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To College or Not to College; That is the Question December 4, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in education, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

Good.is posts the question, “Are too many people going to college?” based on an article by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle asks a panel of experts, among them professors and career experts, the questions:

“who should and shouldn’t go to college… how much does increasing college-going rates matter to our economy and society…economists have cited the economic benefits that individual students derive from college. does that still apply…who should pay for students to attend college…does the US view and handle this issue differently than other countries? should it…at what point does the cost of college outweigh the benefits?”

The panel differs widely in opinions but all bring up important points. My opinion aligns most closely with Charles Murray’s statement (and Dataduchess might disagree) that, “We have a moral obligation to destroy the current role of the B.A. in American life. It has become an emblem of first-class citizenship for no good reason,” which means that I also disagree with Daniel Yankelovich’s argument that, “With the disappearance of virtually all highly paid, low-skill jobs, the only way that most Americans can fulfill their aspirations for middle-class status is through acquiring a higher-education credential and the skills that go with it…Employers know that they are able to train qualified employees in specialized skills. For most employers, ‘qualified’ means having core skills like the ability to read, write, think clearly, and bring a strong work ethic to the task. It is those core skills (and virtues) that higher education warrants.”

From CanadianVeggie's Flickr Stream, licensed under Creative Commons

Yankelovich’s pretentious remarks assume that higher education provides the basic required skills of most jobs and a virtuous work ethic. He also argues that “low-skill” jobs have ceased to exist. It must be “low-skill” jobs that I argue for, for these do not require reading and writing.  Living in a rural area where the general contractors, electricians, and farmers make a decent (and often prosperous) living, and even the painters, pavers, and Cable men do well, I find these comments hard to digest. The “skills” for these professions are those things learned on the job, things for which they are certainly trained, but also things for which a college education would cause the delay of acquired proficiency. This is the very reason that institutes of higher learning push (and in many cases require) internships. And while internships are a part of higher education they are limited in time and scope. Being a full-time employee and learning the in and outs of a job are skills that can only be learned by those who choose to forgo a college education.

As for higher education begetting clear thinking and strong work ethics, my experiences in college libraries prove the opposite.  Not all young adults should be in college.  Many of the students do just enough to get a decent grade, taking short cuts and only putting in the most minimal effort. These young adults would perhaps do better if engaged in a hands-on career that challenged them and kept them busy. Perhaps Yankelovich is too entrenched in the institution of higher education to realize that “skills” are not limited to those taught in the classroom. If anything, the classroom is the vehicle that limits the “skills”.



1. Aela - December 8, 2009

Your comments on this topic are both refreshing and insightful. As a former college English instructor, I agree with your statement that not all students belong in college. It is NOT for everybody, and I find it shameful and deceiving that our society emphasizes the pressures of graduating from a higher-education institution and degrades so many useful (non-degree) professions that truly keep the wheels of this society moving. Thank you for posting this.

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