There is a curious question being asked by many. I am not sure what is the genesis of this oddity, but it presents a dangerous falsehood that needs a vigorous rebuttal. So insidious and capricious is that question that even national media outlets have thought it important to comment. My difficulty with the discussion is in the lack of depth or nuance. The question in various shades of gray suggests by the tone of the questioning that a college education is not a good deal. Please read that last sentence again.
The very suggestion is quite offensive to me. My grandparents, I am sure, are all turning and cursing in their graves. I have inherited a non-negotiable emphasis on the importance of a well-rounded education. The current discussions emphasis on cost is shortsighted and is particularly destructive to the poor. Many factors have gotten us to this question and a full and complete discussion is needed.
I would hope that the need for a good education beyond the bare skills to compete for a job would be evident. Alas, I have given too much credit to the opinion makers, they mostly don’t get it. For this country to remain a functioning democracy the masses must not only be capable of holding a job but must be able to defend the pillars of our freedoms. The suggestion that all citizens don’t deserve a full and complete education is dangerous both economically and politically. The examination of cost is worthwhile and needed, but the value equation is not being discussed in an honest manner.
A college degree is currently the best route to a great education, but how do we get there? The disconnect starts at the beginning, with the lack of focus on the skills needed to create individuals recognize that life long learning is needed to navigate the currently environment. Education starts long before your child can read or write. It begins with parents answering all the annoying questions toddlers present. As a father of a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old I have experienced the never-ending questions and even the embarrassing public questions. However, I am committed to accurate answers. Answering, all those questions builds knowledge and confidence, and encourages curiosity. The latter is what parents must cultivate. Curiosity about the world is what drives true education.The power of curiosity kept me out of trouble and I hope it will do the same for my girls.
How does this have anything to do with college or the utility of a college education? This is how I see it. Curiosity drives a hunger for knowledge, which includes a focus on value. A key piece of knowledge that we can pass to our children is that it is best to complete a great major at an underrated college than a poor major at the best college. Following that one rule will provide a greater value than anything else. What is a great major? Since I am in the sciences I would suggest Math and Science and the associated applied fields. Yes we all cannot be engineers, but making the correct choice is vital to the cost/value equation of a college degree.
Start early and be curious. Most of all start early. Figuring out your college major in college is too late. This is where parental guidance is important. This is also where being born to educated high earning parents makes a difference. The typical guidance for the children of the well-educated is quite different. It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Parents all want their children to succeed, but some know what it takes while some don’t. This suggestion that a college education cannot be a good valve has the most negative impact on the poor. A choice to focus on other avenues to financial success versus making the hard choices that will provide a great education to our children will be what keeps us poor.
As parents we need to start taking the education of our children more seriously and endeavoring to guide them into successful decision-making is key. College is still the best deal to a lifetime of improved options. Start early. Be curious. Succeed.