My opinon of the failure of advanced education in America

The following is strictly my uneducated opinion. I say uneducated because I have a grand total of three (3) college credit hours to my name. {And for the record, I can not even find the certificate that proves that.} I have been listening (very slightly) to the candidates for President of the United States (2012 Election) argue over which one will do the most good for college students. Personally, I would prefer they not talk about how many student they are going to help or harm (depending on the side of argument you are on) but more for how they can help the actual education system with a re-tooling of the entire process and procedures. This is only my opinion. Yours may be different. I also have an opinion on the way the grades 1-12 should change, but that will be published in the future.

The politicians are making the case that everyone needs to go to college and if you don’t go to for 4 years and get a degree (in something), you have nothing to offer to society. I strongly disagree. At some point we are over educating people, and we are establishing a requirement that far exceeds the needs of the individual and of society. Not only does it create a person that has more ‘training’ then necessary, it also creates a burden on the person. And also a burden on society. After spending 4 (or more commonly 5) years of otherwise unproductive time, it generally creates a debt that can easily take 3 times as long to pay off as it did to create in the first place. Maybe longer. Many graduates even before the economic down turn were forced to consider bankruptcy to unload their loans. And this of course is now on their credit report for 10 years which will affect them as the try to enter the work force, especially as many companies now check credit before hiring.

In my uneducated opinion, colleges are operating on the $40,000 chain letter scheme. While someone is there, they (the educators) are busy telling them (the students) all kinds of ancillary topics and subjects. All the while, they (the students) eventually become convinced that anyone that does not subscribe to same theory that everyone needs to know these same mundane subjects or listen to the same lectures must not be as qualified as they are. This often results then that when these people are (eventually) in positions of management, they place a greater emphasis on ‘college’; then on ability. In my personal experiences I have been passed over for positions that I had many years of direct and applicable related experience for individuals that had the fancy wallpaper. However, the manager had to justify to themselves that their sitting in classes for numerous years was a good investment in time and money. And of course, they are also building their personal pyramid with in the company and can then try to demand greater compensation for themselves as they are managing all these “educated” persons in their down line.

Now, I am not advocating the end of colleges nor the belief that America does not need more college/university graduates. However, I am saying that we are training people in the wrong fields. Or especially, we are publicly financing the wrong ones. Many states offer programs such as if you finish in the top X% of your high school class, you get a free ticket (class wise, not living expense wise) to a state supported entity. Maybe I am bit jealous because in my day, if you did not play sports (really good), were not super smart or did not have family financial support, college was not an option. The military was. Or getting a job was. Maybe, I said maybe, I would have tried a little harder in high school if there was a carrot and not just a stick at the end of the line. I did finish with a B+ and in the top 25%, but I knew there was no post education in my future. I also worked for 2.5 years on a neighbor’s dairy farm nights and weekends and all summer long during high school, so that cut my desire to do more then the requirements to complete high school with decent grades. I, like many of my generation, opted to let the US Army train me. {And they did and I consider my time in service among the best years of my life and some of the most of rewarding.} The problem with these state ‘free ticket’ programs, people can study nearly anything they want. I want it limited to certain career fields.

What I am advocating is that if the public is going to back the payment for the education, then maybe it should be something that has a good payback – either financially so they can pay the loans or a payback to society. We need more (qualified) teachers. We need scientists. We need engineers. We need medical professionals and researchers. I am not convinced we need more political science majors, although there is no chance the politicians will kill their own programs. And I have to question if we need more lawyers. However, I am – at the risk of really making people made at me – certain that we do not need librarians with PHDs, nor do we need all that many philosophers. And since the first thing Theologians expound upon on graduation is separation of church and state (as in stay out of our church’s business) – why should their education be supported with government grants, government secured loans or government scholarships? And personally, if you want to study interior design – you pay for it. I want my tax dollars to train nurses to help care for the elderly and the ill, as one example.

