John McCroskey Commentary: The Cost of Free College and the Loss of Common Sense in Public Education


I feel pretty fortunate that the education I got in Chehalis and at Centralia College was actually pretty good.

While I was in the Navy, I took some community college classes as a 19-year-old in California because it was free to residents, and military members qualified as residents back then. I’m not sure how long they did that because I was a lousy student and didn’t attend all my classes regularly. I didn’t feel bad about it either, and I wasn’t the only one.

The reason was simple; we had no financial investment in the education they were willing to provide us for free. 

Of course, it wasn’t free. It was just free to me.

Today it’s quite different, not only in the cost to attend college, but in that so many have the misguided expectation that other people should pay for it. I’m not sure where that even comes from except by utopian democratic socialists and their ilk in Washington, D.C., Calls to forgive student loans are really just calls to make us pay for it. 

No thanks.

Many students expecting debt forgiveness made poor decisions, and the elected liberals demanding it are too. But elected officials in D.C. are used to making bad decisions, usually expensive ones with other people's money.

But to me the problem goes much deeper, especially in public education.

In the last few years, the assault on the innocence of children continued with a referendum here in Washington for mandatory sex education from kindergarten through 12th grade in public education. 

I’m not sure the curriculum has been developed yet, but I can only hope it’s not what they got in Illinois. An outraged mother recently held up some graphic content including cartoon images at a school board meeting. I won’t describe what topics they covered, but suffice it to say this was a pre-teenager curriculum and it was graphic and gross.

Maybe schools should focus on what produced the Greatest Generation — reading, writing and arithmetic.

But at least in K-12, generally kids have their parents, and sometimes, maybe not enough, parents can put a stop to these things — if they know about them. There is an affluent school district in Virginia where the school is accused of hiding what the kids are being taught, and in some cases teachers told their students not to discuss with their parents what they were being taught. 

That’s nuts.

So why is that important? Because I haven’t heard it's happening here yet, so we need to pay attention so it doesn’t.

Another thing that seems to be coming to some school districts and becoming very controversial (and sadly affecting our military as well) is Critical Race Theory (CRT). If you don’t know what it is, read about it from both sides of the political yammering. 

Some say it's just an objective look at whites treating  Black people badly over the history of our country, and of course some whites did. 

As I’ve written before, I don’t buy that America is racist. Even Joe Biden has said that. 

But it appears to me CRT operates with that assumption at its core.  I’m sure there are examples of individuals who are racist, but that doesn’t mean systemic racism exists or it’s fair to blame any race or any group of a blanket sin.

But CRT, as far as I’ve read, does. It doesn’t tell a balanced story about the history of racism.

And it's being forced on kids.

Parents of all races are objecting to it.

Maybe instead of CRT, schools should be teaching critical thinking and not demand woke groupthink that seems all the rage today.

A young North Korean woman, Yeonmi Park — who escaped North Korea, eventually made it to the U.S. and attended Columbia University, — had a damning assessment of the indoctrination (her word) she received there. The best line was “even North Korea is not this nuts.” But she also lamented that we are losing the ability to critically think and use common sense.

Much of her concerns are not limited to Columbia of course. It seems widespread in colleges across the country.

That should scare anyone sending their kids to a university and spending that kind of money for it.


John McCroskey was Lewis County sheriff from 1995 to 2005. He lives outside Chehalis, and can be contacted at