This is a new year and another semester has begun. I have my fingers crossed hoping that I get a really good group of students. Last semester’s students were phenomenal. Part of last semester’s success had to do with the fact that first semester freshmen made up about 55% of my classes. These were students who had just left high school a few months earlier and most of them were eager to expand their knowledge base and build their social/connection capital.
These students’ active engagement in critical thinking and other higher level problem-solving skills became contagious, forcing everyone else to put forth his/her best effort. The sophomores and juniors’ pride were on the line and they would not surrender the intellectual high ground to a group of greenhorn students. Those combined variables resulted in a stimulating, invigorating and rigorous learning environment. And this is exactly what professors yearn for – the opportunity to share a sacred space with learners.
But what happens when we are dealt a bad hand by the gods? What can be done when distillers of knowledge come face-to-face with students whose grandest ambition is to shape the world with their ignorance? Is there anything we can do other than give them a warm welcome and hope that they drop our class early in the semester, saving us from slow torture and prolonged mental agony?
While those are legitimate concerns, I think the issue we need to address is that college is NOT for everyone. There is a myth that going to college somehow automatically improves one’s life. Well, here is a dirty little secret about higher education. Colleges and universities are businesses. That is, colleges and universities are in the education business to make money, and they have gamed the system almost flawlessly – generating astronomical financial returns for stakeholders.
There is no doubt that a college education can open many doors of opportunities that might otherwise remain closed. Even so, the people with the loudest bullhorns, i.e., legislators, education lobbyists, university presidents, and financial institutions should stop propagating the myth and absurdity that going to college is the only gateway into the American middle-class and the only way to stay out of poverty.
Vocational, technical, and digital education are other viable alternatives that have proven their worth in building economic growth. Let’s not forget about entrepreneurship. One proven way to employment, financial security and self-fulfillment is to create a business. Don’t believe me? Ask the following people, some of whom did not attend college and others who dropped out of college: Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Wahlberg, Channing Tatum, Micky Arison, Jane Austen, Russell Simmons, Mark Zuckerberg, Ashley Simpson, Ted Turner, Will Smith, Naomi Campbell, James Cameron, Amanda Hocking, Michael Dell, Leighton Meester, Nicki Minaj, Kate Moss, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and the list goes on.
Every student has the right to a quality education; however, it has to be an education that is best suited for the individual.