Comment Of The Day: “The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?”

More thoughts on the U.S.’s college problem, from Ryan Harkins, in his latest Comment of the Day on the post, “The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?“:

Growing up in Casper, WY, the expectation among my peers was that after graduating high school, you either went to college our you stayed in your home community to work low-wage, service industry jobs. On very rare occasions, there was mention of going to WyoTech, if you really liked working on cars and could pay the tuition, which was quite a bit more than tuition at the University of Wyoming. I can’t say I ever heard anything promoted at my high school about apprenticeships in a craft, or any other kind of traditional skilled labor.

At the University of Wyoming, a great many people I met, a portion of which never made it past their freshman year, only went to college because it was expected, not because it was what they wanted to do or were interested in. I can understand going to college when you are searching for what you want to do with your life, and I think most people going to college either know what they want to do or want to find what they want to do at college. But for so many people that I saw, a trade school or an apprenticeship would have been worlds of improvement over drifting through campus, failing classes, drinking, partying, and essentially wasting thousands of dollars to go nowhere.

The point was driven home as I graduated and entered into graduate school. I had the opportunity to watch friends who were a couple of years behind me finish their degrees, and then find they couldn’t find work, because their degrees weren’t all that marketable. They struggled with a sense of betrayal, because all their lives they had been told that the path to success was to go to college, get a degree, and then get a good job because of that degree. And these realizations were hitting home before the 2008 recession, so it wasn’t as though it was a difficult economy in which to find work.

Worse were the friends who drifted in and out of college, spending time building up money so they could get readmitted, take a few course, perhaps fail a few, and then leave so they could go back to work to earn a little more money. The frustrating aspect was, they were talented enough in other areas that they could have built up a good career in a more blue-collar type job, but were prevented from doing so by disapproving family members.

At the refinery where I work, there are people who earn a substantial amount of money by entering Operations or Maintenance right out of high school. For some of our engineers who were raised locally and went to college, there has been some angst about the fact that people who graduated from high school at the same time were making almost twice as much money as an engineer because they didn’t spend four years earning a degree.

What frustrates me most about our system and about the way we have, especially under the Obama Administration, pushed more and more people towards college, is that college is treated like this magical pill that one takes and problems suddenly go away. It is an arrogance of academia. A job is only worthwhile if you have to be highly educated. Yet we need electricians and plumbers and mechanics, and you don’t need four years at a university to learn those trades. The strongest argument I’ve heard about the need to go to college is to expand one’s horizons, to be exposed to greater diversity, to become a well-rounded individual. From my personal experience with the “cultural context courses” we were forced to take to earn our degrees, it seems far more geared toward ensuring everyone is indoctrinated with the proper groupthink.

44 Comments

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44 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?”

  1. Eternal optometrist

    Great comment Ryan. I entered college over 25 years ago – I thought maybe we have moved beyond the “everybody should go to college” mentality. Because they shouldn’t. My dad taught in a trade school for high schoolers and the kids that had aptitude and really applied themselves could all get good jobs out of high school.

    I’ve got a nephew whose very handy and all he wants to do is graduate high school and start working. I know his parents are pressuring him to go to college and at least get a business degree. I’ve suggested to my parents (that’s how we have to work things in our family) that the business skills he will need he already has and will learn on the “street” through trial and error.

    Part of the problem is try having a school counselor suggest to someone’s special snowflake that college isn’t for them.

  2. Well said, Ryan.

    “The strongest argument I’ve heard about the need to go to college is to expand one’s horizons, to be exposed to greater diversity, to become a well-rounded individual.”

    Be nice were it to be that way in practice, lately there appears a gap in the “what is” and “what ought to be.”

  3. Spartan

    Assuming that the families have money, everyone should go to college — because every adult needs critical thinking skills, and a high school education is not enough. But that’s ideal world thinking.

    If money is an issue (as it was for me and my siblings), then other plans need to be made. My sister went to a low cost second tier state school, I went to a better state school on scholarship, and my older brother did not go to school at all. My brother is doing quite well, but he will be the first to tell anybody that he was lucky, and he has made college a priority for his three kids. I went to graduate school on loans, but I was hyper-focused on making the right decisions so that I could pay them back.

