The college myth – Elitism 101

Via Hot Air:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum expanded his populist message into education Saturday, accusing President Barack Obama and others of “snobbery” for pushing all kids to go to college.

“We are leaving so many children behind,” Mr. Santorum said at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic, the National Journal and Saint Anselm College. “They’re not ready to go to [college.] They don’t want to go to college. They don’t need to go to college. I was so outraged that the President of the United States [said] every student should go to college.”

“Who are you to say that every child in America goes” to college, he continued. “I have seven kids. Maybe they’ll all go to college. But if one of my kids wants to go and be an auto mechanic, good for him! That’s a good-paying job.”

If you do things the “correct” way in this country, your parents began prepping you for college before you were born. Reading to you in the womb, buying you educational toys, getting you into the best pre-schools, etc. By the time you start Kindergarten you are able to read, write, speak three languages and can handle non-Euclidian geometry.

If your parents aren’t fortunate enough to afford a fancy private school they must find a home in the right public school {{shudder}} district. For the next twelve years your entire childhood will be consumed by preparing for getting into one of the best universities.

This means the classes you take and the grades you get, but also your extra-curricular activities as well. You want to be able to fill out your college applications with evidence of your good character (charitable activities), athleticism (soccer, karate dance and yoga) as well some unusual interests (fly fishing, mandolin). Then there are the SAT prep classes.

So finally your parents dreams come true and you are accepted at an Ivy League university. During your freshman year you quickly discover you have no interest in becoming a doctor and your favorite classes are Intoxication and Intercourse. You drop out of school, your parents disown you and you begin working at Walmart.

Wait, what?

There are two main questions about college – who should go and when (if ever) should they go?

Not everyone needs to go to college. In the immortal words of Judge Smails, “The world needs ditch diggers too.” My cousin had a backhoe business and he did alright.

There are lots of skilled labor jobs out there. If you enjoy building and fixing things, why should you take an office job?

But I want to focus on that second question – when (if ever) should they go?

When I was 18 years old I hated school and my grades reflect it. It would have been a waste of time and money for me to go to college right then. I was a hormone with tennis shoes and had no idea what I wanted to be.

I went back to school full-time at the age of thirty-one. I had spent the years since high school in the army and working in pest control. I had been married (twice), divorced (twice) and had three kids. My attitude towards school was very different and I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life.

Some people are better off waiting to go to school. Others should take it in stages. Let’s say you’re eighteen and you want to be an auto mechanic. You go to a community college or trade school to get your basic degree and start working. Then you come back occasionally for additional training to keep current and to learn some specialties. When when you’re thirty you start thinking of opening your own shop so you take some classes on business management. Then in your fifties you start thinking about a second career.

There are lots of ways to measure success, and lots of ways to learn. Treating everyone who doesn’t go to (an Ivy League) college as a failure is a game for snooty elitists.

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22 Responses to The college myth – Elitism 101

  1. myiq2xu says:

    My daughter wanted to be a veterinarian. Then she saw a show on Animal Planet where a vet had to put down a Shar pei puppy.

    My daughter decided she didn’t want anything to do with a job that sometimes required killing puppies.

  2. yttik says:

    First of all, Santorum is a pretentious little ass, but on this issue he is correct. I think the whole idea of how you HAVE to go to college so you can get a good paying job was designed to cover up the fact that paychecks have been declining, that the gap between wages and the cost of living have been increasing. When people started pointing this out, the mantra from the Gov was that you just need more education. I live in a community where people washing dishes have masters degrees. We have kids here that go to school and come home to live in their parent’s basements, with huge college debt and no job prospects. Education no longer means you’re going to get a good job.

    Without sounding like a Paulite, the nat’l debt and the federal reserve have a whole lot to do with the decline in wages and the gap in the cost of living. A few decades ago you could buy a loaf of bread for 59 cents, today it cost close to four dollars. That is the interest on our nat’l debt. The more the Gov borrows and spends, the higher our cost of goods and services. Wages never keep up.

    • 1539days says:

      MSNBC has been airing those Lean Forward ads with their idiot hosts. One of Crazy Larry’s is about how some people were against the GI bill that ended up helping the college graduation level among Americans from 6% to 20%. Here’s the thing. If you look at the job market of the time, maybe 10-15% of jobs needed a college education. Today, it’s maybe 30% tops.

      When I was going to school, I was one of those kids who was destined for college. Because everyone told me I could, I went to an expensive college on a very partial (all in all, 15% of expenses) scholarship. I washed out of it and ended up at state schools after that, where my GPA stayed in the high 3s. Bigger is not always better.

      Colleges have become laboratories for various social experiments. The government hands out loans under the misguided assumption that kids of all income levels should get a chance to go to college. The result is a bunch of adults who pay 10% of their income in loan repayment until the time their kids are ready for college.

      After some time, I am lucky enough to use my engineering degree in my job. If I didn’t go to college, however, I would have started in the workforce much earlier and all the education I really needed I could have picked up in a ten week course.

  3. Penn and Teller had a great episode of their BS show with college as the subject. They did a great job. College for the most part is BS. There are clearly some professions that require it, but there are a lot of things that don’t. And let’s not confuse college with education. You want to educate yourself one way or the other of course, but is a drunkfest for four years the right path?

