Who’s the snob? Who’s the snob?

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At a campaign stop last weekend, Rick Santorum, a former U.S. representative and senator and current contender for the highest office in the land, had two rather interesting things to say: “There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. ” The second was: “President Obama said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!”

Responding to the first, stripping it of any ideological reference, it would read: “There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to the test.” Now it’s a statement with which no American would disagree. There are plenty of people who live happy, productive lives without ever setting foot on a college campus. How do we know? Because we all know these people — they’re our parent, our child, our friend, our sibling, ourselves. Nope, no disagreement there.

The second quote is rather troubling.

Last week, the family of Lee Ardies Godley III placed a notice in the Washington Daily News. In it, a young man in graduation cap and gown smiles at the camera. Beside the photo is a brief write-up of how Godley went from Washington High School to Elizabeth City State University to UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating from college in 3 ½ years, with a degree in computer engineering, business administration and mathematics. All impressive. But what makes an even greater impression is the pride practically radiating from the page  — pride of a family in their boy’s accomplishments. Pride that in no way equates to snobbery.

Santorum is, arguably, in the political spotlight today because he went to college. He leveraged a degree in political science from Penn State, along with a master of business administration from the University of Pittsburgh, into an administrative position with Pennsylvania state Sen. Doyle Corman. It was Santorum’s law degree from Dickinson School of Law that ensured a job with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, a Pittsburgh law firm, where he worked for four years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives before going on to the Senate.

A four-year college isn’t for everyone, although it was for Lee Ardies Godley III. It certainly was for Rick Santorum.

The problem with Santorum’s statement is his narrow definition of college. A whole host of educational choices are ignored: two-year degrees in criminal justice, welding and automotive-systems technology from community colleges; certifications from those same institutions, preparing students to immediately step into jobs as electricians, cosmetologists and administrative assistants.

Going to a four-year college might not be for everyone, but having the option to go to college to learn the skills needed to be a viable, valuable part of the workforce, is.