Lower higher education

Mental Multivitamin says not every 18-year-old should go to college.

We parents, teachers, students celebrate and reward the “above average” in Lake Woebegone; in other words, the mediocre. And nowhere is this more depressingly apparent than in our system of higher education, where, at some point in the last six decades, we came to embrace the notion that anyone who wants it should have access to a college education, which has (pardon the pun) by degrees, reduced the value of the college diploma to a mass transit pass, duly punched as one hops along the map of his life: preschool, elementary school, high school, college, job, retirement, death (with an ample bit of taxes tossed in for good measure).

There may be no Bluebirds and Robins in first grade, but tracking returns in high school as some students take Advanced Placement classes and others slide by on the self-esteem track. I do wish teachers would explain to self-esteemers that they’re not preparing to pass college classes, as opposed to enrolling and then flunking out. Many students who’ve been on the AP college track probably would benefit from taking a year off after high school to work and grow up. They have the motivation to pursue higher education without having to do it in lockstep fashion.

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  1. I totally agree. But the higher education system benefits from everyone attending college, and the status of a college degree, no matter how useless (african-american/gender/gay studies?) is a strong pull for some.

    Recently, the mormon-owned university, BYU explained why they don’t offer a theology degree. They don’t because it severly limits the graduate’s employment opportunities. I truly wish that colleges would examine all classes (and not just majors) in this light (how will this class help a student to get a job and make a living?).

  2. Everyone benefits from education (higher or otherwise) The more education you have, the better able you are to cope with the real world, (As long as you get out into the real world: college professors, please take note.)

  3. Wacky Hermit says:

    Geoff said: “I truly wish that colleges would examine all classes (and not just majors) in this light (how will this class help a student to get a job and make a living?).”

    I would argue that we already have postsecondary schools that do this– they are called vocational schools. They fill a need, surely. And yet we still have colleges and universities. Vocational schools turn out graduates who are knowledgeable in their field and their minds are uncluttered by any kind of culture or ideas outside of what they need to do their jobs. This is why people still want college graduates– precisely because they have knowledge outside their field. They are “cross-trained” in all those useless subjects Geoff would like to do away with, like philosophy and art.

    And let’s not forget that with the advent of computers, math is dangerously close to being thrown on Geoff’s trash heap of useless courses. If math can go, what’s next?

  4. First, people who had a good mind could demonstrate that with a high school diploma, and start their lives at 18.

    Then, high school diplomas were handed out like candy, and people who wanted to demonstrate that they had intellectual firepower had to get a college diploma, and wait until 22 or 23 to start their lives.

    That’s absurd as it is. If we get to the point where you have to get a graduate degree, and put off your life until 25-26, just to show that you can handle anything more complex that “do you want fries with that”, that would be an absolute travesty.

  5. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    Bill informs us, “The more education you have, the better able you are to cope with the real world”.


    Educational institutions have all too many ways to make their inmates think they’re ‘educated’, but that’s a long way from coping with the real world. Evidence: the comfortable coccoon of NPR, where the hierarchy, the branded voices and the listeners all march along in lockstep, scheming of ways to enlighten those stubborn Others who don’t subscribe to the truths and concerns of their highly educated club.

    Hint to the club: that’s the real world you’re snooting at.

  6. Wacky Hermit, all I can say is that you’ve taken my position and distorted it beyond recognition. Well done!

  7. appears to be some confusion between college-attending and college-ready Any number of choices can be made at graduation, including a range of good colleges, but also some others. Far too many are left unable to attend college. I’ve worked with kids who had to burn a year of their life after high school getting ready for college, just because they fell through the cracks of a larger school

    Moreover, jobs which had been lower skilled in the past are requiring higher level of skills e.g. the oft-mentioned car mechanic and plumber cited in many places. As embedded devices become electronic, or they plug in to other systems (e.g. the water or drainage that plugs into an alarm system — the automotive example should be clear ) the skill mix changes … and the ability to learn gains importance — even if applied in a vocational or follow-on training. Thius is especially true as folks move from education as a 4 year college phase to life-long learning/retraining.

    Finally, better to have educated, aware citizens than the opposite. Not just for voting but any public discourse, whether a home, a cafe, pub or anywhere in between

  8. The issue that I have with “higher education” is the fact that students are coming to the conclusion that if they do not attend college, their life is an utter failure. This is then pushing non-college ready students into the college system. This can become even more problematic if the student does not complete their education.

    Yes, I do agree with the point that college is not for everyone. Like the Mental Multivitamin stated in its post, there is a limited number of middle to upper class positions. Society needs to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with becoming a plumber or mechanic. Yet, people feel as if their child is entitled to a college degree, whether or not if their child is qualified.

    I do believe that people are entitled to higher education…but my definition of higher education is NOT that of a university or college degree. Education does not have to take place within the confines of a university or school.

  9. “tracking returns in high school as some students take Advanced Placement classes and others slide by on the self-esteem track. I do wish teachers would explain to self-esteemers that they’re not preparing to pass college classes, as opposed to enrolling and then flunking out.”

    Since when did AP (which is a national curriculum in disguise) become the gold standard? Public schools are incompetent to present challenging classes w/out an outside body?

  10. The problem is that many institutions that purport to offer higher education do not. Instead, they offer classes not much harder than high school level with the added bonus of a precipitous decline in the level of discipline that occurs at high schools. The result is students, not much more mature than the day they left highschool (as opposed to those who haved been just working in that time), and who have not actually learned that much more than if they had simply read magazines and newspapers for their time in school. (wasting their and their parents money).
    The irony is that at your better state schools, such students go to classes side by side (okay, share sidewalks with) students who ARE learning something. Schools have effectively become mutli-tiered in learning experience, although this is not really reflected in the resulting diploma.

  11. Ken’s description of the problem above is exactly what I’ve said for years. The entry-level ticket to “making it” just keeps rising and shows no sign of relenting.

    We’re already seeing plenty of examples of occupations that rarely required college in the past, but now do. Why? Because college isn’t a differentiator any more; it’s now pretty much expected of almost anyone even if they have no desire to go into an occupation that requires one.

    The increase in college graduates also allows employers to use higher education as vocational training (i.e. “trade school U” instead of a small-l liberal education). Indeed, many collegians today complain about taking “useless” general education courses like language, humanities and social sciences because they are an engineering major, and how will it help them in their job?

    Society became less elitist about college access in recent decades, and that’s mostly a good thing, particularly where it concerns capable and deserving lower income students who would otherwise be wasting fabulous potential due to economic limitations. We’ve done no favors to society by greatly “dumbing down” the average college student by lowering the requirements to get there.

    All that does is cheapen the value of the college education, so the next step — as Ken explained — is to start requiring a graduate degree to become a manager trainee at Wal-Mart.

  12. Whenever it gets inconvenient or uncomfortable, lots of folks forget that in any sufficiently large population, half the people in it are, by definition, below average.

  13. Yes if you are average, then you are better than BILLIONS of others.

    Of course, you’re not quie as good as the other BILLIONS.

  14. I agree with your post 100%. It is sad that high schools are so worried about their “stats” that they send kids not ready, or not prepared for college to college. My high school boasted a 98% rate for college. I guarantee you that only half probably graduated college.


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