Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is College Necessary For All?

A short time ago I came upon somebody asking the question of whether or not he should go to college. He was a senior in high school and was looking at options for his future. He generally hated school and had a generally bad high school experience. He was asking his forum colleagues should he spend the time and money needed to pursue higher education or invest the time learning some trade or just get a job and work experience.

This question is not as simple as it seems. The answer which society tries to ram down our throats is that you must go to college. We've all seen the commercials. If you don't go to college you are going to be some loser stuck in the rails of a dead end job. You are going to be some ignoramus, to always be looked down upon. And yes, this is true in some sectors of society where status is more important that actual merit.

I truly hate seeing those commercials on TV because they are so disingenuous in what they promise. Why if you go to college your life automatically becomes better and you are guaranteed your dream job. Yes and no, you will have an advantage. An education is an asset. However, like any asset you need to know how to use it. In addition, quite honestly, you need a little luck if you don't have the proper connections.

So here we are back at the question. Is college necessary for everyone? The plain and brutal answer to that question in my opinion is no. Now I am not of the opinion that (as Judge Smails in Caddyshack said so eloquently) "the world needs ditch diggers, too". I don't want to feel that way because when it comes to education I do want everyone to have free and open access to it.

In an ideal society everybody should be educated as far as they choose to pursue with a some minimum requirements. Unfortunately, there is the factor of the economy. How many jobs are there to support this promise that a college degree will give you all your hopes and dreams? Right now is not the case and may not be for a very long time. It is quite possible that the halcyon days of America's economic superpower days are over unless some people are elected with some smattering of economic intelligence. (Our own President saying that we need to get ourselves into more debt to pay off our bills, Lord help this country.)

A B.A. today is what a high school diploma used to be. Some would say that is great. That America has a level of education which is a tremendous success. No, that dream is now a nightmare of debt for all those promised this great dream. With no actual income to repay the loans which were blindly handed out those kids are now crippled economically. Jobs and education need to go hand in hand. Plus, an educated society is by no means guaranteed to be economically powerful.

So what to do? Well, I don't have all the answers and if I did nobody would listen to me anyway. However, one thing that I would start changing would be to stop requiring Master's Degrees for entry level positions. This will not happen, of course, but it is something that I would suggest. Perhaps a simple changing in the wording to 'must be willing to pursue' some level of degree. That would A) give the person who is interested in the field a job and B) bring the person who showed enough initiative to get the job up to the level of education that the employer wants to see. Employers need to be willing to look to other avenues of experience. Perhaps even bring back the taboo 'on the job training'.

I am curious to hear your opinions on this.

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