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Should Everyone Go to College?

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Bill Gates, in a column carried today in The Oregonian, has urged a unviersal high school cirriculum that prepares all students for higher education. Sveeral poltical figures, including Oregon governor ted Kulongoski, have endorsed the idea. Gtes contents that the roughly 30% droput rate indicates that high school has become irrelevant to many pupils, and that it would improve if students were challenegd more. His basic contention is that people who are not rady to advance to college should not be awareded high school diplomas.

The heart of Gates' contention is that the economy has evolved to the point that it is impossible for anyone without a college education to earn what most of us would cosndier a decent living. This in spite of the fact that gates himself never did complete his bachelor's degree, and yet is the richest human being on the planet.

The thing is, there are numerous essential tasks in any technolgocial society for which colege is poor preparation. And many college programs are in fields that are utterly useless in the real world -- why are the liberal arts even taught anymore? If education is intended to be the engine of preparing the next generation of workers, then anything that does not lead towards that goal would be wasted effort.

perhaps it is college itself that is becoming obsolete....

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I don't think there should be any kind of public education whatsoever. It is up to individual parents (and later, individual individuals) to seek out the level of education that they require for what they want to do.

Most of the people I know that are any good at anything are 90% self-taught.

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Or, high school has become obsolete. The main failure of high school (and junior high school, but it's most acute in high school) is the mass-education, hyper-egalitarian one size fits all approach which pretty thoroughly pervades all education (though there are exceptions here and there). Shop classes are utterly useless to someone who is going to be an accountant; chemistry classes are of no value to someone who wants to be an accountant; writers do not need math. History isn't needed at all if you're training for chemistry, or horticulture, or accounting. And philosophy... who needs it?

These proposals inevitably fail to realise that educational institutions perform two functions, not just one. They provide job training, for sure, but they also provide education. While I personally find value in education, not everyone does, and I don't think that everybody should be forced at gunpoint to get an education, if all they really want is job training. It's really between you and your potential employer: you should get the skills that your employer will require of you to be hired, so if that means you need to be able to write, then you should learn to write. If they require you to interact with educated people and make it seem as though you know something about the world, you need to get that kind of job training. I think it really comes down to the fact that many people just aren't willing to think seriously about what they want to do or be.

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Or, high school has become obsolete. The main failure of high school (and junior high school, but it's most acute in high school) is the mass-education, hyper-egalitarian one size fits all approach which pretty thoroughly pervades all education (though there are exceptions here and there). Shop classes are utterly useless to someone who is going to be an accountant; chemistry classes are of no value to someone who wants to be an accountant; writers do not need math. History isn't needed at all if you're training for chemistry, or horticulture, or accounting. And philosophy... who needs it?

This is an odd place to ask the question "who needs philosophy?". I have troublre with the idea that deliberate ignroamnce on any subject is a good thing. Even someone who is home-schooled, apprenticed or trained by some other means can benefit from the sort of training that makes one more capable of rational thought and understanding. There is also the additioanl complciationt hat adolescents, almost by definition, have no idea what they want to do with their lives, and that an indivudla make take on several professions or avocations over the course of a lifetime. So, whatever the means by which the knowledge is provided, soem degree of education si good for everyone if they wish to meet their potential as human beings.

These proposals inevitably fail to realise that educational institutions perform two functions, not just one. They provide job training, for sure, but they also provide education. While I personally find value in education, not everyone does, and I don't think that everybody should be forced at gunpoint to get an education, if all they really want is job training. It's really between you and your potential employer: you should get the skills that your employer will require of you to be hired, so if that means you need to be able to write, then you should learn to write. If they require you to interact with educated people and make it seem as though you know something about the world, you need to get that kind of job training. I think it really comes down to the fact that many people just aren't willing to think seriously about what they want to do or be.

This opens up the question of whether a 14-year-old kid can ever really know what he really wants to do with the rest of his life.

The other implication of your statement is that the society we live in is so utterly irrelevant to our lives that it is not neccesary to learn what is required to participate in it. if you were accused of a crime, would you want people on your jury that had never been taught the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"?

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While I can't speak for Mr. Odden I got from the context, that he said, "philosophy, who needs it?" somewhat sarcastically and was also playfully stealing it from the title of Miss Rand's book.

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The heart of Gates' contention is that the economy has evolved to the point that it is impossible for anyone without a college education to earn what most of us would cosndier a decent living. This in spite of the fact that gates himself never did complete his bachelor's degree, and yet is the richest human being on the planet.
Well it appears I disprove that "impossible" achievement. I think there are a great many people out there, including myself, making what could be considered at the very least a "decent" living without a college degree. Also, isn't there a statistic that says a very large number of those who get college degrees do not even pursue careers in the field they studied in high school?