    And while I think in a perfect world that all kids should go to college, that doesn’t mean that kids are making the right decisions while in college. College needs to be a mix of classes that develop critical thinking with those that will help you on a career path. I went to school on a combined music/academic scholarship and I knew dozens of music majors who had no business being music majors. A good friend of mine went to a private school that was unaccredited (and cost a fortune!). She has declared bankruptcy twice since college since she can’t get a good job with her lousy degree.

    My parents did not go to college, so I was very lucky in being able to forge the right path for myself. I feel that my husband and I will be able to guide our daughters appropriately. But going to college if you don’t yet have a plan — or strong guidance from a responsible adult — is foolish. College always will be there. Join the military or get a job until you are mature enough to make good choices.

    • Well stated, Spartan. I went to a community college on scholarship, and then a tier 1 school on the GI Bill (plus up to 5 part time jobs at a time, as my single parent father was a school teacher and could not help.) My wife and I made good choices (put off having kids, lived within our means, etc.) and we paid our student loans quickly.

      Our plan fails, however, when the college in question does not teach critical thinking skills, and indoctrinates students in ways that will prevent them from holding jobs. Choosing the college for your kids is critical, and decent choices are getting fewer and further between.

      A sheepskin is necessary for entry level in many jobs where it should not be. Colleges have discovered they can suck the money out of families for staff’s extravagant lifestyles, and make the families get student loans (which now cannot be written off in bankruptcy) for degrees that are unemployable. They just have to look ‘shiny’ to half grown adults without those critical thinking skills.

      It is a scam, one the Federal Gov perpetuates (since Obama federalized student loans.)

      • Spartan

        Slick — It is still really hard to get student debt discharged in bankruptcy.

        • My point, Spartan, was that it is impossible after Obama changed the rules. That part is fact; this is speculation: He did so to perpetuate the system that makes more people dependent on government and to weaken private companies.

          • Spartan

            We will have to disagree as to motivation.

            • We will have to disagree as to motivation.

              Granted and accepted graciously.

              What about the fact part? That the Obama Administration changed the rules to make it illegal to write off college loans due to bankruptcy?

              There is no gotcha if you agree: just want to revel in the congruity of our mutual realities.

              • Spartan

                I would have to read more about it before I responded to your question.

                I will state however that I could only get private loans when I was in law school, although one was subsidized by the government for the period while I was in school. The interest rate was a whopping 8.75% — and interest adds up very quickly on $100k+ on loans. Now interest rates on loans are much lower and I think that is a good thing. (I’ve heard arguments that this drives up the price of education, but I don’t think that’s directly linked.) Whether or not interest rates are tied to educational costs rising, I thought it was silly at the time — and I still do — that I couldn’t take my loan directly from the government. This is especially true if the government is subsidizing the loan.

                • Since the government took loans over, the interest rates have risen from the 1 to 3.9% range to the almost 7 to 10% range. They DO limit how much as student can take on: they ask the parents to take the balance of the loans in their own names. So we got that going for us…

                  My child graduated from High School last year, and the college finance process was starting, to say the least.

                  Curious: given the government track record for just about anything it takes over, why would you want to take a loan from it?

    • Eternal Optometrist

      Sparty, college today isn’t what it was back when you and I attended and back then it wasn’t like it was 25 years prior. Not everybody needs college to learn “critical thinking skills.”

      I got my fancy book learnin’ in seven years of college. But my critical thinking skills, my practical problem solving skills, and my interpersonal communication skills, were largely honed through a series of menial jobs to put myself through school.

      Now, if you said everybody should work at a pickle plant or drive a forklift in a distribution center – that I could get behind.

      • Spartan

        Practical problem and interpersonal skills yes, I agree with you. My kids will most definitely be waitressing and working menial sales jobs to learn those. But I think college is required for most people to develop critical thinking skills.

  4. Tippy Scales

    I’ve been working for a major daily newspaper for more than 20 years, and I’m proud of the fact that I don’t have a college indoctrination…er, education. So I didn’t learn all the crap my colleagues are constantly spouting. Apparently they talk a lot in journalism school about racial diversity, but not intellectual diversity — and it’s clear journalistic ethics aren’t taught (or, if they are, most of my coworkers were sick that day).

