Ah, the end of the school year. Until this year, it meant baseball season, warm weather and the beginning of summer vacation for the kids. The last days of school brought some testing and finals, but not much else.
This year is different. I have an upcoming sixteen year old (July) and this summer means driver’s education and, if you can believe it, discussion of high school graduation only two short years away. This of course leads to the inevitable college discussion. Her junior year is coming up and the colleges are already putting on the full court press with letters, packages and slick fliers.
When I was getting ready for school, it was assumed that everyone should go. I don’t think that has changed much in the past twenty odd years. My daughter’s classmates all seem to be headed that direction and the assumption seems to be that college is a prerequisite to any kind of successful life out in the big-wide-world.
In January 2009, I saw a great report by John Stossel (ABC News) which made me re-evaluate the whole college thing. Here are some key points Stossel makes in his report:
- “The bachelor’s degree is America’s most overrated product”
- College is a business, where the goal is more to put kids in the seats, and therefore bring in more revenue.
- College advisors do not do much to discourage average or below average students from traditional college.
- Average students (or below) might be better off with a technical or trade school, or no school at all.
- The high cost of college can sink graduates who had to borrow to go to school, and leave them with nothing to show for it.
To make matters even more interesting, I just finished a great book by Seth Godin called Linchpin. In it, he writes about the twentieth century notion of schooling (starting in grade school), and how the industrialized revolution dictated how we were taught.
- Education was a deliberate shift in culture in order to train factory workers. (Godin defines factories as any place where people go to work, do what they are told, follow the rules, and get a paycheck)
- Fear in school is a great way to teach compliance: pass the tests, keep your head down, and obey instructions.
- School is very much like a job. Do well; get another job (the next grade). Continue to do well and get a real job. Do poorly and/or rebel and you are kicked out of the system.
- The main thing measured by school is whether or not you were good at school. If you want to go to school forever, it is a great skill to have.
- Getting through school is a testament to who the student was before going to school, not because of the schooling, and most successful people get there despite their college degrees, not because of them.
So, for now, we talk and pray about the future for our kids and hope we help them make wise decisions about schooling when it comes time to do so.
What do you think? Is college overrated?