peaking at $56,808. Like Ernie, he sets asides%. At that rate, it will take him 12 years to pay off his loan.Debt-free at 34, he starts adding to the same index fund as Ernie,making bigger monthly contributions with his higher pay. But when the two reunite at 65 for a retirement party, Ernie will have grown his savings to nearly $1.3 million. Bill will have less than a third of that.

How can that be? College degrees bring higher income, but at today’s cost they can’t make up the savings they consume and the debt they add early in the life of a typical student. While Ernie was busy earning, Bill got stuck under his bill.

My example is a crude one. I adjust neither wages nor investment returns for inflation, resulting in something of a wash. I don’t takeout for investment taxes, since it would take Ernie only a few years to move his starting sum into a tax-shielded retirement account, and both savers could add to such accounts thereafter. I assume 2007’sincome-tax distribution holds despite pending changes that will shift it in favor of Ernie’s lower income. I’m comparing only savings, not living standards. Bill will presumably be able to afford nicer things than Ernie along the way. But maybe not: I assume that Bill completes college in four years. More than 40% of students who enter a bachelor’s program don’t have a degree after six years, according to Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder, whose book “Going Broke by Degree” sounded an alarm over college costs in 2004.

Crucially, I also assume college-educated Bill will earn what his peers did in bubbly 2005, when bloated real-estate and stock prices stoked consumer spending, producing unusually large corporate profits and loose lending, and sending banks grabbing after grads at premium pay. The bubbles have since popped, and banks have shrunk.

“The economic downturn has worsened the cost problem,” Vedder says.”There will be many more people for whom costs will exceed benefits.”

Some students will get a better-than-average deal. They’ll get more aid or end up in higher-paying jobs. But far too many will lose money.

It’s crass, you might think, to reduce education to a financial decision. An educated citizenry is healthier, more tolerant, more politically engaged and more fulfilled than an ignorant one. But I refer above to degrees, not education. The two are not the same, even if policymakers talk as though they are.


Students want jobs and respect. Degrees bring both. Employers,meanwhile, want smart, capable workers. A degree is a decent enough proxy for intelligence, but we want it to be more than that. We want degrees to mean that students have learned the foundations of human knowledge: literature, chemistry, physics, composition, metaphysics,psychology, economics and so on. If we didn’t, we’d replace degrees with inexpensive vocational exams.

Charles Murray, a fellow at American Enterprise Institute, calls for just that in a recent book, “Real Education.” He argues that too many kids who lack the ability to complete a liberal-arts education are being pushed into four-year liberal-arts schools, because there’s a steep societal penalty for not getting a degree. Schools, in turn, have made their degree programs easier. Murray provides a sample of courses that students used to fulfill core degree requirements at major universities in 2004, including History of Comic Book Art (Indiana University), History and Philosophy of Dress (Texas Tech University)and Campus Culture and Drinking (Duke University). He documents not only falling standards but rampant grade inflation.

He’s not alone. In 2005, the Department of Education created a commission to study the college system and recommend reforms. A year later, the Spellings Commission (named for then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings) reported a long list of shortcomings, including “a remarkable absence of accountability mechanisms to ensure that colleges succeed in educating students.” It found “disturbing signs” that degree earners “have not actually mastered the reading, writing and thinking skills we expect of college graduates.” Literacy levels among college graduates, the commission noted, fell sharply over the 12 years ending in 2003.


To be sure, Harvard graduates are bright. They were bright when they got accepted. Last year, Harvard’s undergraduate school accepted a record-low 7.9% of the record-high number of students who applied. Of these, 97% will earn degrees, and most will rightly go on to win plum jobs and coveted spots in graduate schools.

But universities are meant to teach, just as hospitals are meant to heal. A hospital that turned away the sickest 92% of patients would have little cause to celebrate the recovery of the rest. Harvard,though, is called America’s finest college by US News & World Report.

“There’s almost a tyranny to it,” says Ohio University’s Vedder.”Somehow a good college has become one that turns people away.”

High cost isn’t a coincidence but a necessary outcome. The way to keep a thing valuable is to keep it scarce, so prestigious schools accept few. Government afford ability initiatives — grants, loans, tax breaks and the like — puff up buying power against constrained supply,ballooning prices and creating the opposite of afford ability. In their-year period ending in 2005, increases
in tuition and fees out paced inflation by 36% at private colleges and 51% at public ones.