Many years ago, it was common that people who loved animals could get a job at the zoo after high school (and maybe a stint in the military). Now, you can not even get interviewed for a job cleaning up after the elephants without zoology training at the college/university level. A $40,000 chain letter. I understand the veterinarians tending to the animals need training – and lots of it. I understand the person taking care of the finances needs to know accounting and tax laws. I accept that the top 2 – 3 – 4 people at the zoo should have every extensive and very targeted training including a degree in zoology and animal care and animal husbandry. But the just over minimum wage caretakers? Again, here is now a person that has either been sponsored by family, the government or borrowed heavily to finance their years in college, and what is the true payment to society and the ultimate cost when they can not pay these obligations back? Are we doing this person and society as whole any favors spending the money to train someone extensively in unrelated areas (classical music, literature, the fine arts, the not so fine arts, humanities and on and on) just to shovel animal dung??

While we are on, or at least recently touched on, the subject of garbage (my choice of words, not the universities’) courses, what is the real value of the fine arts, the liberal arts, the humanities, literary works and arcane geographically studies with anything not related to those subjects? Some will argue that it creates a more rounded or worldly person. I argue it creates someone with more debt paying for the class itself and the extra time in room and board just to complete the requirements. I would like everyone reading this to raise their hand if they know someone that had to spend an extra year in school (5 as opposed to 4) just because there was an issue of a required unrelated class that was full and yet they could not move on until they got the class yet it was not available due to no fault of their own. Again, my opinion, but if something is going to be required, then it should be guaranteed to be available – or drop the requirement. And as far as well rounded? I beg to differ. I have met way to many college grads that had the social abilities of a rock. Oh, I am not talking about their ability to throw a kegger. That they can do. Beer pong? Yep, top of their class there. But somehow, so many I have know have a problem just being normal(ish) and being able to talk to other people with different interests and/or experiences then themselves. And so many, as a part of finishing college and having that fine parchment wall paper, feel they are entitled to look down upon those not so achieved. Worldly or stand-offish?

The non-traditional training schools (such as ITT Tech, DeVry, Keller and others) which teach more real world skills but skip the ancillary stuff, are frowned at by the big chain letter/pyramid scheme accredited establishments. And what would you expect? Spend $40,000 and 4 years learning lots of useful and non-useful stuff or $25,000 and 2 years learning the good stuff? The student can enter the work force sooner and with less debt. But it will be held against them in the future when they are applying for jobs and the manager has a “real” degree. It is almost better, in some people’s opinion, to have NO degree then one from the non-traditionals.

I feel a re-tooling of the education system is needed. Previously, if you wanted to learn a skill you enrolled at the local community college. Now, these lower tiered establishments are trying to re-cast themselves as major players equal to universities and degree colleges. Why? Because universities and advanced degree colleges can charge more for classes. Does it benefit the student? Nor really. Does it benefit the college? Yes. More prestigious programs, higher fees. Higher fees means more opportunities to build the never ending educational chain letter. How about going the other way? Qualified auto mechanics are hard to find. Nearly all community colleges use to offer training in auto body work, auto repairs, etc. Now, the programs are more geared towards to auto design and engineering programs. Yes, we need to designers coming up with the next greatest car or car component. We also need people fixing them. Someone has to train the mechanics, not everyone needs to be or should be an engineer.

I, in closing, will simply state that I would like to see more opportunities for people to obtain training and education that will benefit them and benefit society as a whole. But without the extra stuff that extends unnecessarily the time they must be in the education system and more importantly that adds to their financial stress and strain on completion. Do we really need a college course on working at a fast food place? Do I really care if the person asking me if I want fries with my order has a Masters Degree in Burgeroloy. No. However, I do want someone that knows how to make correct change and how to follow the heath code laws to keep my food safe from icky stuff that will make me sick, requiring me to visit the hospital where I will need someone with a college degree.

John Carter

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