Friday, August 15, 2008

For Most People, College is a Waste of Time

If you have any free time today, check out this Wall-Street Journal article, For Most People, College is a Waste of Time. I think the article makes some great points, and like most Americans I'm appalled at the expense of college education, and the huge debt problem of most young graduates. The system is definitely flawed, and colleges and corporations are the beneficiaries. Think about how much state/federal aid these universities receive! I'm not arguing here that we shouldn't subsidize education, just that currently we are not really subsidizing education in its own right, but rather education as a vocational training skill. This sort of subsidy seems to benefit corporate America, and the universities, more than the average American.

Many of our young people would be much better served attending a vocational or technical training institute, rather than amassing large amounts of debt on a B.A. The problem--a B.A. is a prerequisite to even the most basic job. For example, working as a data entry receptionist at a typical car rental company requires a B.A. Anyone who is both friendly and has good typing skills can perform this job. And unfortunately for the graduate, a job at Hertz is not likely to help them pay off over $100,000 in student loan debt!

My one complaint about the article--and it is a big complaint--the author doesn't address the strong value of a liberal arts education for a certain percentage of our population. Education is a good in its own right. He seems to buy into the idea that education is just another form of certification for a particular job skill. Perhaps if we emphasize the inherent value of a liberal arts education, the system may actually improve. College would once again become a place of higher learning and not for learning vocation training skills. Those seeking vocational and technical training will then feel free to achieve these skills outside of a university setting.

1 comment:

MomVee said...

I suspect Charles Murray believes in the inherent value of a liberal arts education--he can't be expected to address every nuance of higher education in the space of an op-ed--but he wants it to be recognized as just one specialized option. The truth is that the huge majority of people receiving BAs are not receiving liberal educations, and if they were presented with one they might not be able to participate in it.

I agreed with his position but don't quite see what can be done about a situation that has evolved organically to the point where a BA is an expected qualification for the huge majority of jobs. It's one more of those culturally rooted problems that makes me want to lie down and moan softly until the problem goes away.