The thing is, there are numerous essential tasks in any technolgocial society for which colege is poor preparation. And many college programs are in fields that are utterly useless in the real world -- why are the liberal arts even taught anymore? If education is intended to be the engine of preparing the next generation of workers, then anything that does not lead towards that goal would be wasted effort.

I don't know whether you are expressing your opinion here or Gates', but either way I vehemently disagree and suggest you think through what you are saying (if this is indeed your opinion and not Gates'). Philosophy is at the very heart of liberal arts education - tell me how it is that studying this is utterly useless in the "real world". Those who study philosophy and go on to earn PhDs become the intellectual spokesmen for the culture, and they represent great good and also great evil throughout history as philosophers.

While liberal arts college may be poor preparation for technological tasks, is that the goal of attending college in a liberal arts major?

perhaps it is college itself that is becoming obsolete....

What do you mean by this?

Edited by Elle
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I do believe that everyone is entitled to a basic education. They who are not at least slightly educated only drain upon our society. However, I believe that not everyone is entitled to an advanced education. It is my belief that there are people in our society who are intelligent enough to benefit from an advanced formal education; whereas, others may not. "No Child Left Behind" only deters from they who can learn at a more efficient rate. Slowing down material for they who can not keep up is ridiculous. Furthermore, bachelor degrees have become more common. The college that I attend has recently implimented a program to assist they who are having difficulty in their classes. Once a person is of college age, they should either be well-apt to deal with the pressures of college or they should seek employment. Bottom line.

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I don't see the point of college as being education. I see the point of it as being a type certification, or a guarantee . A certain degree from a certain university gives an employer a certain amount of confidence about your skill level. Universities have an incentive to be discriminatory when giving out degrees, so that their degrees with be of a higher value- a more secure guarantee. This would especially be the case in a laissez-faire political economy in which all educational institutions are privately-owned and voluntarily funded, because then these institutions would be in direct competition with each other for both students and value of degrees.

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I do believe that everyone is entitled to a basic education.  They who are not at least slightly educated only drain upon our society.  However, I believe that not everyone is entitled to an advanced education.

(bold mine)

What do you mean by *entitled*? Who should pay for the people who cannot pay? Who should teach them if they don't want to learn? What about the kids who sit at the back of the class throwing spit balls at the teacher? Are they still entitled to an education, even thought they are actively making it harder for the teacher to give them an education? Aren't they included in your *everyone*

Or, high school has become obsolete.
I would agree with this. Everything I have *learned* from middle school till now (sophomore year of high-school) has been pretty much usesless. Well, of course I learned the basic math stuff and what not, but the problem is, they never teach you *why* anything works that way, only that it does. Similarly, in history, we never had to decide *why* anything happened, we only had to learn that it did. Now I have a *difficult* history class for the first time, where we are expected to come to our own conclusions, cite sources, the works. This is an excellent class. However, everything I have memorized is completely useless. And it turns out that memorized facts only stay memorized until the test anyway. My current history teacher was rather displeased that the class knew almost nothing about the Vietnam War (he is a Vietnam Vet). The point is that public high schools, in my experience, aren't much use at all. All you have to do is memorize some random facts, rearrange them in a paper (no sources necessary) and spew the same stuff back out again. No actual thinking is required. I keep thinking how weird it would be to go back to a school where the teacher stood up at the front of the room and told you how to do the problems. I'm used to having to figure them out myself now. The scary part is that the former situation is what is considered *normal*... How boring! School is supposed to give you some general knowledge, I think what it is giving us is a bunch of seldom-connected facts. My history teacher loves to quote Louis Aggasiz: "Facts are stupid things, unless brought into conjunction with some general law." The schools generally don't teach any *general laws* It's just: this happened or this is the way it is. Why? Just shut up and do it. <_<
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By basic education, I believe that they should be able, if they are willing, to attend a school of some sort (i.e. technical, if they so wish). However, their success is completely based upon what they do with the opportunity. If they do not excel, I do not believe they are entitled to a full education...

