Are Ron Johnson & Charles Murray two peas in a pod on education?

As reported by the Oshkosh Northwestern, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson worked really really hard for over a year to bring controversial author Charles Murray to Oshkosh to speak about education. In his role as chairman of the Oshkosh Partners in Education (PIE) Council, a group of educators and business leaders who meet to discuss how best to prepare students for life after high school, Johnson pushed to have Murray come speak, despite the objections of other members of the PIE Council, objections which ultimately led to the resignation of two members of the council who did not want to be associated with Murray’s controversial views. Murray, who happens to be a a member of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, is best known for his controversial and bestselling book, “The Bell Curve,” which discusses genetic-based intelligence and differences in abilities among ethnic groups.

Johnson had started his push to bring Murray to Oshkosh back in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2010 when the PIE Council finally voted unanimously to bring Murray to Oshkosh – but only after two council members resigned and Johnson offered to pay Murray’s $5,750 speaking fee out of his own pocket.

While it would be tempting – and easy – to talk about the racial overtones of Murray’s beliefs, I’d rather focus on Murray’s belief – which Johnson apparently agrees with – that too many American students go to college when they instead should be satisfied with either not going to college or going to a vocational/technical school instead. While vocational/technical schools certainly offer invaluable training for individuals interested in learning a trade, I’d argue that one of the problems in our nation’s education system is that not enough young people are going to college. I was told from an early age that the two keys to success were education and hard work, and I’m a firm believer that the only limits to the potential of a student is the limits folks like Ron Johnson and Charles Murray want to place on those students based on race and standardized testing. While Murray – and perhaps Johnson – may believe that IQ testing is the end all, be all when it comes to determining which students deserve a chance to go to college, I’d argue that any student who wants to go to college should be given that chance, provided they’ve demonstrated an ability to do the academic work necessary.

Heck, by Charles Murray’s logic, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker, who was by his campaign’s account a “C” level college student – though we can’t know for sure because he won’t release his college transcripts – shouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he has, since he wasn’t among the educationally elite based on his grade.


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