Quote of the day (so far)

From George Leef in this post at Phi Beta Cons (responding to this earlier post):

The fact is [sic] the matter is that some bright and energetic young people do extremely well in life without ever earning a degree, while on the other hand, many others who get their college degrees wind up doing jobs that call for no academic preparation whatsoever. Formal academic coursework is of little benefit to students who are not intellectually inclined, and as our K-12 system deteriorates and graduates increasing numbers of disengaged students, college will do less and less good.

It seems like there is a growing refrain that unless a kid gets a college degree, that kid has no chance of getting a job that will earn a living wage, and  that kid will be something of a liability rather than an asset to society. Barack Obama was in Indy a couple of weeks ago and said this almost word-for-word; I believe his exact wording was “The days when a person could earn a living wage on a high school degree are over.”

That may be true, but it’s not an if-and-only-if proposition. A college education is no guarantee of anything, and in fact it’s useless if it is expended on people who are unprepared for college and uninterested in learning. The real value of a college education is realized only when it is joined by students who are well-prepared and, as Leef says, “intellectually inclined” — which I take to mean having a good work ethic and some modicum of a desire to learn for the sheer pleasure of learning, rather than some mistaken idea that college = job.



Filed under Education, Higher ed

7 responses to “Quote of the day (so far)

  1. On your last sentence there: And the choir says … AMEN!

    However, I’m pretty sure that skilled laborers in the consumer service industry, which can be learned through apprenticeship (drywallers, painters, plumbers, etc.) will still make more money than I will with a college degree. I know what I pay them, and it’s certainly more per hour than I make.

    If I was purely aiming for the money, I’d become a mechanic – an analytical job with high wages and no papers to take home and grade.

  2. Jami

    I had a really long comment typed, and deleted most of it to sum it all up in the words of Einstein… “Its all relative” 🙂

    I believe that I would not have my job without my college degree, but at the same time, I really dont feel like much of my degree applies to what I do. My employer just wanted to know that I am “smart” enough to earn a degree. I guess I’m in the middle on this one.

  3. @Maria: I used to entertain the idea quite often of quitting higher ed and becoming an electrician. My uncle was an electrician (without a college degree) and it’s challenging, interesting work that pays insanely well because homeowners are scared to death (or more accurately, scared of electrocuting themselves to death) of doing that sort of thing themselves. The problem is that I’m that kind of homeowner!

  4. Pingback: Re: Quote of the day « Casting Out Nines

  5. I’d say it’s in the running for Quote of the Month.

    If Obama thinks that one can’t earn a living wage without a college degree, then his grasp on everything from academics to the economy [we could call this, as a whole, “reality”] is even less substantial than it already seems.

  6. @Matt: I was listening to Obama’s speech live on the radio that day, and when he started talking education it really stopped me in my tracks. I really think he hasn’t thought a lot of the most important education topics through very clearly at all. That statement I referred to was particularly jarring – especially since it was being given in Plainfield, which is suburban but still with a sizeable population of farmers and skilled laborers who don’t have college degrees but have somehow managed to survive their whole lives. It was as if Obama was coming in and saying, “What you people have been doing for the last 200 years is plainly impossible, so as President I will change all that.”

    I’m not planning on voting Democrat anyway, but people who are caught up in the Obama reality distortion field ought to take a really close look at what he actually says about some of this stuff. Education in particular.

  7. Though Chris Mathews and others felt that obligatory, thrilling tingle up their leg, some of us couldn’t help but realize how flawed the speech was. Obama’s a sharp enough guy; it wasn’t just oversight.

    The point about Plainfield’s context is jarring… I hadn’t thought of it until your last comment.

    And they say that fearmongering is a Republican thing.