Sunday, March 29, 2009
Education: What is REALLY important!
In the United States and other developed nations our education system does not prepare the individual for adulthood, but rather to go to college. The question for most is not "Will you go to college? but "Where do you plan to go to college?"
Having spent the last 8 years of my life living in a college town and seeing some of the antics that go on I have often mused, "How is it that we developed a system of higher education that sends our children off on their own at an age when their decision making skills will be at the lowest they will ever be in their entire life?"
With this emphasis on college for our children, the affect has been that a Bachelors degree is increasingly being viewed with the weight of a high school diploma. When everyone has one, then it becomes less important. (Now you have to go to graduate school just to distingush yourself from the masses with a B.A.)
One wonders whether high schools would be serving the population more if they also provided for adequate vocational training and life skills. For instance, why was I required to take 4 years of maths in high school? I am not suggesting that math is not important but all the math I have ever REALLY needed in life I learned by the
Would not I have benefited more if those extra years had been substituted by musical learning (I wish I had been forced now to have learned an instrument), foreign language training, automotive repair (would have saved me much money in my life) or other such endeavors that would have improved my adult life much more than algebra ever did.
Part of the reason for this cultural shift has been the subtle, and not so subtle, contempt our society feels toward blue-collar labor. Despite the fact that skilled labor has much more job security these days than an advertising or marketing manager, and in many cases a skilled job can provide for a very nice middle class lifestyle, we still feel a sense of disappointment when someone enters one of these fields rather than "go to college". I remember hearing in the news a couple years ago that the state of California was short 20,000 plumbers (which paid more than $30 an hour) but no one wants to be a plumber.
In addition, people are coming out of university with sometimes crippling debt and wondering why they even went. Add to that most students choose to go to schools in other states adding thousands and thousands of dollars in room and board costs when often the same quality of education is available at a school close to their home. This is particulary depressing when you realize that 1 in 3 students will drop out before obtaining their degree. Had they really wanted to go to college, or is it just something that is expected in our culture??
Increasingly I am viewing the whole system as a bit of a scam we have collectively bought into. There is very little that is taught in a 4 year program that could not be imparted in just a year or two.
For my own son Gabriel I am starting to make a change. I want him to do well in Math and encourage him but I realize with his temperament he will not be going into a math related field. Living in China my number one educational priority for him is the acquisition of Mandarin Chinese. I will not ignore the "core" teachings per se but will try to alter his education so that it fits him rather than what is expected by the culture. May throw in a little electric guitar as well... (see video)
Any how, in the words of Dennis Miller, "That's just my opinion, I could be wrong."