In this fourth installment, we want to touch on the importance of education in avoiding poverty and directing yourself toward at least a middle-class lifestyle in America. Our first three installments covered why we believe anyone can reach a middleclass lifestyle in America, the importance of sequencing major decisions in your life, and why having a child out of wedlock destroys your chances of achieving success.
Education is a key part of success for all people, and all but the brightest need help along the way to accumulate the knowledge needed to function effectively in society. At the extremes of our society there are people with biological or inherited impediments to learning, and for whom higher education has limited purpose. There are also savants and highly intelligent individuals for whom formal schooling at higher education levels serves to limit their development or creativity. These groups are at the extremes and for most of us, going through a progressive educational process has benefits that make life better.
Three questions that beset students today are:
- How much education is enough education?
- Is the cost of higher education worth it?
- What are my passions and how do I pursue them?
These are not easily understood. The answers are clouded by family finances, financial aid, scholarship opportunities, bad decisions, and other factors. A true chicken and egg situation where one needs to know the answer to ask the question, and this is difficult for those still in school. This is also where parents could step in with some notes of both caution and optimism. In today’s culture parents often do not understand how to help their child discover his or her passions and achieve their goals.
The issue is a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she meets the Cheshire Cat in a tree at the fork in the road, and they have this exchange.
Alice: “What Road do I take?”
Cheshire Cat: “Where do you want to go?”
Alice: “I don’t know.”
Cheshire Cat: “Then, it doesn’t matter, does it?”
How much education is enough education?
Education is a process of discovery and learning but one must have at least a direction to know how to concentrate their efforts. We see this lack of direction and lack of clarity from many young people entering college today. Having no idea what to do with their lives they fall into the trap of wasting money on degrees with no hope of gainful employment in a related field. A good rule of thumb that has been going around for years is “If the degree has the word ‘studies’ in it then get out!” No “studies” degree will ever earn enough money to repay the debt. These degrees are the core of the WOKE culture, and the darling of many far-left professors.
Students today may leave some colleges and universities having learned how to protest, feel entitled, play the victim card, and find a safe space. Many never develop critical learning skills because colleges and universities promote and expect conformity to situations that have no relationship to the real world. We also see pushback from employers who no longer want to hire or deal with “entitled” graduates. They often lack any real skills and disrupt the workforce with unreasonable demands that add nothing to the bottom line.
In the past there was a case to be made for college supplying time for someone to mature and prepare themselves for life on their own. In the 1960’s through 1990’s this was true. But in that era the cost of college was not prohibitive for parents and students. It is the past twenty years or so where the cost has spiraled out of control. This expensive babysitting service is no longer worth it, if time to mature is your goal. One can mature on the job and have four years of productive work experience, which may have a lot more value. There is also the good opportunity to spend four years in the military and learn some discipline and skills, free of charge.
The ”How much is enough?” question is not a generic question as it was in years past. Today there are many jobs, high paying jobs, where a college degree can hinder rather than help employment prospects. The question is more of an individual consideration.
Having some direction of where you are going and what you are going to do to earn a living is a big deal.
Is the cost of higher education worth it?
When colleges were focused on degrees that had a profession in mind, this was not a great issue. But today colleges are focused on gathering paying customers and some push WOKE majors with no reasonable job prospects attached. College is great if you at least have a general direction for your career, but a waste of time and money for many. Our economy going forward will have many skills-based opportunities that will reward hard work and technical knowledge more than just a degree. In many cases these skills-based jobs can be more lucrative and stable than traditional white-collar jobs.
Another common thread is the broad field of technology. This is a field where practical experience and creativity are rewarded and where a college degree may be a waste of time. If technology is our future, then many who pursue that ever-broadening career path need to think twice about wasting their time in colleges where capitalism and individual achievement are reviled not celebrated.
Today many students leave school with significant debt and no hope of repaying the debt on a reasonable timeline. These poor decisions lead to the type conflicts where politicians try to buy votes by forgiving the debt, creating further conflicts within our society. Why should someone who makes a solid decision to enter the workforce and forego college be forced pay through taxes for the education of someone who gets a worthless degree?
And that circles back to the study by the Brookings Institute cited in earlier articles. In their study they found that finishing high school is enough education for many if not most in America. This milestone is the key to living at least a middle-class lifestyle, answers the problem of college debt, and supplies many careers for a successful life.
We want our doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, veterinarians, and scientists to be the best and brightest. We want them to have all the education and knowledge to provide their services with the highest possible skill. But they are the exception not the rule. If higher education were a prerequisite for success, then the most successful among us would all have a Ph.D. from a prestigious university. There would be a linear progression and correlation between success and time spent in school.
One learns about business by being in business, hours of hard work, and being willing to succeed or fail on your own. One learns about management by managing people and processes, not by learning the theories of management. Life skills come from life, not from college and some theoretical textbook.
Another clear indicator of failure at our colleges and universities is the management of those same institutions. If higher education is where you perfect your skills, why are they bloated, overpriced, bureaucracies? Why have their costs spiraled to a point where higher education is no longer affordable for most? Look at college campuses, their exorbitantly expensive new buildings, highly paid professors and administrators, and land that has been acquired for future development, Many now own campuses in foreign countries only as bragging rights to their peers.
What are my passions and how do I pursue them?
Until recently there were few billionaires in America who had graduated from college. Most started their own companies and spent time learning the skills needed to be successful in the real world. Notable success stories where college played little role in development include:
Steve Jobs – Apple Computer
Bill Gates – Microsoft
Mark Zuckerberg – Meta
Jan Koum – WhatsApp
John Mackey – Whole Foods
Michael Dell – Dell Computers
Larry Ellison – Oracle
Travis Kaslanick – Uber
The common thread here is people who found a passion, worked very hard, and pursued their dreams. They were not afraid of failure in pursuit of their goals. College was an obstacle not a steppingstone to their success. Many receive honorary degrees after they achieve success because colleges want their money. It is quite ironic that a billionaire who found no value in a college, would receive an honorary degree from that college after having personal success without a degree. Their success is a repudiation of the people and institution that is honoring them.
If you were told that when your son or daughter graduated from high school, they needed to attend a finishing school for a year where they would be taught racial hatred, socialism, hatred for capitalism, gender fluidity, atheism, and professional victimization you would laugh. But in many if not most of America’s colleges and universities this is what we are doing to our children all in the name of preparing them for life.
Our foreign adversaries know this and help push the WOKE narrative, all to weaken our next generation. China and Russia do not waste time and energy on such nonsense, instead they get us to waste our time and energy. Their children are mastering the skills needed for the future and if we do not wake up the future with be theirs and not ours.
Times have changed, and either our institutions will change or become irrelevant! In many cases they are already irrelevant, they just do not know it!
The sum of our decisions determines our destiny!