We'll never forget East St. Louis Assumption Catholic High School, which closed in 1989.
Its proud graduates remain among the Metro East's most important civic and business leaders. Their collective accomplishments, from a working-class school with minimal resources, are living evidence of what education, done well, can be.
Today, the building that once housed Assumption is a state prison. And the government monopoly schools that serve East St. Louis exclusively are sending six percent of their students to college.
We got nostalgic about Assumption this week, taking in another anti-education diatribe by Assumption's most famous graduate, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. His latest target: for-profit colleges, which audaciously trade self-centered, unionized teachers for a student-centered product and lower tuition bills. They are increasingly competing with traditional full-time options, which get massive state taxpayer subsidies but are pricing themselves out of the market, still.
Perhaps more importantly, for-profits appeal to students who cannot afford to drop everything and go away to school. They leverage technology and connectivity to deliver education more efficiently, without the pomp and circumstance. School is just school-- without the homecoming football games and celebrity professors who don't teach.
Durbin doesn't like education competition at any level because it challenges the constituency that supports him most: government employee unions. For him, our education system isn't for the students but a jobs program for the teachers. So long as they are members of a public sector union, of course.
Assumption's teachers weren't unionized. That's why school tuition there when Durbin attended was around $100, or less than 1/14th of what the East St. Louis public system spends per pupil today (inflation adjusted).
Color it ironic that Durbin likes to brag that his parents struggled "working on the railroad" so they could afford to send him to Assumption. Or that his parents-- immigrants in blue collar jobs looking to make ends meet and also get ahead educationally-- would be prototypical students at a for-profit college, studying online and at night, appreciative of both the flexibility and the bargain.
To be sure, for profit colleges today are much like private Catholic high schools of the 1950s, developed for strivers who demand more than the status quo.
This described Dick Durbin back then. That he'd actively oppose his own education path now says something about power, and how it corrupts