Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No You Don't Have to Go to College, seriously.

After graduating from college in 2007. I was all set to explode on the scene. Instead two years later I just took a job for $7 an hour from Wal-Mart. I have to admit I'm lucky to get that job in this economy. However what happened to college degree's being the gateway to success. How come I just spent $30,000 and my degree is basically worthless. It's because now everyone goes to college even people who don't need to. It has basically become the new high school diploma.

I have a new idea. I think students should be set on individual paths after eighth grade. In my scenario students would could chose one of three options. Option one would be to go to college. Many jobs do involve a high level of math and foreign languages that you just can't get in high school. Someone who wants to be a CIA operative would probably what to learn Arabic and Chinese. Engineers need high levels of Algebra and even calculus to be successful. Also someone who wanted to teach should go to college and learn about what he or she would be instructing. Doctors and lawyers would also still need advanced degrees.

Now that we've discussed what people need to go to college for now let's talk about option two skill based education. Any kid who has decided they want to learn a skill such as locksmith, plumber, carpenter, or welder just to name a few should not bother with college. We should have a separate track for these young men. For instance I had to take four English classes to graduate high school. If you can explain to me how poetry helps someone become a better pipe fitter or work on an assembly line in a plant I'm all ears, but if you can't, and face it you can't, does it make any sense to force these young men to learn poetry. Instead wouldn't we be better off if they took classes that helped them in their chosen profession. In some cases Algebra would be needed in others Geometry. If you needed a 5/8 wrench (by the way I have no idea what that is or if it even exist) you would probably want to know how much 5/8 was. Therefore a faction based math class might be necessary for some professions. I went to college with kids who couldn't do fractions. I never had any problem with factions, but some people could use a course on them in high school.

This bring me to option three business based education. The American dream is to come from nothing and succeed. When someone achieves the American dream it is usually because they started their own business. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart is a good example of this. As is Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's and of course Bill Gates, Microsoft founder. What if we taught some high school students how to start a business? Admittedly many businesses fail, but is that a reason not to give someone a chance to go after the American dream if they want to.

The final thing I would change is this need to require more education than necessary for almost everything these days. With few exceptions such as speciality doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Most profession should only require a four year degree.
Now don't get me wrong some jobs obviously require not only college but Master's Degrees. Lawyers, Doctors, engineers, and scientist just to name a few. However many government jobs require Master's degree's and then offer salaries that you can barely live on.

Of course the problem with the track system is what if someone changes their mind. Well here's an idea we allow them to change tracks. Any class that overlaps curriculum, and many would, could count toward the new track. However the student would have to start from scratch with the other courses. Yes this means it may take longer for a student that switched curriculum to graduate than one who did not switch. What if someone gets tired of being a plumber and wants to go to college? Well we still have technical college where you can go for two years and then transfer. Who knows maybe some four year institutions would who took different tracks. Also no system would be perfect, but I believe this system is the best out of all possible options.

If we adopted this model for education I believe we the dropout rates would drop tremendously because the kids wouldn't be bored out of their minds in school. They would wake up in the morning wanting to attend school instead of dreading attending school. Crime would drop because the kids that used to join gangs would now have a trade or be opening up their own business. Maybe I'm just being an optimist, but I think if you teach kids how to make money legally that won't go sell drugs and risk being thrown in prison. Of course we don't live in a utopia. No matter what the system some people will try to cheat, steal and even kill their way through life. However I believe if more of these kids could learn a skill or how to open their own business we would all benefit.


  1. Don't talk down Wall-Mart. You might become a manager there. Most grads have had experience with having accepted insulting wages at first because the alternative is too expensive -- a scouting adventure, limiting yourself only to employment to your ilk incurs an economic cost that may never be justified. Even if hired in corporate America, you're more likely to a lay off.

    Joe the Plumber has it right. They have unions and get paid very well for their more mundane efforts.

  2. You are the living proof that college is overrated and useless. Some might expect a decent level of literacy from a college graduate. It is clearly not your case...

  3. Your track system is fine, for a charter or private school or a community college. One of the requirements of the public school system is to make educated citizens, not just prepare people for a career. You had to take English to gain an appreciation of the breadth of our language and so be able to express yourself to others coherently (i.e. in a job interview or on a resume'). You had to take chemistry to have a basic understanding of chemical science so that you won't blow yourself up when you add ammonia to your bleach-based cleaning solution. You had to take civics so that you have a baseline for understanding how our Republic works and can make informed choices when you vote.

    Does the system need an overhaul? Yes. But not by putting people on a track in 8th grade. That is too young to force someone to make that choice. Again, public K-12 education needs to be a broad base for our citizens. So, start the change by paying good teachers more and weakening their unions at the same time. Establish strong pedagogical models that teach based on individual development and achievement, not standardized testing. Insist on English fluency for graduation. Insist on two years of a foreign language. Mandatory physical education and fine arts (at least one type, can't fit them all in to every student schedule). These are just a few examples.

    I agree that High School should include some business and finance education. Graduates need a basic understanding of how capitalism works. They need to understand basic investing principles and options. They need to understand the various processes of running a business. Many public schools used to have a DECA program that taught students how to run a business by having them run a student shop in the school (selling school supplies and snacks mostly). If this continues today, I don't know, but it was a strong program at one time.

    These are just some ideas.

  4. "We should have a separate track for these young men."
    ... and women. Don't make vocational training exclusive to boys!

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