    I don’t want to totally disparage the notion of getting a college diploma, because for some fields (including mine now), it’s a necessity. And for many, just getting that sheepskin gives a sense of accomplishing something.

    But sitting through 4/8/12/25 years of college is NOT necessarily getting an education. I attended college classes for a few weeks before circumstances dictated I drop out, and I had a lecture class in which the teacher, a Vietnamese woman, could hardly speak English. Her accent was so thick, it literally was impossible to understand her — and since it was a lecture class, we weren’t allowed to ask for clarification. That’s an education?!!!?

    You want an education? Go to the library.

    • One of the smartest men I ever knew never got a college education. He combined common sense with self education and hard work. Sheer performance overcame the need for a sheepskin.

      He worked his way into a major communications manufacturer Network Operations Center as a tier one customer service rep, then as a tier two and three. Large customers (think ‘Sprint’) would call for technical problems involving complex systems, and this fellow talked them through remedial procedures, often under great pressure (large fiber trunks at the time could have tens of thousands worth of revenue going through them per minute; not including penalties for down time.)

      I met Mike in R&D while I was new to the company working in Field Services (all baby engineers came in this way.) He got into R&D by resolving a problem R&D said could not be solved.

      A customer discovered a bug that would require that doctorate degree holders in R&D said could not be fixed, without a redesign of the back plane and circuit packs (basically make a new product) but the feature was critical to many customer’s business models. They had sold service based on the feature, and could not deliver. Mike was the tier three NOC rep working the issue. When R&D shrugged, Mike went and found an engineer who had been shuffled off into a dead end job but had access to lab equipment. Mike planned, designed, and prototyped a daughter board to solve the issue, including procedures to upgrade existing circuit packs, then demonstrated it to R&D. The retrofit went into production that week.

      They hired him within a month, and waived the college degree requirements.

  5. Tyberius A.

    I’m still waiting for the explanation as to why you believe colleges aren’t working because all I get from your argument (aside from the cheap shot at the Obama administration) was how students, parents, high schools, teachers and guidance counselors are the ones not working. This type of thinking a classic example of blame society for personal failures. The fact of the matter is people fail; NOT higher education. This country was founded on the idea that people should have the freedom to pursue whatever path in life they believe is best for them. However, as the great philosopher Voltaire said it, ” Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility…” And we have seem to forgotten that fact in this country. People need to start taking responsibility for themselves and stop crying, whining and complaining when they make choices that don’t work out. If people want the freedom to make choices with their lives, then they also must accept the RESPONSIBILITY for those choices. Maybe if this was taught, preferably from the age of two, we would not have the entitled generation facing us today! Because when you fail in a free society, you can’t blame Obama, Bush (41 or 43), Clinton, or Reagan… look in the mirror my friend because that is the only image you can blame for personal failure!

    P.S. Yes, I’m college educated… I worked two jobs in my senior year and it took me THREE YEARS to find a job after college. I also worked TWO FULL TIME JOBS to get through graduate school (and graduated at the top of my class), so if you don’t want to work your tail off, don’t blame anyone when you fail! Nothing comes easy!

    • You are correct in many aspects, Tyberius. The problem being discussed is that many colleges are NOT educating. This is the fault of the institutions as well as the employees. My wife teaches at a Texas High School, and the rules they have to follow preclude much of the educational experiences I had growing up. Many colleges are not teaching critical thinking skills. Parents should teach this as well, but the ability is somewhat rarer than when we were kids.

      See my post above; our experiences were similar.

    • When do colleges take responsibility for not teaching what they claim to teach? The original post here quoted typical brochure claims. Research indicates that students aren’t learning critical thinking. Your point is one I have made regarding attacks on law school, which in fact DOES teach critical thinking. And it is true that someone could educate themselves in any college, and without going to class. But blaming the students is missing a lot: where is rigorous grading? Where is diversity of view point? Few colleges require history or English literature to graduate. Garbage like gender studies take up time that students need to learn basic skills.

      • Chris

        Few colleges require history or English literature to graduate.

