Over and over and over again, we see the headlines: “Why a College Degree May Not Be Worth It”, “Higher education: Is college worth it?”, or “The diminishing returns of a college education”. I want to talk to you about this for a bit because this is a HUGE problem in my opinion.
Let’s begin with clearly defining the subject matter. What we are after is knowledge right? After all, it is widely recognized that “knowledge is power”. Well, knowledge is facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education. Experience is simple enough because it boils down to what you are exposed to. But let’s be real for a second. Most people in this country are not exactly exposed to a whole lot these days besides Facebook and American Idol. So the quest for REAL knowledge must come through education.
Imagine what these questions and “doubts” are doing to the children. Children already look at school as some kind of burden (and it reflects in the way they talk and carry themselves). Comments like “I go to school because my parents make me” and the idea that being smart is somehow “not cool” are all the proof you need to understand that there is a serious problem here. So when we plant even bigger doubts about the merits of higher education into the minds of the children, what kind of effect do you think that will create? And don’t you think that is playing right into the hands of the powerful? And if it’s about the money, are you really so eager to pass up education because you think you won’t get paid for it? Are you really willing to continue to belittle those who want to make the effort anyway?
Years ago, when people didn’t take everything they have access to for granted, people would learn for fun. They could speak multiple languages, knew of science, agriculture, philosophy, and so much more and they didn’t get paid for it. They did it because they understood the value of not being a complete moron. My, how times have changed.
If you go to school or participate in the education system with the mindset that you just have to do it to get a job, how vested are you going to be in the education? Not very right? Now imagine you went to school to actually learn. How vested would you be in education then? Quite a bit right? The return would be substantial. It’s about access to seemingly endless amounts of information is my opinion. To have access to highly educated people that you can bounce ideas off of. To have access to other highly educated people who can help you bring ideas into fruition.
Education by definition is an enlightening experience, generally by receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. Sure, the debate could be had that government-run education cannot and does not provide this, and I would tend to agree, especially in light of the exploding costs of remedial education post-highschool, but I digress.
Let’s get real here! Is education worth it or not? Is higher education worth the investment? Well, I suppose that depends on how much value you put on ignorance. If your options are to remain ignorant of the world or to learn something, why not invest in that learning experience? If you had an option to believe in Santa your whole life, or pay to find out the truth, which would you do? If you could invest in learning the secrets of the rich, would you do it?
There is no denying that college costs a lot of money. But there are a few very pointed reasons as to why. First, one would be hard-pressed to find a difference between a resort and college campus nowadays. That is entirely unnecessary by the way. The price of an education at such an institution will reflect this. Somebody has to pay for this and unless you believe in socialism, it’s more than likely going to be you. Second, data clearly shows that far too many high-school graduates arrive on college campuses completely ill-prepared to succeed in standard first-year courses. In other words, they didn’t learn a damn thing in high school, so they cannot even pass the general education courses that are considered “basic” on the college level. So the college has to focus on bringing these students up to college level since the high school didn’t. Believe it or not, but this will drive up costs as well. So basically, thanks to government-run education and to the institution’s need to provide more services to its students, costs have gone through the roof. But does any of this really make the education itself any less valuable? Return on Investment right?
Oddly enough, that is another problem. People look at a degree or education in general in the wrong light. So many were told that if you get a degree, you’ll get a certain job that will pay for the education you paid for. Just so we are all on the same page here; that is NOT what an education is for. If knowledge is power, your quest is to go to college or school or the library, to acquire as much information as possible so you can effectively raise your personal power. By doing so, you will more than likely land a better job that will pay for the education you paid for. But try to remember, education is not a car, it’s a piece of gold. You should not be looking at it as a short term investment, but rather, a lifelong investment. I heard it best said like this: “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest. – Ben Franklin. In fact, there is a Chinese Proverb that says “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people”. My question is how often do you hear things like this today?
But if money is your motivation, then I am still right. Now, there is no disputing that there are problems with the education system, but studies continue to prove that a degree benefits each graduate $1m more in earnings than a non-graduate. But let me stress again, this should not be the motivation. We need to change our priorities as a nation. After all, globally we’re 16th in literacy, which is…, well below average. And we’re also well below average in math skills, as well as in problem-solving skills. We are #1 in incarceration though. Let’s get real here again. 85 percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. So are 60 percent of all prison inmates. There seems to be an odd correlation between the homeless, incarcerated, unemployed, and the uneducated. Even more odd, the problem seems to start in government-run education systems and in the homes that seem to encourage ignorance.
Maximilien de Robespierre once said that “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” If you want to know why this nation is going to hell in a hand-basket… it might be wise to look at ourselves first.
And let me again clarify something. Not all education is gained from the halls of the University and I am not implying that to be the case. The point is that you learn as much as you can for the sake of learning, and help to change the culture we find ourselves in; the culture that seems to frown upon the educated. Now, if you are going to be learning anyway… why not get credit for it and be recognized for your efforts? Sure, you are putting money down on it when you go that route, but it’s probably a much better investment or “gamble” than anything else out there.
There is no doubt some changes need to be made. Check out my article titled “A Leadership Lesson About Change in Higher Education.” You might also enjoy my article titled “Student Loans: What Did We Think Would Happen?“