Don’t Go to College! Or At Least Think About It…

By June 7, 2007General

To all the politicians and educators and guidance counselors and parents who think every high school graduate should go to a four-year college, think again. For many young people, it’s a bad, even harmful idea.

Susan Black, a contributing editor as the American School Board Journal, finds educational leaders who say students and parents should consider the alternatives. Or face failure.

But students who’ve barely scraped by in high school soon discover that colleges are not lenient about late homework and low test grades. Many students wind up in non-credit remedial college courses that increase the time and cost of getting a degree. Some find out college isn’t what they expected, and many fail.

Rona Wilensky, principal of New Vista High School in Boulder, Colo., is emphatic that college is not for everyone. She believes the college-for all-philosophy narrows students’ options. Schools should educate all students to the same high standards and prepare all students to succeed in whichever postsecondary option they choose, whether it’s college, career and technical education, or the workplace, she says.

A third or more of college students drop out, an entirely unnecessary setback that could have been avoided by consideration of more alternatives — especially including technical and educational alternatives.

Black reviews a variety of more inclusive pedagological approaches, including the approach of one of the Vermont’s Career Development Centers, as demonstrated in a Manufacturing Technologies class.

On one of my trips, the 16- to 18-year-olds showed me the clocks they’d designed and produced from Vermont-quarried marble. The clock-making process included writing proposals and supply lists, negotiating costs and purchasing materials, designing technical and artistic components, writing computer codes, and operating computer numerical control lathes that drilled their designs into the marble.

One boy made a marble clock for me. His teacher says the design is “mathematically intricate.” I love the clock and everything it represents. I cherish the fact that some students from this class are majoring in math and physics in college, some are working as apprentices in manufacturing industries, and some are manufacturing precision parts for military aircraft and working in other highly skilled and good-paying jobs.

That’s right. Help students learn basic knowledge — math and science and analytical thinking — and give them many opportunities, including careers in manufacturing. Teach opportunity, not failure.

(Thanks to George Leef of the Pope Center for sending the article our way. George has written a paper on these topics, “The Overselling of Higher Education.”)

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