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#124492 - 03/02/12 08:42 AM NYT - Should college be for everyone?
cdfox Offline
Member

Registered: 02/11/11
Posts: 370
Loc: MA
Today's NYT has a debate on: should college be for everyone?
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/01/should-college-be-for-everyone/?ref=opinion

I know there's been much discussion on this forum about this issue. A lot of the debate on the NYT revolves around money and access to higher education.

My take on money and access aspect to this debate is that we're sitting on a global, gigantic iceberg with the open source movement and self-education. Already MIT, Yale, Carnegie, and other higher institutions (http://oedb.org/) are making courseware freely available and accessible to all. Non-profits, such as the Saylor Foundation (http://www.saylor.org/) are doing so as well.

This is a global phenomenon and will change the way we view higher education in the future. If such courseware is already freely available and accessible, then it enables millions, if not billions, of people to self-direct their learning.

Education is about self-empowerment. Employers already hire candidates with a particular degree in many cases. Many employers today are looking to interns, volunteers, or hire a candidate without a particular degree because it either doesn't cost a penny or it's considerably cheaper than hiring the BA than MA candidate. Of course, some professions (i.e surgeon) will need the background training and knowledge that higher education may provide, but I think we can say that many institutions are nothing more than paper mills and that in many cases employees learn more by doing the job or on-the-job rather than from the theoretical discussion in higher education.

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#124505 - 03/02/12 09:54 AM Re: NYT - Should college be for everyone? [Re: cdfox]
Val Offline
Member

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2777
Loc: California
I tend to agree with your analysis, especially where it concerns on the job training.

Lately I've been thinking that college mania is the wrong response to a real problem. Fact: the world is becoming more technological and governments see that the nations need more thought workers --- people who can work with the new technologies.

The problem, I think, is that we're using the wrong approach to solve the problem. There's this assumption that we just need to send more people to college and produce more people with BAs. Then, Presto! We get thought workers! So mostly everyone from the President on down is pushing everyone to go to college. Obama himself has said that we need to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

But this assumption, I think, is wrong. And the fact that so many students drop out of science and engineering courses is evidence of that fact. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, 1.6 million BAs were handed out in 2009 (see here too). Of those, over a million were in these fields:

  • Business was first, at 348,000 diplomas. This was more than twice the nearest next degree (social sciences).
  • Social sciences and history
  • Education
  • Health sciences
  • Journalism
  • Psychology
  • Visual & performing arts


The top two categories at the master's level were business and education.

None of those degrees teach the kinds of skills that people need to create new technologies or improve existing ones. I wonder how many of these graduates (except the ones in health sciences) are stuck with big student loans in (low paying?) jobs outside their fields.

I think that the real problem is that we're focusing almost exclusively on the wrong group while ignoring the group most likely to do well in a traditional college major and then go on to make real contributions. We need smart, creative, science and technology workers, as well as smart educated people in other fields. But our public schools mostly ignore these kids while they push students to incur debt --- so they can get degrees in business, sociology, or journalism. The private schools and programs like EPGY and CTY are better, but not everyone can afford them.

So I guess I'm saying that this is a serious problem that I fear will end up crippling us eventually.The nation needs to take an honest look at our ideas about education (but seems to need the equivalent of a Sputnik program to provide a sufficient earthquake).

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#124533 - 03/02/12 04:32 PM Re: NYT - Should college be for everyone? [Re: Val]
JonLaw Offline
Member

Registered: 07/29/11
Posts: 1795
Loc: The Sub-Tropics
Originally Posted By: Val
None of those degrees teach the kinds of skills that people need to create new technologies or improve existing ones. I wonder how many of these graduates (except the ones in health sciences) are stuck with big student loans in (low paying?) jobs outside their fields.


I'm personally trying to answer the question "Will western industrial civilization peak and then decline due to energy issues? Has it already peaked? If it hasn't peaked, but will peak, when will it peak?"

If I can't answer those questions, I sure can't answer "should college be for everyone".

Because if there is a peak issue coming up in the next several decades, that's going to push people back into agriculture sometime in the next century.

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#124572 - 03/03/12 07:37 AM Re: NYT - Should college be for everyone? [Re: cdfox]
Wren Offline
Member

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 1326
When I went to college, you did not go empty headed thinking that somehow you would get a job if you went to college, you went to college to get a job. You took law, dentistry, engineering, computer science, accounting etc. What are all those people that took psychology going to do? The business degrees can always go into sales. Lots of sales jobs. But social sciences? Though all those people may be applying for teachers college or law school. But why is engineering and computer science missing when those are where the jobs are?

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#124573 - 03/03/12 08:04 AM Re: NYT - Should college be for everyone? [Re: Wren]
JonLaw Offline
Member

Registered: 07/29/11
Posts: 1795
Loc: The Sub-Tropics
Originally Posted By: Wren
What are all those people that took psychology going to do?


That's one of the few services I actually use, professionally.

I order lots of WAIS/WRAT/Vinelands, ideally to prove that the client is mildly mentally retarded.

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