Philosophers vs. Welders: Rubio Trumpets Vocational Training in Debate that Again Skirts Education
Republican presidential candidates on Tuesday once again largely avoided discussing the issue of education during the debate focused on the economy. Instead, they used it as an opportunity to criticize traditional higher education.
Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator who has been gaining popularity in the polls, argued against raising the minimum wage and instead called for reforming higher education. He emphasized the importance of vocational training over liberal arts education, stating that welders earn more money than philosophers. Rubio suggested that promoting vocational training could lead to higher wages without the risk of automation replacing human workers due to a higher minimum wage.
However, this claim about welders earning more money was quickly debunked by media outlets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who teach philosophy and religion actually earn about $30,000 more per year than skilled workers who fuse metal.
Rubio’s comments may be seen as an attempt to appeal to blue collar workers in the Republican primary who may feel that the emphasis on obtaining a college degree undervalues their skills and achievements.
Continuing his criticism of higher education, Rubio argued that the current model is outdated, expensive, and difficult to access. He also claimed that it fails to teach the necessary skills for the 21st century.
On the campaign trail, Rubio has proposed a plan that would allow companies to invest in a college student by paying their tuition. In return, the student would repay a certain percentage of their wages to the company over a specified period of time. In the Senate, Rubio has supported legislation that would make non-accredited, innovative higher education programs eligible to receive federal funding.
Rubio was not the only candidate to criticize the belief that everyone must go to college. During the earlier "undercard" debate for lower-polling candidates, Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, criticized President Obama and other Washington politicians, including Republicans, who promote the idea that college is the only path to success. Santorum argued for providing opportunities for people to work immediately after high school.
Both Rubio and Santorum also expressed opposition to the Common Core State Standards, which aim to better prepare students for college and careers. However, organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups support these standards as a means of preparing future American workers.