What’s all the fuss about a College Education?

I grew up without a doubt in my mind that I would go to college, get a Masters and probably get a PhD.  That’s what everyone did, right?  When my younger sister was showing early signs of her brilliant business acumen, a jewelry store owner tried to hire her out of High School to manage his store. Her response was “But I haven’t gone to College yet!”  We didn’t question why, we just did it.

Now, I don’t regret a single moment of my childhood or my college education, but over the past 30 years, my view of college has gotten some clarity.

There is currently a debate on whether a college education is a right (or should be mandatory) or some such thing, and I think that needs to be better examined.

Having gone through the college application process with each of my kids and seeing how the landscape of education has changed over the past 30 years, especially with college applications, I question that there is one best way for the kids.

I tutor math on occasion and I had a student who was enrolled at MassBay College.   I was surprised that he was taking a class in algebra, a class typically taught in High School.   My surprise was not that he did not have a good grasp of this concept, but that this class was considered a college course.

Maybe I’m simply advocating for there to be more diversity in the way colleges teach/impart knowledge.  I’m not sure that a tradesman, say a plumber, is going to be better for spending hours sitting in a classroom than from spending hours on site working alongside other experienced plumbers. I had coffee with a friend of mine who is a carpenter who has the critical visual knowledge of geometry as only an experienced carpenter could, and he tells me how he failed out of geometry class.  How can that be?


So, I ask … What does College mean to you?  What should it entail?   I think the degree should actually mean some common standard of learning.   I think a High School Diploma should actually mean some common standard of learning too.  What do you think?



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neal FleisherGreer SwistonJulia MalakieSteve Feller Recent comment authors
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Steve Feller

When I think of college, my first thought is what has become of me that at 9:00 on a Saturday night I’m writing to a blog instead of pre-partying. I must blame Greer, and therefore the post-party is at your house. See you in 5 hours. I not only enjoyed my college experience, but truly believed the experiences I had there helped shape the professional I would be for life. While I hope everyone could have the experience I had, over the last 5-10 years, I have come to believe that college is not for everyone. In addition, as a frequent employer of recent college grads, I feel colleges have created such a coddling environment in an attempt to attract “the best” to their school, that they are under-preparing students for real-life. As we all know, Newton has followed the country theme of STEM, pushing students towards a course load the requires college to move forward in a career path towards careers that can be moved anywhere. At the same time, our country is desperately in need of trades-people. The catalyst for my change in view point came roughly 5 years ago after hearing Mike Row of the show Dirty Jobs testify before congress. In addition to the scores of unique blue-collar jobs necessary to keep our economy running, the most poignant fact for me was that 50% of your common trade-people (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto, metal, etc.) are over 50. What that really means is that in 10 years,… Read more »

Julia Malakie

The BS/MBA who takes photos and plants trees looks forward to coming back to this topic after she spends today doing some spring tree planting preparation stuff. But Steve, I meet a lot of great kids at the vocational-technical high schools the Lowell Sun covers: Shawsheen Tech, Nashoba Tech and Greater Lowell. And I get my hair cut at a hairdressing school in Lowell. I don’t think there will be a shortage of people to fill jobs that can’t be outsourced, and if there is, wages will rise, right?

neal Fleisher
neal Fleisher

I wonder Greer, if you might make the same arguments regarding high school? Does a plumber need to graduate high school to be good? There is some level of general education we want all to have. Theoretically, it makes for better citizenry. A firmer grasp on history, basic understanding of philosophy.
So where do you draw the line?
Too often this question gets tied directly to value. With the cost of college education what it is today, is it worth it; which is a very different question.
Bernie Sanders is right, a college diploma is essentially the equivalent of a high school diploma 70 years ago.
While not everyone needs to go to college, it should be an option available to all, without incurring an overwhelming debt in the process. If that were the case, most would welcome the opportunity.