About the time our grandson entered his second year of college, my Beloved and I began having serious doubts about young people (in general) seeking a college education. It wasn’t our first time to entertain these doubts. Back when our older son was in college, we noticed he was less engaged than we thought he should be.
A number of years ago before he became president, Bill Clinton used to say he wanted to make it possible for everyone to attend college. Even then, we disagreed with him. Not every high school graduate, in my opinion, needs to attend college. Then and now, a good number of young people would be better served by attending vocational schools or community colleges.
Now don’t get me wrong. Our son was capable of college-level work, but he didn’t have his heart in it. He was unsure what he wanted to do with his life so languishing in a classroom wasn’t the best use of his time or money. He might have been better served by spending a year traveling in Europe. When he finally approached his education from a different angle, he chose the police academy … and realized it was exactly where he needed to be.
That was about fifteen years ago. When our grandson graduated high school in 2010, he had two choices – join the Army or enroll in college. He chose the latter and we thought it was an appropriate choice for him. But so much has changed over the last decade (or more) and a college degree has become far less valuable, perhaps in part due to the glut of college-educated individuals swelling the ranks of the unemployed or under-employed.
What makes matters worse are the dubious degrees these college-educated individuals have received. A couple weeks ago, I noticed a guy whose degree was in East Asian Studies. Really? I always thought a liberal arts degree would at least stand one in good stead for a variety of career alternatives … but East Asian Studies? It might be helpful for someone planning to spend the rest of his or her life in east Asia.
I realized I may be a bit old-fashioned and behind the times when I conducted a random search and found the Academic Guide from the University of California at Berkeley. Let’s talk specialization: Asian Studies (China), Asian Studies (Japan), Asian Studies (Multi-Area), Celtic Studies, Disability Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, to name a few. I won’t go on; you can check the link yourself. But this is one university with dozens (well over a hundred) of specialized course work that prepares a college graduate for … what?
Then consider an article in The Atlantic from early this year, Same Performance, Better Grades. Grade inflation ensures students today are more likely to receive an “A” for less effort and study than the extra effort and intense study of students twenty years ago! Which means if you received your college degree in the 1980s or 1990s, your degree has been degraded!
I could rant a while longer, but instead, I wanted to share a video that presents the most honest “commencement” speech delivered this year. I hope you appreciate this point of view as much as I did.