        Do you have a source for this claim? I find it hard to believe. I know that CSU Fresno had a British Lit and American Lit requirements when I attended a few years ago. They also had a history requirement.

        Garbage like gender studies take up time that students need to learn basic skills.

        I really hate this argument. Gender studies is not nearly as popular an elective as the media makes it seem, and it is not a requirement anywhere that I’m aware. I never took a gender studies class. As much as we hear about college “snowflakes” protesting race and gender inequity (or their perception of), you realize they’re typically a minority of the campus, right? If a large number of college students are coming out unprepared for the world I highly doubt that gender studies, a class only taken by a small percentage of students, is the culprit. It is a convenient scapegoat, though.

        • I just picked gender studies; that was lazy: I could have chosen any of hundreds of others…here’s one list. With so much substantive knowledge that has practical applications, there’s no excuse for offering this junk (gender studies is at least defensible.)

          1. “What If Harry Potter Is Real?” (Appalachian State University) – This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.

          2. “God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path” (UC San Diego) – Who shapes our desire? Who suffers for it? Do we control our desire or does desire control us? When we yield to desire, do we become more fully ourselves or must we deny it to find an authentic identity beneath? How have religious & philosophical approaches dealt with the problem of desire?

          3. “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity” (The University Of Virginia) – In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky’s ongoing ENWR 1510 class, “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity,” students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.

          4. “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” (The University Of South Carolina) – Lady Gaga may not have much class but now there is a class on her. The University of South Carolina is offering a class called Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame. Mathieu Deflem, the professor teaching the course describes it as aiming to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours.”

          5. “Philosophy And Star Trek” (Georgetown) – Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That’s the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments.

          6. “Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond” (The University Of Texas) – Why would anyone want to learn Klingon? Who really speaks Esperanto, anyway? Could there ever be a language based entirely on musical scales? Using constructed/invented languages as a vehicle, we will try to answer these questions as we discuss current ideas about linguistic theory, especially ideas surrounding the interaction of language and society. For example, what is it about the structure of Klingon that makes it look so “alien”? What was it about early 20th century Europe that spawned so many so-called “universal” languages? Can a language be inherently sexist? We will consider constructed/invented languages from a variety of viewpoints, such as languages created as fictional plot-devices, for philosophical debates, to serve an international function, and languages created for private fun. We won’t be learning any one language specifically, but we will be learning about the art, ideas, and goals behind invented languages using diverse sources from literature, the internet, films, video games, and other aspects of popular culture.

          7. “The Science Of Superheroes” (UC Irvine) – Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a “gamma ray” accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a “spidey-sense”? And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.

          8. “Learning From YouTube” (Pitzer College) – About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments. Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos. One class member, for instance, posted a 1:36-minute video of himself juggling.

          9. “Arguing with Judge Judy” (UC Berkeley) – TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument [“from the stronger”] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court” and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.

          10. “Elvis As Anthology” (The University Of Iowa) – The class, “Elvis as Anthology,” focuses on Presley’s relationship to African American history, social change, and aesthetics. It focuses not just on Elvis, but on other artists who inspired him and whom he inspired.

          11. “The Feminist Critique Of Christianity” (The University Of Pennsylvania) – An overview of the past decades of feminist scholarship about Christian and post-Christian historians and theologians who offer a feminist perspective on traditional Christian theology and practice. This course is a critical overview of this material, presented with a summary of Christian biblical studies, history and theology, and with a special interest in constructive attempts at creating a spiritual tradition with women’s experience at the center.

          12. “Zombies In Popular Media” (Columbia College) – This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figure’s many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.

          13. “Far Side Entomology” (Oregon State) – For the last 20 years, a scientist at Oregon State University has used Gary Larson’s cartoons as a teaching tool. The result has been a generation of students learning — and laughing — about insects.

          14. “Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing” (Swarthmore) – Do clothes make the man? Or the woman? Do men make better women? Or women better men? Is gender a costume we put on and take off? Are we really all always in drag? Does gender-bending lead to transcendence or chaos? These questions and their ramifications for liminalities of race, nationality and sexuality will be our focus in a course that examines dramatic works from The Bacchae to M. Butterfly.

