Thursday, May 02, 2013

Why Geting a Proper Education Rather Than Going to College Needs to Be America's Goal

A recent article in Time Magazine by Ramesh Ponnuru questions if having the majority of US students attend college - and particularly traditional 4 year colleges - is good for either them - or the country as a whole.  The fact that a majority of students can not get a degree after four years - and 40% can't get a degree even after six years -  demonstrates that something in the present system is not working.  

I have two comments.  First, speaking of misguided - and cruel - educational priorities (which the article claims is forcing unprepared students into 4 year colleges) - the requirement that you need to pass algebra to get a high school diploma in states such as California is easily the number one reason why students drop out of high school without a degree.

I took advanced placement algebra, calculus, physics and geometry in high school and - not once - have ever had any need to use anything I learned. Nor did it teach me anything about 'reasoning' that I did not already know.  The idea that we need to train everyone in higher math to prepare people for future jobs is absurd.  If someone can't pass basic algebra - they will never be up for a job which needs those skills.

But in the attempt to cram higher math down every one's throats, we are ending up with a sizable population with no high school diploma and the inability to even use basic math in their daily lives, much less on their jobs.

Second, with all the possible options that currently exist - or, more correctly, should exist, the four year college model is becoming obsolete for most students.  And if there is anything major educational foundations should be funding - it is the development of those multiple new models.

Here is part of the article's opening argument, but go to the website and read the entire piece. 
The benefits of putting more people in college are also oversold. Part of the college wage premium is an illusion. People who go to college are, on average, smarter than people who don't. In an economy that increasingly rewards intelligence, you'd expect college grads to pull ahead of the pack even if their diplomas signified nothing but their smarts. College must make many students more productive workers. But at least some of the apparent value of a college degree, and maybe a lot of it, reflects the fact that employers can use it as a rough measure of job applicants' intelligence and willingness to work hard.
We could probably increase the number of high school seniors who are ready to go to college — and likely to make it to graduation — if we made the K-12 system more academically rigorous. But let's face it: college isn't for everyone, especially if it takes the form of four years of going to classes on a campus.
Now read the rest of the article.

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