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Should Everybody Go To College

On February 15, 2011 Joe Jones, III, superintendent of Woodbury City Public Schools posted an article by Formula Capital’s James Altucher, on his blog found at; The article is titled; “James Altucher’s 8 Alternatives to College”.

This article is a follow-up to another article that James Altucher wrote a year earlier titled “Rethinking College as Student-Loan Burdens Rise.” In this article Altucher states that large portion college students come out of college really not learning anything. While at the same time the cost of college keeps going up. He therefore suggests eight alternatives to college.

In many ways I agree with Joe Jones’ statement “I do think that concept of taking a year or two to do some of the things referenced here (in the Altcher article) and then making a decision about college is interesting. I say that because I believe there is a real benefit to taking college courses with some additional, real life experiences to draw upon. The entire college experience for an individual could benefit from that sequence.” However, I cannot agree that all students need to be grouped into the one category.

From my observations, there are three types of students. The first group of students is those who are college bound. They have worked hard in high school and are ready for college. This group, I feel could really benefit from some life experiences so that they could understand how the theories that they learn in college can be applied to real life. The second group of students is those who don’t really want anything to do with college. These are the students that want to work in the trades, in retail, or in other professions that do not require four years of college. (In answer to the statements that the trades do not pay as well as college graduates, if you ever had any of these trades people work at your house you will know that that statement is not very valid) I also feel that trade schools should be available for these students on the secondary as well as post secondary levels, along with subject matter that would complement their career interest in the high school. In the high school they would need business and or craft related math, merchandising classes, science related to the various crafts and materials used in business. Along with Social Studies based on the various crafts or businesses and Language Arts that will prepare them for the writing and reading that will be needed in the trades and business. There will also be a need for internships dealing with the career choices. This should not be just offered in a vocational school setting where there are only a few spots for each local school district to send a few students. The third group that I have found is those that want to go to college but not right away. These are the students that need a little more time to mature, to gain life experiences to find out what they really want to do with their lives. This group could also take advantage to services offered to the second group.

This grouping that I propose is not one that is to be applied to the student such as tracking was, but it is something that the student chooses for himself or herself.

Now with all of that said the big question is; how is Public Education supposed to do that. It would seem that in our society, public schools are expected to be all things to all students. That is just an impossible expectation. In this time of tight money there is just no way that a public school can provide all the services that would be required to implement a program that would be able to support the needs of these three types of student, let alone be all things to all students. Therefore what can be done? I see two things… Have the citizens of the community contribute more money (not likely), or create a setting that will benefit one type of student the most and let the other two types do the best that they can in that setting. Therefore, it seems to me, using this type of arrangement, Public Education is doomed to fail some of the student all the time. This is a sad state of affairs, but it is a fact of life. Is there a solution to this problem of losing so many of our students? Not with the mindset that our society has now. We will have to get past the ideas that; a) Academics are the only education that matters, b) Standardized test are the only true measure of learning, c) Education is free (teachers do need to live like everyone else, and equipment does cost money), and d) Everybody has the same skills and aptitudes. As long as we keep the “cookie-cutter” approach to education we will always be failing some students.

In closing I would like to include a quote by Albert Einstein that was just used by one of my ex students (who knew he would become a businessman?),"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." As long as we hold everyone up to the standards that only some can obtain we will be telling the rest of the students that, as Einstein said, they are “stupid”.

James Krauss
February 17, 2011


Up-dated January 10, 2011
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