          15. “Oh, Look, a Chicken!” Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing (Belmont University) – Students must write papers using their personal research on the five senses. Entsminger reads aloud illustrated books The Simple People and Toby’s Toe to teach lessons about what to value by being alive. Students listen to music while doodling in class. Another project requires students to put themselves in situations where they will be distracted and write a reflection tracking how they got back to their original intent.

          16. “The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” (University of Washington) – The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur — classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard — but it is the first to relate Shakur’s work to literature.

          17. “Cyberporn And Society” (State University of New York at Buffalo) – With classwork like this, who needs to play? Undergraduates taking Cyberporn and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo survey Internet porn sites.

          18. “Sport For The Spectator” (The Ohio State University) – Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.

          19. “Getting Dressed” (Princeton) – Jenna Weissman Joselit looks over the roomful of freshmen in front of her and asks them to perform a warm-up exercise: Chart the major moments of your lives through clothes. “If you pop open your closet, can you recall your lives?” she posits on the first day of the freshman seminar “Getting Dressed.”

          20. “How To Watch Television” (Montclair) – This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and to the extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.

          • Trekkie Philosopher for Life

            “Philosophy And Star Trek” sounds like a challenging class and I would have taken it. I *did* take “Philosophical Concepts in Science Fiction” at Rutgers and I received a 100%. (I was the only one who did.) At least at the time, Rutgers was ranked as the top Philosophy Department in the country. So, why don’t you sit back, relax with a nice Romulan Ale, and ponder the intersection of the Prime Directive and the Fermi Paradox. Let me know if you get stuck and I’ll give you a few pointers. Q’Plah!

            • joH’a’ ghurmoH SoH!

              • I’ll see yer “joH’a’ ghurmoH SoH!” and raise you a ”Gunga galunga … gunga, gunga-lagunga.” (big hitter, the Lama!)

                Glad no one’s disparaging my “16th Century Hermaphroditic Haiku” minor….

                • My response was a joke, based on how ‘Good Luck/Good bye’ (Q’Plah!) sounds to human ears.

                  It sounds like a sneeze. “joH’a’ ghurmoH SoH!” means ‘God bless you’

                  Note to any Klingon purists (or any Klingons who read EA, for that matter: Klingons care about ethics too!) that I understand my joke is idiomatically unsuitable: I plead #54 The Joke Excuse (Jester’s Privilege), and #55 The Scooby Doo Deflection, as I should have gotten away with it (how many EA readers know Klingon any way?)

                  #45 The Abuser’s License applies: have you ever tried to speak Klingon, much less spell it? Very complicated 🙂

                  I also have to cop to #53 The Hippy’s License, as it sure felt good to do it!

          • Tyberius A.

            Regarding the above, It’s worth mentioning that Steve Jobs, dropped out of college and we know the unprecedented success he made out of his short life. However, what many people don’t know is that he often credited a little known course in calligraphy that taught him how to be creative with letters in which he used when designing the MAC.

            I’m sure someone somewhere also thought a class on “Calligraphy” was a total waste of time and money, but apparently Steve Jobs never thought so as he cited this class as a reason he was successful creating the typography used in the first MAC computer designs.The point: it’s the person who makes USE of the class and its content can be successful; simply attending a class… any class is not a guarantee of success and should never be construed as such. By the same token, all knowledge has value regardless of the forms in which it may be presented. Its all up to the individual on how that knowledge is used.

        • RE: graduation requirements. I had a source for this, because I was going to post on it, but can’t find it. So I’ll retract that for now.

      • Tyberius A.

        Jack,

        With all due respect; its not about blame… its about who needs to take responsibility. Period. The world is full of deceptive ads and entities who have their own rather than their customers best interests at heart. So what? Welcome to the real word, my friend! Is it right; no. Is it a reality; yes, and an adult realizes the world they live in.

        Students and parents need to investigate colleges as well as High school guidance counselors need to help guide students based on proficiency and career goals. Bottom line: students bare the responsibility for their success or failure in school and in life.