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That does not answer the question of who would pay for it. For example: if all schools were private, would one school be forced to let in a student who could not afford it? Right now all schools are not private so the government has to let all studnets attend its schools since it makes everyone pay for them. However, this is not a just system because people should be able to decide where to put their money. They should not have to invest in crappy government schools just so that everyone can be *entitled* to an education. Do you see what I'm getting at? If schools are private, then people will only be able to attend them according the the owner's wishes. There is no *entitlement* to attend. If you wish to debate whether they should all be private or not, there is that.

edited for better grammar and clarity

Edited by non-contradictor
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This is an odd place to ask the question "who needs philosophy?".
Since it's the title of one of Rand's books, I thought it wouldn't be odd, at least here, and that the answer would be fairly widely known at least here. Your penultimate paragrsaph in your initial post:
The thing is, there are numerous essential tasks in any technolgocial society for which colege is poor preparation. And many college programs are in fields that are utterly useless in the real world -- why are the liberal arts even taught anymore? If education is intended to be the engine of preparing the next generation of workers, then anything that does not lead towards that goal would be wasted effort.
really looks like you are advocating ignorance of irrelevant subjects, especially liberal arts. On the other hand your more recent statement:
Even someone who is home-schooled, apprenticed or trained by some other means can benefit from the sort of training that makes one more capable of rational thought and understanding. There is also the additioanl complciationt hat adolescents, almost by definition, have no idea what they want to do with their lives, and that an indivudla make take on several professions or avocations over the course of a lifetime. So, whatever the means by which the knowledge is provided, soem degree of education si good for everyone if they wish to meet their potential as human beings.

This opens up the question of whether a 14-year-old kid can ever really know what he really wants to do with the rest of his life.

suggests that you do grasp the importance of a general non-technical education, in addition to job training, as I advocate.
The other implication of your statement is that the society we live in is so utterly irrelevant to our lives that it is not neccesary to learn what is required to participate in it. if you were accused of a crime, would you want people on your jury that had never been taught the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"?
A good example of the answer to the question "Education -- who needs it?"
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By basic education, I believe that they should be able, if they are willing, to attend a school of some sort (i.e. technical, if they so wish).  However, their success is completely based upon what they do with the opportunity.  If they do not excel, I do not believe they are entitled to a full education...

Yes indeed . . . pick it off the tree where it grows.

People who accept the responsibility for their own lives, with or without an education, are no drain on "society". (I wonder what you even MEAN by that term.) An education is a tremendous value; it means that one does not have to repeat, in one's own person, fifty centuries of the development of human knowledge. That's quite a bonus. However, an education does not instantly turn someone into a productive human being, and the lack of a formal education does not turn them into a street person.

What does, is this cultural attitude of "entitlement". The only thing that anyone is "entitled" to is that which he produces honestly, by his own effort. Understand that, and you sweep away millenia of rot and destruction.

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Why gradually?

I have this image of a giant "School Sale" in my mind now . . .

NOW for a LIMITED TIME ONLY, VOCATIONAL TRAINING CENTERS are 75% off!!! DISCOUNTS DISCOUNTS DISCOUNTS!! EVERYTHING MUST GO!!! Come in today, and we'll throw in a basketball court ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

DON'T LET THESE MARKDOWNS PASS YOU BY!!

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Well it appears I disprove that "impossible" achievement.  I think there are a great many people out there, including myself, making what could be considered at the very least a "decent" living without a college degree.

Myself too. Measuring my income by Hungarian standards, I really cannot complain. I could have finished college but I found it a completely pointless waste of time; they didn't teach me anything I couldn't learn from a book, and most of the things they taught were useless or worse.

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I'm starting back to school for e-business in September, I actually have a specific goal now, but I always considered myself "self-taught" What I pursue outside of my curriculum has always been the meat and potatoes-so to speak. It's funny, one major motivator for me going back to college is so that I can get into ARI *lol*. I'm also doing it for the discipline though. How I'll manage to pay for it is anyone's guess. I have held decent jobs and positions, and I seriously considered forgetting college all together because it's going to be such a huge drain financially. However, now I have a purpose, and so it's worth the time and money to accomplish that purpose.

I'll guess I'll be joining Generation Debt here soon <_<

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I'm starting back to school for e-business in September, I actually have a specific goal now, but I always considered myself  "self-taught" What I pursue outside of my curriculum has always been the meat and potatoes-so to speak. It's funny, one major motivator for me going back to college is so that I can get into ARI *lol*. I'm also doing it for the discipline though. How I'll manage to pay for it is anyone's guess. I have held decent jobs and positions, and I seriously considered forgetting college all together because it's going to be such a huge drain financially. However, now I have a purpose, and so it's worth the time and money to accomplish that purpose.

I'll guess I'll be joining Generation Debt here soon  :P

If what you really need is some kind of degree as a type of "guarantee" and you don't have a lot to spend there are two ways to do it inexpensively 1) community college or junior college (what I have done the past two years) 2) online colleges (I am thinking this might be what you meant by e-business)

Also, are you trying to get involved with ARI as a fellow there or in order to attend the OAC? As far as I know, it is recommended but not required that OAC students be studying in an undergraduate program in addition to studying at ARI. And the OAC is very inexpensive, especially compared to the value of learning how to think and write.

I'm interested to hear more about what you are doing, if you'd rather PM me that would be great, I think we are in the same spot to some extent with education right now.

