Day 20: My thoughts on education

Growing up, the idea of college was shoved down everyone’s throats. No, not just college, four year college. If you weren’t going away, you weren’t going places. 

Fifteen years, a lot of college loan debt and two crappy job markets later, and my sentiments on education have done a 180.

Here’s the thing, not everyone could, nor SHOULD go to college. When I look back, I used college as a very expensive escape from the trouble brewing at home. It probably would have been a better use of my time to get a job, an apartment, and take some night classes for a couple of years, until I was mature enough to handle “away” college, and had some better direction.

Instead, 18 and in the throes of familial turmoil, I went away. I can’t say I regret it; I had a REALLY great time. I got by, I graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of Delaware. BUT… I can’t say I left college any more prepared for the real world than I arrived.

Maybe that’s normal. Maybe none of us graduated and instantly felt ready for a career, and bills, and responsibility. Maybe all of that just comes with age, regardless of our education. Yet, when I look at my (still VERY young) children, I wonder how much four year college would be worth it for them. College is only getting more expensive, and jobs are paying less; nowadays, kids REALLY need to make sure that pricey “getaway” will help them earn money. 

That’s not to say I don’t find all education important, of COURSE I do! If anything, I believe there needs to be higher focus on education in those younger, formative years. Mandatory preschool should be our focus, harnessing those most basic skills.  

I’m thirty seven years old. I have a decent amount of friends on social media, and sadly, many of them have the most minuscule grasp on the English language. Basic grammar, spelling, sentence structure…all lost. I was one of the lucky ones. I feel, so genuinely, that I had a TOP NOTCH public education. In middle school, I remember my English teacher requiring us to have quizzes every single Friday on literary terms, and how they’re used. Could I name every one of them today? Probably not; but I’ve also received compliments on my sentence structure and use of language; so while the titles may have faded from memory, their use is part of my “every day.”

These days, public schools are being stripped further, and further, from the things that were most valuable in my memory. Shop class, electives of both the scholastic kind (foreign language, marine bio) and of the “learn something different” variety (photography, home economics, creative writing). Kids aren’t being taught to write in script anymore, they aren’t taught how to write a proper paper until HIGH SCHOOL (I learned that in fifth grade!). They are stripping education to the barest of basics. Yet we then expect them to grow up and know how to write an effective e-mail, or Memo to their supervisors; how to communicate clearly with clients or colleagues from other countries. 

Furthermore, not all kids are meant to learn from books and professors. Some have far greater aptitude for trades, and should attend trade school, or receive on the job training. THERE IS NO SHAME IN THIS! My generation had it in their heads that the only way to make money was to spend it…gobs of it, on fancy diplomas that really got most of us nowhere. When I worked in finance, some of the highest earners in the company had a high school diploma and passed the series 7, while we had kids from Harvard flail and fail in months. It really made me take pause, and realize that sometimes, there is just no substitute for natural talent and aptitude; not even an Ivy League education.

Megan Courtney