        • Again, this is the point I made in the lawscam debates here, which you can find in the Search mode. But the issue there was “law schools don’t guarantee jobs and success,’ not “law schools don’t teach the law.”

          If colleges lie on their promotional materials, and if few if any can be relied on to teach critical thinking, what is a student or parent supposed to do, especially since the pervasive argument for college is not “get educated” but “get a degree so you can get a job”?

          (My son decided that college was a waste of his time and money.)

          • Tyberius A.

            Jack,

            Okay, so if “Ignorantia juris non excusat” (Ignorance of the law is no excuse) is something we accept as a maxim to preclude excusing violation of the law, why would you presume to think ignorance of a college curriculum is somehow an excuse not to be educated? Which has the greater consequence on someone’s life; the loss of their freedom or a few thousand dollars and their pride from failing in college? Admittedly, there are some colleges who fit the criteria you outline, but there are also some very fine institutions of higher learning who do a great job of educating students (I am the product of two). Especially those students who dedicate themselves and work hard.

            I’m sure your son is a fine student and will be successful at whatever he diligently pursues. However, people cannot be so blinded by the need to obtain a degree at any cost that they ignore their RESPONSIBILITY to do their due diligence and apply common sense. However, if they do ignore common sense they have no one to blame… I’m sorry Jack. We will need to agree to disagree on this one!

    • Tyberius,

      My point wasn’t so much that colleges weren’t working, but that there is an increasing mentality (and yes, it existed before Obama, but Obama certainly pushed hard for more and more people to get into college) that college is a one-size-fits-all guaranteed path to success. Aside from the concerns of the studies in the original post that showed that college students by and large are graduating without any improvement in critical thinking skills, pushing for college for everyone is like using a hammer for every construction project. It works great for nails, but isn’t appropriate for screws, or tightening bolts, or sanding rough edges, or cutting straight lines, etc.

      My anecdotal evidence comes from watching friends and acquaintances who would have been more successful in other venues than college, but who spent a great deal of time and money on college with little to show for the effort. Would you recommend that someone who would excel in a trade, such as an electrician, spend lots of hard work and effort for a degree that wouldn’t gain them what they are really after, which is an apprenticeship that works up to journeyman status, and possibly a master status?

      • Tyberius A.

        Ryan,

        I respect what you have written and appreciate your candor. Admittedly, college is not, nor should it be something everyone should seek to attain. Beyond the fact it is not a necessity (as you correctly point out) in many fields that, with hard work would pay very well, it is also true that many simply do not have the aptitude, discipline and academic foundation necessary to successfully obtain a college degree. Having said that, the basis of my argument remains: there is no freedom without responsibility.

        If we are to continue the traditions of this great nation, and I for one hope that we can agree on this (if we must agree to disagree on other points), we must begin to hold people responsible for their choices. In doing so, and only in doing so, will we force people to make better choices. As long as we continue to give people excuses like, “no one told me the ramifications of paying back student loans if I drop out of college” or “I was told I could afford a million dollar house with nothing down” we are simply encouraging, and in fact endorsing, irresponsibility.

        When did we as a society move from “Caveat emptor” to “Volo aliquid” and “ignorare omnes consequentias?” And the more important question is how do we get back to the level of personal responsibility that made this country great? Because I can tell you, my friend, the generation coming up now does NOT want to work hard and could care less about the consequences of their actions or poor decisions. My contention is that they only way to truly regain our strength in the global economy is to start holding people accountable; that is parents, children, school administrators, colleges and last but not least, our elected public officials and policy makers.

        If we, the educated public, place ourselves in the position of saying who should and shouldn’t attend college, we are simply taking away ones freedom through the ability to decide for themselves what is best for them, the chance of success or the risk of failure based on their drive, talent and skill. And when failures happen, their ability to learn from them and then make better decisions in the future, which can be very painful, but instructive. As the Scottish author Samuel Smiles once observed, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success.” And I, for one, can attest to this most inconvenient truth.

        • Tyberius,

          I certainly agree with your points here. I would just place a few caveats. First, the better educated we are, the better decisions we can make. Second, we don’t have the time to learn everything on our own, which is why we look to others to advise us. Third, when respected authorities (in the case of some of my friends, their parents) insist on college as the only right path forward, this performs the opposite of better educating us and abuses the trust we have placed in respected authorities. Last, culpability is mitigated to some extant by ignorance. This is especially true if someone is otherwise acting in good faith.