Harvard’s own charter, engrossed on parchment in 1650, says nothing about keeping knowledge scarce. It simply promises, in welcoming language for the time, “the education of the English and Indian youth of this country.” I single out Harvard because it’s iconic, not because it’s more guilty than its peers. How sad that elite schools are reduced to machines that cull the bright from the dull and charge mightily to brand them for success — which these students would have achieved anyhow, because they’re bright.

A more inclusive four-year degree isn’t the answer; the degree itself often obstructs learning. Consider the laid-off sales clerk who wishes to pursue a college education in hopes of finding a better job.If he wants to go to a name-brand school he must study for and take an admissions test and apply. He must also file a financial-aid application as long and complex as a tax return. He then must wait and cross his fingers. If accepted by the school, he must wait again for the right part of the academic calendar to come around and hope that the classes he wants aren’t full. Suppose all goes well. He’ll be sitting in front of a teacher a good 18 months after first deciding to learn. What folly.

As I write this, Google is putting every book ever written on line.Apple is offering video college lectures for free download through its i tunes software. Skye allows free videoconferencing anywhere in the world. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and many other schools have made course materials available for free on their Web sites.Tutors cost as little as $15 an hour. Today’s student who decides to learn at 1 a.m. should be doing it by 1:30. A process that makes him wait 18 months is not an education system. It’s a barrier to education.


The system must change before students are made poorer, society grows less equal, the bright are left ignorant and “college” comes to me an a four-year pajama party intruded upon by the occasional group discussion on gender studies. The answer is to relieve schools of the job of validating knowledge and return them to a role of spreading it.Colleges should no more vouch for their own academic competence than butchers should decide for themselves whether their meat is USDA prime.

The Spellings Commission recommended that government push colleges to “develop inter operable outcomes-focused accountability systems designed to be accessible and useful for students, policymakers and the public, as well as for internal management and institutional improvement.” Unencrypted, that means schools should figure out a way to prove what students have learned, beyond the say-so of their degrees. The commission was correct on what’s needed. It was wrong on who should do it.

We need a national standard for certifying what students have learned. The easiest way is to simply test independently for course knowledge and compile the results on standardized knowledge transcripts.

We do similar testing now. Students at 1,400 colleges (about a third of such US institutions) can get credit for courses by passing tests created by the College Board. (Participating schools generally restrict the number of tests students may use toward degrees.) There are 34 subjects, including calculus, biology, US history, business law and Spanish language. Tests cost $70. Guide books cost $10. There are,300 test centers on college campuses.

Perhaps these tests are comprehensive enough, and perhaps they’re not. I’m not qualified to say. The nation’s professors are, and they should take up the task of defining this new national standard, even ata threat to their own power, because in truth, a teacher forced to amicably promote the few when he should be boldly teaching the many is robbed of power.

I can only guess what this knowledge transcript would look like –something like a résumé or credit report, perhaps. I picture a scrawny tree drawn on a page, with the branches representing the fields of learning and the student tasked with extending them. Perhaps vocational certificates would be listed, too. Maybe, once the tree reached a prescribed fatness, we’d call the student a bachelor of arts. But employers could select whatever tree shapes suited them, and college would no longer be a degree-or-nothing affair. Learning would be available everywhere and at a moment’s notice, and would be rewarded right away.

This knowledge transcript would care nothing about where a student had learned, how much he spent or how long he took. It wouldn’t care whether he was 12 or 60 when he proved he knew algebra or how many times he failed before succeeding, or whether he knew important people.Employers would have better proof of what students knew. Policymakers,too. Students wouldn’t pile on debt. They wouldn’t be misled by a college degree into believing they knew more than they did. They’d become true stewards of their own lifelong education.

Universities, I’m guessing, would look much the same. Students would always want to go on long learning sabbaticals at places with top teachers and well-appointed classrooms, and to be around like-minded people for collaboration, sports, fellowship and, not nearly least,mating. But schools would have to truly compete on price and teaching excellence. They’d no longer be able to charge students high prices just because of their ability to confer on them high pay. They’d teach as many students as would learn, since doing so would strengthen their brands, not dilute them. Whisperers would once again profess, and we’d all be better for it.

Jack Hough is an associate editor at Smart money and the author of “Your Next Great Stock: How to Screen the Market for Tomorrow’s performers.

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