    It’s not just blue collar work that doesn’t require college. There are a lot of business and engineering and science jobs that don’t require it. You’ll have a harder time because it’s a missing resume line item, but you can get around it if you have too.

  4. elliesmom says:

    Try being an 8th grade teacher and suggesting to parents that their kid would probably do better at the local (very good) vocational school when they have their heart set on sending him to college. Then have him drop out of college and begin whining and moaning that the “dumb kids” who went to the voc have better jobs and bigger paychecks. One of my “dumb students” owns his own business and has the mortgage on his house paid off at 32. I sent both of my kids to the vocational school. My daughter went off to college right after high school, but got her first professional job based on her vocational certificate. My son did his college “when the mood struck”, but he eventually made it through. In the meantime, he had no problem supporting himself, getting married, and buying a very nice little house. I think the future of high school lies in an approach to education that prepares a kid for college whenever they decide to go and gives them job skills that they can use right away.

    • votermom says:

      I think the future of high school lies in an approach to education that prepares a kid for college whenever they decide to go and gives them job skills that they can use right away.

      This would be awesome.

      • jjmtacoma says:

        They still do that around here but parents (who probably don’t have degrees themselves) steer the kids away from vocational education. My nephew has qualified for the international brotherhood of electricians and is now an apprentice electrician getting paid while he learns. My son is studying Creative Writing in college.

        I just hope they both love what they do but I won’t be surprised if my nephew makes more money than my son, even if he manages to go to grad school and teach as he plans/dreams.

        All bets are off if his book gets finished and published but I see that as being like a musician waiting to be “discovered” – sweat, luck and chance… He really is a good writer. I advised him to marry a doctor 😉

        • Karma says:

          You’re probably right about your nephew but of course there is something to be said about following your bliss as your son is doing.

          Anyway, my brother-in-law is a member of the IBEW and for every hour he works they place $5 in a couple of retirement accounts. And with overtime he made well over $100,000/per year until everything hit the fan.

          The hall just recently started getting a lot of large jobs that have cleared it. So that is a bit of recovery news too.

  5. foxyladi14 says:

    I sent both of my kids to the vocational school.
    smart move.I love them. 🙂

  6. Jeffhas says:

    I’m not all that religious… but…


  7. DandyTiger says:

    I happened to have the mindset to go right into college, so that’s the path I took. But lots of my friends and current colleagues did not. Some I work with in engineering have no college degrees. Doesn’t matter a lick. You can be a fantastic software engineer without it. It’s harder that way I think. I think it’s a lot easier to take classes and get help along the way. But there’s nothing there that can’t be learned without college.

    And friends that are artists and crafts people and builders had a much better time avoiding college altogether. Some of those went to votec, some went to art schools, and some just made their own path.

    There are millions of things you can do in this world. You don’t have to pick one of the classic 5 we all hear about as kids. Be a stone mason, a house builder, a gardner, an engineer, change the world with a business, or a multitude of other things. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and many other prominent people who changed the world didn’t get a college degree before they made their mark.

    Fly. Be free.

  8. HELENK says:

    there are 4 year vocational schools that give a better start to many kids then ivy league colleges.
    One of my memories is have a senator’s aide complain that railroaders made better money then his friends that went to college. He said it was not fair. My reply was the it is not the railroader’s fault that his friend did not have a good guidance counselor

    When telling the “dave” stories at my son-in-laws funeral many were about how he could think outside of the box to fix things. He was not “college material”, but ask him to fix a car and you could not find anyone better.
    one story
    As a teenager, he and his friend were coming back from the shore in the middle of the night. The car radiator sprung a leak. Deserted road, middle of the night, He walked to a farm, got an egg, broke it into the radiator, the hot water cooked it and it covered the leak until they got home. They were going to have to replace the radiator anyway and this way they got home
    College is a good place to teach many things but not all things. “street smarts” and “people smarts” may get you further in life along with or without a college education.

  9. WMCB says:

    There is a social attitude in this country, pushed by our politicians and educational institutions, that everyone can and should pursue academic degrees. It’s bullshit. Some can, some can’t, and we are doing those kids NO favors by pushing every single last one of them in that direction. Many would have more success and more feeling of accomplishment if they did advanced technical training in a hands-on field where they can EXCEL.

    What goes hand in hand with this push is the lack of respect for and opportunities for good old fashioned blue collar work. There was a time in this country (and it still exists in many countries) when a mechanic or plumber or line foreman at a manufacturing plant was considered an altogether respectable and worthy job.

    Not only have those jobs largely disappeared, the societal respect for those jobs has been actively discouraged. And it doesn’t matter that you might be a very GOOD mechanic, and be better able to feed your family – anything other than some sort of academic degree is “less than”.

    It’s bullshit.

  10. Lizzy says:

    I went to college and got a degree in English. I loved the subject but couldn’t find a job I liked. Didin’t want to teach; hated my librarian wages. I finally discovered a blue collar union job where I almost doubled my wages the first year. I enjoyed school but with my interests there weren’t good jobs.

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