October 3, 2012

We are missing the point of college

This is something that has been eating at me for quite a while, so I am going to try to prevent myself from letting it turn into a rant.

Our school district, two years ago, decided that they were going to fully prepare students to go to college by changing our graduation requirements to match the entrance requirements for the University of California system. They are referred to as A-G requirements. Unfortunately, it is a short sighted fix to a problem that may never have existed.

The purpose of college is not only being missed, but misinterpreted. It's understandably easy to do this since its purpose has changed drastically over the years.

When my mother and definitely my grandparents were of college going age, having a degree meant that you would have a job. The purpose of college was to go there so you could leave and have a job waiting for you. It worked really well, at the time, for a number of reasons. The intellectual based economy was much more limited - we were still much more heavily driven by the industrial economy. Also, there was a much smaller population of college and university students, which made the degree a much higher worth.

It's not what it used to be. Our economy has been quickly transforming from an industrial based to an intellectual based economy. Especially with the invention of the internet, people are making money off of their ideas and not necessarily on what they can actually make in a physical sense.

Making things in a factory required training, but not college training. The college training was for the people who needed to know how to run a larger organization that owned a factory, and for the people who needed to manage and reinvest the money that was made by those large corporations. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have changed the faces of both of those industries and have managed to carve their own niche into the world.

Where does this all fit in with school? Going to college is no longer a guarantee for a job - in fact, it never was, not for the job you necessarily wanted at least. If people want to be happy, and because of that happiness, be successful, they need to find their place in our new economy.

That economy has many different facets, but here are a few off the top of my head:
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Investors
  • Inventors
  • Teachers
  • Artists
  • Programmers
  • Mechanics
  • Engineers
  • Custodians/Janitorial Staff (More important than anyone ever gives them credit for)
  • Service industry
  • Food industry
  • Retail industry
  • Writer
  • Comic Book Artist
The list could go on and on, but what all of these things have in common is that they need varying levels and types of education. If you want to start your own internet company you nearly need some start-up capital (maybe a loan) and some know how that you can get almost anywhere.

Students need the freedom to explore what they are interested in doing - and what they are interested in doing is not necessarily going to college. We need to respect individuality and expecting the same goal of every student - A-G Requirements - does not do that.

(Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com images)

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