We critique the “college for all” discourse by unveiling its relationship to the politics of education, the broader economic and political contexts, and the class and race structures embedded in society and schooling, including higher education. We analyze the current and future labor markets to demonstrate the ways that the “college for all” discourse overstates the need for math and science knowledge and skills within the workforce, and we analyze the debt burdens associated with college attendance and completion to demonstrate that the promised benefits of “college for all” are often illusory for low-income, racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse students. Thus, we argue that “college for all”—just like “no child left behind” and the “race to the top”—functions as an ideological velvet to soften education policy talk, talk that actually carries big sticks that punish the very students proclaimed to be the beneficiaries of the proposed changes in schooling. The results of schooling practices articulated by the “college for all” discourse are (a) the reinforcement of material barriers to the stated aims of educational access and equity, and (b) the fortification of the class and race status quo. We examine the ways that the transformation of schooling must be linked to the establishment of just social, economic, and political institutions, and to the formation of a citizenry prepared to engage in the struggles for these institutions.

Response to Article

Nel Noddings, Schooling for Democracy