Pretty much everyone knows that I’ve become very skeptical of the current American model of “college” and the idea that EVERYONE must go. It’s overpriced, over-rated, and (too often) next to useless. And, many of today’s kids are in an unfortunate Catch-22: if they don’t go to college, they can’t get their foot in the door for a career. If they DO go, they are saddled with crushing debt.
At least college used to teach a student some general knowledge that created an informed citizen. Not so much anymore.
There is a crisis in American civic education. Survey after survey shows that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage. They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, or the origin of the separation of powers. They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin—‘Judge Judy’—is on the Supreme Court. Studies show that our colleges and universities are doing little or nothing to address the knowledge gap. A recent survey by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) of over 1,100 liberal arts colleges and universities found that only a handful—18%—require students to take even one survey course in American history or government before they graduate.”
Wonder no longer why our political landscape is in the state it is. You have an electorate that doesn’t understand the system. No wonder it’s so easy for shysters to rig the political game and enrich themselves.
In a typical semester, for instance, 32 percent of the students did not take a single course with more than 40 pages of reading per week, and 50 percent did not take any course requiring more than 20 pages of writing over the semester. The average student spent only about 12 to 13 hours per week studying — about half the time a full-time college student in 1960 spent studying, according to the labor economists Philip S. Babcock and Mindy S. Marks.
Not surprisingly, a large number of the students showed no significant progress on tests of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing that were administered when they began college and then again at the ends of their sophomore and senior years. If the test that we used, the Collegiate Learning Assessment, were scaled on a traditional 0-to-100 point range, 45 percent of the students would not have demonstrated gains of even one point over the first two years of college, and 36 percent would not have shown such gains over four years of college.
Some explanations –
The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.
Federal legislation has facilitated this shift. The funds from Pell Grants and subsidized loans, by being assigned to students to spend on academic institutions they have chosen rather than being packaged as institutional grants for colleges to dispense, have empowered students — for good but also for ill. And expanded privacy protections have created obstacles for colleges in providing information on student performance to parents, undercutting a traditional check on student lassitude.
And – of course – too many kids are going to college. Kids who SHOULDN’T need a college check-mark on their resume to get that job, because MANY jobs simply don’t require a college degree.
Adding to this clusterfuck, we have this:
Vice has a series of infuriating interviews with folks who have taken out loans to receive college educations and have moved to Europe, in part, to avoid paying them back. I pledge my support in the general election to whichever candidate promises to do everything in their power to turn Gitmo into a debtors’ prison to punish these awful people.
Blood pressuring rising …
I wasn’t even meant to go to college. It was never my intention. And then all this shit happened where I took a year off, and I realized, Fuck, I don’t think I can work overnights at a Target stocking shelves for the rest of my life. So I ended up finding this film school in California.
I couldn’t afford this private school, so I told my parents I really wanted to do this and they co-signed the loans for me. I wanna say it was like $30,000 each year. It’s a ridiculous amount of money.
I was, for sure, intending to pay the loans back. Our mentors and teachers told us that we would pay this education off for a long time, but everyone in America is doing it so it’s almost like eating breakfast. That’s how Americans are raised.
That’s not how I’m raising my kids. It’s funny, because when I first began on my “anti-” college deal, people would look at me as if I had three heads. Now, some have started to nod along in agreement … but the tale continues:
Debt is not the main reason I moved to Europe. I moved for my career, but in the back of my mind it was a way to start a clean slate. At the same time, I could never really escape because my parents were co-signers. My parents own a home and were planning on leaving it to us as inheritance. They were nervous about having their house taken away from them because of me not paying student loans, and subsequently signed the house over to my sister so they wouldn’t own anything the bank could come after.
To be honest, I just don’t see myself living in America again—for reasons outside of student debt. My parents are moving back to El Salvador, where they’re from, and then I’ll have no ties to America. I don’t really like America or the direction it’s heading. For now, I don’t need to care about going back there.
I wonder how proud of their little shit they are now?
Yet still college is sold to the kids. It’s become not a means to an end, but a rite of passage. It’s four (or five) more years of high school. THE PARTY NEVER ENDS. Delayed adulthood. The college “experience”.
My two boys are working (very hard) in our family business. They see their friends having a good time in college, and I’m sure it’s difficult. I didn’t force my views upon them, but they did have an effect. What they DON’T see is that their friends’ 4-year delayed adulthood is about to end. Whether the four years of education will be “worth it” is up for debate. For some I sure it was. For others? For most? That is the question.
My boys won’t have the debt. And they also have years and years of learning how to WORK hard under their belt.