Edited by Elle
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The education system, at least where public schools are concerned, has long since lost its focus on its purpose.

Gates' criticisms are valid, but his understanding of why is too obscure to be believed.

In nuturing the developing mind of an individual to the ultimate goal of one's ability to use one's mind in one's pursuit of happiness, college is only a step towards that goal.

In a truly free society, where the education is in the private sector where it belongs, the opportunities afforded even working class individuals are quite broad.

Gates mentions nothing about this.

Not everyone needs to go to college to help pursue one's happiness and goals.

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The solution to poor education is to gradually reduce government funding of schools and colleges.

No it isn't.

The solution is to privatize the entire system.

You get all your necessities of life from the private sector. Why not education?

Many of us pay tens of thousands of dollars a year towards educational resources we may or may not use- in the form of income and property taxes. By governmental force. That's not fair!

Nor is public education even mandated by the Constitution, as far as I can tell.

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Nor is public education even mandated by the Constitution, as far as I can tell.

I'm not sure this is a valid argument. What the Consitution does is give the government the ability to tax, it does not specify where taxes go, nor how much people should be taxed. That is Congress's job. This sucks because it allows the government to turn totally socialistic with the approval of Congress.

I do support privatizing education, but this argument is faulty.

Zak

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jeez, you people must not be taking the right classes, because I LOVE my classes and look foward to them everyday, in hopes that I will learn something I didn't know before. I don't view my education as a requirement to my life, I see it as a corollary to my life; something I do to help me for when I enter the business world. I see it like Howard Roark did. He didn't get his college degree. He had the education and that was all he cared about.

I liked my mathematics classes, because mathematics is a perfect system. If you ever needed to prove A=A easy and concisely, it can be done with mathematics. It also teaches one to think logically. Sometimes, you gotta look at things in terms of formulas and concretes.

I love my english classes because not only do they help me improve my writing skills (a very important trait in the real world) but hey, I get to read and analyse some pretty good literature.

I love my philosophy class, even if we learn Platonic philosophy. My professor does a good job of not pushing an agenda, and has only strenthened my own Objectivist philosophy.

I liked my physical sciences classes, because I like to learn how things work. How the heck does a plant photosynthesize light? Didn't know that until my biology 101 class, and I still have my notes if some mysticist wants to credit his magical sky daddy for photosynthesis.

my business classes are great. Despite the bad rap B.A majors get, I find my business classes to be the most informative and useful classes that I take. Besides, often I get to listen to lectures by high profile business gurus that would cost me several hundred dollars to otherwise attend.

I am a B.A major, but hope to either go to grad school (study philosophy), or go back and get an English degree, or my final option of going into the military. Either way, I can't comprehend how anyone would not want to go to college.

as for the topic, Gates asks the right question, but gives the wrong answer. As for the issue concerning the difficulty of non-college grad people getting jobs, I attribute that to the ever increasing standards in America. I also see a parallel to that in the military. In the old days, any cadet who got his ranger tab before he entered service was the creme of the crop, the most desireable of the bunch. nowadays, your Ranger tab is highly encouraged for all incoming cadets, and in many infantry units, is practically a pre-requisite. Considering the Army especially is slow to react to trends and is especially wary of decreasing it's standards, I would say that this is a characteristic of an advancing society, not the degredation or standards.

So the point of my rambling is this: my education is a corollary to my existence, I use it to improve myself, not let it define myself.

P.S and I figured it would be automatic for people to assume that if I am an Objectivist, then I am in full support of full privatization. I don't think it's realistic to assume it will happen overnight, but I feel there are steps we can take to ensure a move towards privatization. I feel that vouchers would be a reasonable step in the right direction.

Edited by the tortured one
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Or, high school has become obsolete. The main failure of high school (and junior high school, but it's most acute in high school) is the mass-education, hyper-egalitarian one size fits all approach which pretty thoroughly pervades all education (though there are exceptions here and there). Shop classes are utterly useless to someone who is going to be an accountant; chemistry classes are of no value to someone who wants to be an accountant; writers do not need math. History isn't needed at all if you're training for chemistry, or horticulture, or accounting. And philosophy... who needs it?

Most children do not have their future planned out like that, which is why a wide curriculum is important. Not many 12 year olds know that they want to do X with their career (and the ones that do will have most likely based their decision on their parents or social factors - you cant really make a rational decision about your entire future at that age). It would limit children drastically to restrict their education to what they think they want, as they would be liable to change their mind as they grew older.

On a sidenote, I think a large part of the reason why people 'need' a college degree to get a job today is because most people have a college degree, hence employers make that the minimum standard of education required. It's a self-reenforcing phenomenon.

Edited by Hal
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