College college college. Everybody should go to a four year university because... Fuck it. Education is important. Never mind the fact that billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college to become... billionaires. Never mind that student loan debt is at a record high $1.2 trillion. Meanwhile, the Elizabeth Warrens of the world continue to discuss how to handle this "crisis". I often see people posting graphics, memes, and comics with suggestions on how to solve the student loan problem. Most of these suggestions are outrageous, from to passing legislation to control interest rates on student loans, to using tax dollars to help relieve student loan debt.
And yet, nobody has suggested that we simply stop encouraging children to go to college. Teachers constantly tell children that they need to go to college, and rarely encourage children to think - You know, to invest thought and reason into what they wish to do with their lives. That's pretty insulting to the teenagers of America. I graduated from high school nine years ago, and I can still remember, beginning as soon as eighth grade, my teachers, counselors, and school administrators preaching for me to go to college. Always telling me that I need to take challenging classes, earn quality grades, and take bullshit standardized tests to ensure that I will be able to enroll in a quality institution of higher learning.
Looking back, I find it interesting that so many of my educators encouraged myself, as well as hundreds of other students, to go to college, and never once told us why we should go to college. Clearly education after high school is important if all of these people are telling me that it's important, right? After all, these people are adults, and are paid to be my intellectual superiors. I rely on their advice and input to help myself make important decisions, and to guide me through life. On the other hand, these people rarely told me to ask myself, what exactly do I wish to do with my life? I recall being told numerous times when the next ACT and SAT would be available for taking. I recall being informed of countless scholarship opportunities. I recall being encouraged to enroll in increasingly difficult classes, and to participate in extra curricular activities, simply for the reason that it "looks good on a college application."
However, I cannot seem to recall a teacher telling me to think about what I want to do with my life. What kind of career would be good for me. How can I exploit my talents to their fullest potential? Which career earns the most amount of money with the least amount of exhaust? Should money even be the top priority for me? Do my aspirations require further education? And if so, what kind of education?
Now that I think about it, only one teacher told me where to go for my career of interest. After stating that I was interested in a career in broadcasting, my communications teacher informed me that Michigan State University and Central Michigan University were the two best colleges in the state for that field of work. However, he never informed me that degrees in broadcasting are essentially useless, and that nobody in the entertainment industry cares about which school I went to or what grades that I earned or which extra curricular activities I participated in. But hey, why should he care about what I do with my life?
I can't help but think, why do educators, counselors, and administrators encourage teenagers to go to college? Is it because they care about them? I highly doubt it. Anyone that tells me that encouraging teenagers to take out thousands of dollars worth of loans at a high interest rate, without thinking about what they're spending the money on, is in their best interest is either really dumb, or full of shit. It's in nobody's best interest to spend money that they don't have without thinking about it first. Hell, I was having a difficult time investing in podcasting equipment without reading through dozens of customer reviews and hearing suggestions from experienced podcasters.
With that said, why do educators push their students to go to college? Is it to make their school stand out? I mean, it makes sense, right? The higher the ACT and SAT scores that come from a school, and the more graduates that go onto college, and the more graduates that enroll in prestigious universities, the better the school looks, right?
I'll never forget this one time I substitute taught, it was the beginning of the school year and there was an assembly that I had to take a class to. At this assembly, the principle had announced that for the first time in the school's history, that their students finished in the top percentile of ACT scoring in the state. He said, "We're running with the big dogs now". This was after he had congratulated the football team on their big win over the weekend, as he went onto say that he would much rather the school lead the state of Michigan in academics than in football. He would gladly trade a state football championship to be number one in test scores.
During the assembly, this principle would pat random dudes on the back and say "Good game this weekend". At one point, he called one player out, who was really huge, and called him Freight Train. "Freight Train, stand up and let everyone get a look at you. We're gonna easily make the playoffs with the way you were runnin' people over this weekend!" Anyway, two weeks later, the principle called a handful of students down to the principles office, one of them being Freight Train. I still cannot get over the fact that a school administrator referred to a student as Freight Train.
In all honesty, I cannot blame the educators and administrators. It's in the school's best interests for their students to achieve high test scores and go to college. These numbers likely mean more state funding, more federal funding, and higher enrollment. Which means more money, and if nothing else, more pride. What teacher wants to go home and tell their family that they teach at a lousy school with minimal success? What person in their right mind would be proud of working for an institution that underachieves? Teachers want to work in schools that achieve, and in schools with high budgets and nicer facilities. Nobody longs to be Michelle Pfeiffer's character in "Dangerous Minds".
Which brings me to my overall point of this post: The people that tell teenagers and children to go to college do not care about them. Which is why I offer the solution - Instead of encouraging teenagers to go to college, we should encourage them to think. Think about what they want to do with their lives. Research. Find information. Decide what makes them happy. Decide whether or not college is right for them. Discover what will give them the resources to live, and sustain, and fulfilling life.
Stop telling people to go to college for the sake of going to college. A college education is becoming like marriage, just another box to check off, just another status symbol. Often when I tell people to stop pursuing non-lucrative degrees, they defend their aspirations by saying insane things like "I want to be the first person in my family to graduate from college", and "I don't want to disappoint my parents". Meanwhile, these people are potentially mortgaging, if not ruining, their lives by shoveling tens of thousands of dollars into a degree that won't get them started on a flourishing career. All in the name of pleasing their parents and peers. Not much different than marrying the wrong person just for the sake of getting married.
By the way, colleges don't care about students, either. In the industry of higher learning, money comes before students. Central Michigan University, for instance, won't allow students to enroll in classes after a certain amount of credits if they have not decided their major yet. Which is problematic for the student, because a lot of people who were encouraged to attend college without thinking about it, well, it's possible that they still have not figured out what they want to do at age 20. Why would they? Their superiors never told them to think, and instead told them to spend money that they don't have. All of a sudden they're being obliged to decide their career path, or leave school, the very thing that they hold important because they were told it was important.
So I encourage the young people of America, think. Think about what you want to do, and what is best for you. College is expensive. The college that I went to costed over $60,000. That's an absurd amount of money to spend without thinking about it. Before you go to college, decide if your ambitions require the time, money, and effort that it takes to attain a bachelor's degree. If you can, live with your parents after high school, work a job (or multiple jobs), put away the money that you earn, and use your spare time to decide what you want to do. I know that working crummy jobs and living with your parents isn't sexy. However, you'll be much happier doing it at age 19 than at age 26.
I never even touched on how much time college takes. At least four years. That's time you will never get back, and in my opinion, is worth more than the money spent on college.