One thing that always rubbed me the wrong way in high school was my district’s take on college education. Somehow, the folks that decide what kind of tests and talks are given equated a degree with success; that’s a narrow worldview I don’t understand. We will now dive into possible reasons for why that view is held and attempt to form a logical rebuttal.
College graduates make more money. As this publication from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, those with a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, 1.7 times the amount that was earned by those who were only high school graduates in 1999, and advanced degree holders earned 2.6 times the amount. Also, college students are supposed to know and understand more. At least, that’s what the shiny piece of paper they’re given symbolizes.
That’s the argument for. Let’s poke holes in it.
The secret to the first pro-college point is the little phrase “on average.” This is, of course, taking into account every major from Ancient Egyptian Wigs to Petroleum Engineering. There are majors that pay less than “uneducated,” or blue-collar, jobs. And the second richest man in the world according to Forbes is a college dropout. In fact, here's a list of rich and influential college dropouts. Someone with a passion, talent, or work ethic that makes the cost of college more of a burden than a benefit shouldn’t waste his or her time with it.
In response to the second point, I have met many intelligent individuals who don’t have a degree to their name and know of many close-minded individuals who flaunt expensive PhDs, i.e. politicians. While college can help one think more critically, it is not the only instrument that does so.
Everything eventually boils down to a simple question: Is college worth it? The answer is a resounding “maybe.”
For some, like me, college is a must. I’m not a good enough musician, writer, chef, thief, or creative mind to challenge myself and live comfortably without a degree. I crave the knowledge that higher education can provide. I love that almost anyone I talk to on my campus has a favorite author and can tell me why. My college and career path will constantly challenge me, and I’m a junkie for the climb.
For others, college is absolutely pointless, and there’s no shame in that, which is the exact opposite of what my school district preached. Not everyone is wired the same way. I’d feel unfulfilled if I weren’t on the path I’m on now, and others wouldn’t trade spots with me for anything.
There are absolutely valid arguments that can be made saying more people would be able to go to college if they were given the correct motivation, but, in response, there are plenty of people in college who shouldn’t be there because they’re just wasting time, money, and space that could be occupied by a student eager to learn. A plethora of movies have been made that focus on the exploits of college students that participate in activities that are anything but academic.
High schools shouldn’t implant guilt in their students if they don’t have the characteristics necessary for college. Humans are too unique for a one-size-fits-all life plan, so how they're treated in school can't be universal either.
[Original artwork credit Carol Fairbanks]