          But you are correct that we need to take more responsibility for ourselves, and I agree wholeheartedly that we need to hold people accountable. The only problem is how to hold those people accountable in a truly ethical manner. I don’t have an answer to that.

          • Tyberius A.

            Ryan,

            A few additional thoughts with regards to the ethical way forward. First, we should avail ourselves of the constitutional rights and freedoms made possible by the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers. Many people seem to spout the first amendment when they have a desire to burn the flag or yell obscenities, but are very docile when it comes to the right to petition and assembly. Could this inconsistency be because these rights require action on the part of citizens? A free society cannot be a lazy one. We only have the freedoms we have in this country because someone stood up fought and died for them. The very least we can do is exercise the rights we have. I do not have the statistics on hand, but I know many in our society do not vote, or serve on juries. These are two key rights and privileges the citizens of this country have, but are largely ignored and yet would have a tremendous impact on our leadership and the way in which justice is served. An active citizenry remains a free citizenry.

            Second, while we cannot effectively pass laws to address irresponsible parenting, society can and should speak out and work with the underprivileged to help them realize ignorance is far more costly than education (by education I’m not necessarily referring to formal higher education). A national overhaul of our public primary education system is long overdue and I would advocate for education of young people while in high school (or even junior high) on what it means to enter the workforce, start a family and other key social responsibilities. Start young.

            Lastly, I am not unmoved or unsympathetic to people who simply don’t know and the frustration and wasted resources that result. I am the product of parents who in many cases simply did not know and what they didn’t know they could not pass along to me. However, my sympathy stops not at the at the door of “I don’t know,” but “I don’t care.” In those cases, tough love is a more effective medicine and life has a way of dishing out its own form of harsh medicine. A friend of mine once commented, “by keeping people from falling, you also prevent them from learning to fly.” It is true on many levels that we all must fail in order to learn how to succeed. I contend that we simply allow those who cannot (or choose not to for a variety of reasons) learn by any other means, to fail in order to find a path for themselves that will work. That is a time and tested system that has worked for the most successful in world history. There is no reason why it would not work today if we allow it to.

            I enjoyed the discussion. All the best!

  6. valkygrrl

    Off topic but does anyone want sit and watch the show with me? I need a Stadler to my Waldorf.

    *sings* It’s time to hit the gavel, it’s time to start the mics, it’s time to watch Jim Comey on the Comey show tonight.

  7. Neil Dorr

    Jack,

    Off topic, and I’m sure you’re interests lie elsewhere, but the choking case I referenced the other day is unraveling fast and quickly becoming it’s own local trainwreck. So far, national coverage has been minimal (let’s hope that continues) but local coverage is going bonkers:

    “Family members and Kallinen have questioned the role of race, which Woog said often gets ignored in such cases.

    The law professor said the public should examine how racial bias plays a role in perceptions of danger and the amount of force that is necessary to respond to a particular threat.

    ‘This incident is not just about the charges that can be brought, it’s also about a white person acting under color of law to kill a person of color,’ she said. “That issue too frequently gets lost in questions of legal standards.'”

    A number of stories have already tried linking the incident to the “epidemic” of police killing unarmed civilians of “color,” despite the fact that the male assailant in this case was only MARRIED to someone in law enforcement (and she was only peripherally involved in the incident and she was also the one who phoned police and emergency medical as it was happening). And, as already mentioned, race has become a factor too as the victim was Hispanic.

    I hope you’re well.

    http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Dennys-death-homicide-strangulation-sheriff-11199979.php

  8. Really good comment!

    Congrat’s Ryan!

  9. LF wilburn

    Mike Rowe has stated there are over a million jobs available in this country but training for those jobs is ignored and college degrees are chosen instead. I read of a General Contractor in Florida who said that he was being charged outrageous prices by electricians, plumbers, and carpentry workers by the immigrants that have flooded that market because they are the only ones who can do them and are willing to get their hands dirty and to sweat.

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