Before you get all crazy on me, let me define what I mean by the title. I hope my kids won’t go to college if college is defined then exactly as it is now. This does not mean that I do not want them to expand on their learning, open up to new cultures, grow into an adult, or to explore who they really are. College may be the place to do that, but I think the value of college has to be way better than it is now. There needs to be some major changes, and the price somehow needs to go way down for the students.
This is the first of a series of posts I am going to write about the US Education System. My primary focus will be around the college education system, even though I will hit on high school and elementary school as well. This post is to set the stage to the introductions of the posts to follow. Here are just some points that I will be expanding on in later posts.
1. The value of a college education is WAY LESS than the price of it – When you get that fancy looking piece of paper in May, you shake the dean’s hand and start walking and say, “I did it.” Then, you wake up the next day, probably with a hangover, and most graduates realize that they don’t even have a job to pay for not only their daily living expenses, but their thousands and thousands of dollars of student loan debt. How much are you paying in student loans? Was there any way you could have went to college for less than that bill?
2. A college degree is the new norm, it doesn’t help you stand out – When my parents were my age and especially their parents, a college degree was a ticket into white collar jobs. All you had to do is go through the motions in college and if you had a degree, you were on your way to business success. Now there are more people going to college than ever before and degrees are everywhere. Too much supply and not enough demand. How many people do you think have a 3.8 GPA with a Finance Degree? How many do you think have a 4.0 with a Communications Degree? Answer to both: Enough not to make the degree stand out!
3. Education’s goal is to get you a degree. This is a SAD truth – The goal for high school is to get you to college. The goal for college is to get you a degree from their college. It helps their ratings, it helps their government access to grants, and it helps them keep a flow of students rolling into their buildings. More students, more graduates, more money. That’s it, and this “pick, pack, ship” factory mindset is setting up students to fail these days. Our parents, teachers, and government sadly tell us that if you get a college degree you will get a good job and succeed. They are wrong! A degree is just not enough anymore. What should the goal of education be?
4. One way or the highway – College education doesn’t allow you to explore your own track, and expand on your thoughts. There is a list of classes to check off in your 4 years of school. If you check off the box in the correct semester, you are on track! Yes, on track to get a degree. If you want to change majors, you will fall behind and spend more money. We’re left with the decision of spending more money or going with the major we thought we would like but found out we hate. How can we help students explore their thoughts and interests without spending more money.
5. Companies request certain jobs have college degrees – Big companies are looking for people with college degrees as a prerequisite. Why is that? What does a resume after college really say? What do employers say about a college education? I’m sure every employer would rather take learning over credentials, but sadly employers put way too much trust in the education system. I’m not saying we don’t learn anything, but we could definitely develop a lot more ways to learn a lot more to be more equipped for our first jobs.
6. Learning is for the first 22 years of your life and then you work – Learning is a lifelong commitment. All of the very successful people in business will tell you that they never stop learning. Our education system is not developing our minds like that. They develop our minds to memorize facts for the next test, then move on to a bunch of new facts all the while forgetting what they learned before.
7. Who is changing the game – There are many companies out there who are in the middle of trying to improve education. Have you heard of Udacity? How about the Khan Academy? Check out Coursera as well. All of these companies have great ideas!
8. Advantages of the traditional school system – Everyone talks about how TERRIBLE the recent education system is. Based on inequality, cost, unions, curriculum style, and all the other things I have mentioned, it is. I do, however, believe that there are some great qualities in our system that we need to magnify.
9. Teachers and Parents – The battle between parents, teachers, and coaches has gotten out of hand. Instead of looking in the mirror together, they’re point fingers at each other. What are their roles? Where are they today? How do they need to change?
10. Solutions, Solutions, Solutions – Everyone talks about the problems. Well, how about the solutions? How can we pay the great teachers great pay? What will a new college look like in our educational system? How much will it cost? I will try to take a crack at my ideas for solutions.
My argument is a college degree is not the only road for the masses to succeed. With technology, the modern job market, and education costs the way they are today, there are much better options for a cheaper way to explore what you want to do with your life. This is a HUGE challenge that will be a big “battleship” to turn. We will need a ton of people to join the cause.
· We will need to sell employers on understanding skills, and actual work will be the true measure of experience, not a degree.
· We will have to sell parents on school may be more of a risky investment for your kid that it ever has been before.
· We will have to sell schools on changing their education models to make their degree more valuable. Or sell them to get rid of degrees all together.
· We will have to sell the kids, and create ways, for them to engage in their education to learn more and have them advance their skills where they see fit.
· We will have to sell our government on creating new standards for education.
· We will have to give our teachers the authority to expand their teachings and not worry about what is required for 10th grade students to memorize and pass in order to get to 11th grade.
· We will have to get companies to invest and partner in private sector education so they can keep their businesses thriving as new generations come into them.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts on this topic with you as the days and weeks go by. Please e-mail me, comment, and join the conversation anywhere you can. I am also looking for great websites and organizations who are working on this fight as well. If you have any in mind, please e-mail them to me.