Lacey Smith

My case against formal education Pt 1

In Education on December 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm

There is a huge push for increased formal education. Fix the K12 public school system, figure out how to make college more accessible, more affordable, get everyone a 4-year degree and emphasize math and science and… POOF!… we’ve fixed all our problems.

Ok, maybe no one is claiming that, but there is a big push for more high school and college graduates.

In Utah, where I live, only 32% of men and 25% of women finish their college degrees. There is a big push from government officials to bring those numbers up.

Anyone who is really familiar with me knows I “dropped out” of college after my 3rd semester. I left school for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that I learned more about the communication field in three months at a TV station than in three semesters at college. I wasn’t getting a good education.

I just finished a 2-year degree this past spring after my husband encouraged me to go back. I’m playing with the idea of getting a bachelors – at a different school than the one I started at, although after they revamped their program that school might now be my first choice.

My desire to go back has much less to do with me feeling like I need a degree (I have a great job, no piece of paper required), and more to do with me liking school, especially now I know how to do it on my own terms.

Unfortunately drop-out rates are misleading because they don’t reflect people like me who go back and get degrees at a later point.

My issue is not with the low rate of college degrees though. It’s not about the imperfect measurements used to establish the drop-out rate.

My issue is with the need we feel to get a formal education, and it’s not limited to college (I’ll detail that more in my next post).

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, people were, to a large degree, fairly self-educated. There were periods of woeful ignorance and periods of education systems, but people primarily educated themselves and their families.

The costs of college has skyrockets (increasing four times faster than inflation) and does not replace real-world experience, but rather pushes it off by four or more years.

As a manager who is also responsible for hiring, I don’t look at where someone went to college. It might as well not even be on their resume because I just gloss right over it. What I am looking for is experience.

But we put people with degrees on a pedestal and almost everyone I know who has dropped out talks about going back (myself included). Society looks highly on someone with a degree, especially a Masters or Ph.D., and looks down on people without.

Even our first and greatest president, George Washington (who is not exactly a modern figure) felt inadequate next to his formally-educated contemporaries. His lack of formal education was not in any way a liability just as it is not for so many people today.

In fact, a college degree is a major liability for many. Back in August, Moody’s warned that student loans might be the next bubble. It’s a scam – get a degree and make more money, but it’s a false promise.

The price of college is an issue, but the necessity of a piece of paper saying you figured out how to jump through that particular institution’s hoops is the real problem.

Informal education is often the best education possible. It takes work but a degree from the University of You with a curriculum courtesy of your public library, Kindle’s free books and the real world is probably the one you’re going to remember best and be the most useful.

Moreover, it’s free and no less valuable.

  1. Many months ago, a friend of mine was just incensed that Governor Herbert had the nerve to speak concerning higher education in any terms, let alone glowing terms, because Herbert doesn’t have a college degree. “So what?” I asked. “Well, don’t you think that someone who has some control of education funding at least know what it’s like to have a degree?” he retorted. “No, because I can only hope he’s seen what people do with their ‘educations’ once they get it”

    Take the Occupy movement, just to use one example. When they were good and ready, one of their stated goals was to “forgive all student loan debt”. If you’re a person that thinks this is a good idea on any level, you need to go back to your alma mater, walk into the registrar’s office, and demand a refund for your time there. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Although to be fair, I’m sure Shakespeare may have left his phrase in Hamlet “let neither borrower nor lender be” open to interpretation. Suuuure…

    In the continued spirit of mocking these postmodern sophists though, I noticed one day that on the street corner on my way into work, someone (presumably from the local Occupy clique) paraded a sign that said “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. Because nothing says “do something” like weeks of loitering in a city park in tents that contain one’s own refuse. Grazin’ in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?

  2. Great post. And thanks for the follow! Looking forward to reading more of your work.

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