Not every kid belongs in some form of higher education

Whenever I hear someone intone about the poor state of things in not receiving a higher education, it reminds me of John Blutasrsky (John Belushi) in the movie “Animal House” upon learning he was about to be expelled: “Seven years of college down the drain,” he said, adding that he might as well join the Peace Corps.

It’s possible that no one else has the nerve to say this, but I do: I disagree with the newly minted goal, embraced by the governor’s education reform task force, that 60 percent of Idahoans should have an advanced degree or certificate by 2020.

It’s not that I have a problem with college. I went to college. Both my kids are considering college as a future option upon graduation. My 16 year-old daughter and I plan to tour colleges and universities next summer, ahead of her junior year.

My daughter is not your daughter, or son, or grandchild. What’s right for her may not be right for other children. And if my son or daughter decides that college is not right for them, or that another option will lead to better opportunities, so be it.

Still, there is a remarkable amount of academic snobbery being injected into American schools and the workplace. It’s an elitist notion that if you don’t go to college, you’re less valuable than someone who did. That you’re an underachiever, or not smart. That you’ll never be rich or happy. It’s also profoundly untrue.

I’ll refrain listing all the millionaires and billionaires who managed incredible success without a college education or advanced education certificate. It sounds a tad trite, even if it is entirely true. But I also have a great number of friends and associates throughout our state and country, successful in life and in business, in their families, their communities and the workforce, who have done and are doing just fine without the academic credentials academia says they’re supposed to have.

I also have friends who work in the trades, who make good money and are incredibly happy, without an education beyond high school. Some in academia treats them like they’re subhuman, dumb, abnormal or irrelevant.

Likewise, I have friends and associates who have college degrees that they have never used, or college debt they simply can’t get out from under, or college educations that failed to deliver on the promises to prepare them for the careers they had in mind. A college degree is one thing; the knowledge and proficiency to do a job is something else entirely.

In the 21st century, much can be learned from resources that are nowhere near a classroom on a college campus. Is it more important that 60 percent of Idaho have a degree or post-secondary certificate, or that they have the knowledge and skills to do a job?

Moreover, I’m shocked we’re even having a serious discussion about post-secondary education, when our public officials have yet to get K-12 education right. Of the kids that go on to college, as many as half require some kind of remedial education, which, of course, students have to pay for without any credit toward their degrees. Shouldn’t we try to fix that first? Why the rush to push kids from one broken education venue to the next?

The race to set and meet an artificial goal is overshadowing everything else right now. And the results that await are rather predictable. Don’t be surprised if more schoolchildren end up being propelled into college or post-secondary programs when that’s neither what they want nor need. Don’t be surprised when the artificial demand for new academic credentials drives up the already-inflated price for post-secondary education.

And don’t be surprised when more kids end up with debt they can’t afford or degrees and certificates that they’ll never use.

7 Responses to “Not every kid belongs in some form of higher education”

  1. Steve 12 November 2013 at 1:59 PM #

    GREAT article! I’ve been saying this for years. Kids can learn to do jobs that pay well and earn themselves a living without college. Employers can hire people without degrees and still be successful. This belief that a college degree is the only thing making someone valuable is a LIE. Personally I think it is perpetuated by the higher educations system to (surprise, surprise) MAKE MORE MONEY. If you can get an entire society to believe that they NEED what you are selling in order to survive, you will be unimaginably wealthy.

    • Margaret Arnzen 13 November 2013 at 10:33 PM #

      Great article and steve you are right on Higher Education is over sold!

  2. julia 14 November 2013 at 8:07 AM #

    I also have said this for years. Not every person is college material. But perhaps the goal is complete indoctrination, which colleges appear to be very good at these days. We need tradespeople and other types of workers. College isn’t necessary for all jobs and perhaps some trade school alternatives should be an option. Trades are looked down on but i challenge anyone to wire their own house or build and plumb a new addition. Yes, some can but most cannot. Plus we have lots of laws saying you have to use a licensed plumber or electrician. We’re rapidly approaching a society that can do nothing for itself either because we don’t have the know-how or because we require the gov’t's OK first.

  3. Tate 14 November 2013 at 11:32 AM #

    Wayne, you should go after Idaho’s “Go On” campaign. Only in government can we be forced into a shoddy, monopolized K-12 education programs and then told that it is not enough. The “Go On” campaign seems to be less about how helpful college is and more about how useless a high school degree is.

    • Jessie 16 November 2013 at 4:55 PM #

      In Idaho the only thing we are forced into is taxation. You can educate your children at home or hire a private teacher if you want higher quality academics or a different culture. Generally speaking, people attending higher education institutions are 18 years of age and older. No one can force them to attend. If they are attending school against their will as an adult it is a self-inflicted problem.

  4. john reynolds 15 November 2013 at 7:12 AM #

    after high school I joined the navy
    and was assigned to the electric shop
    when I left the navy I went to work as a electricians helper
    at that time there were very few trade schools to go to and they were very expensive
    today we have schools that will teach
    hair cutting to running heavy equipment
    and repairing the same equipment
    in my experience I have found that people who went to trade school advanced faster
    and were more competent then people who
    learned on the job as I did
    I think the state (taxes) should pay for these schools to a maximum of two years
    for anyone who wants to advance
    this is what I have been telling my son for years
    our country and state ( taxes ) will be better off
    with an educated and trained work force

    one other thing if you graduate from a high school in Idaho and go to a four your collage
    in Idaho the state should pay
    the same thing for a trade school

  5. john reynolds 19 November 2013 at 9:25 AM #

    sorry to post on this again
    I am very passionate about this subject
    even
    people working in a fast food restaurant
    need more training on how to handle food
    safely
    they come to work in uniform
    they can be coming from milking cows
    for all we know
    as you can see most people in most occupations need more training
    and not leave it to the owner for on the job training
    and the employee can take this certificate
    with them and be more valuable to there next employer