Are we getting our money’s worth with public education? Take a good look around you. When you are going to work, shopping at the grocery, driving in your car, hiring a plumber, calling Customer Service, making a deposit at your bank, going out to the movies, dining at a restaurant — do you believe, based on the interactions you have every day, that we are getting progressively smarter as a society or are we going in the other direction? Has Idiocracy finally achieved prophetic, documentary status?
I look around and I see grown adults who can’t form complete sentences. I see men and women writing business communications at a 7th-grade level. I see people who handle money or work with numbers all day and yet can’t do simple arithmetic without the use of their phone or calculator. Logic and persuasive debate are completely foreign to most adults. Thanks to the Universities of Safe Spaces, we don’t teach young adults to disagree anymore, and we certainly don’t teach them to defend any unpopular positions they might have based on their convictions and logical reasoning. I see parents who haven’t the slightest clue of how to shop for groceries, buy and own a home, create and stay on a budget, or balance a checkbook. Is it any wonder they are totally incompetent when it comes to preparing their children for the real world?
I suspect many professional educators feel it’s their job to produce little Renaissance men and women, to enlighten and ignite their curiosities, and to send them off into the world filled with knowledge for the betterment of humankind. Even the folks at Learn Liberty seem to embrace this notion —
And it is the examined life that both George and West view as the purpose of a liberal-arts education. Its goal, that is, is to encourage critical reflection on the biggest questions; to lead us into an intellectual engagement that fulfills our nature as thinking beings; to help us achieve self-mastery; to enlarge our souls. It is, of course, possible to pursue these goals without going to college, but institutions of higher education are (or should be) dedicated to them in a special way.
What does that even mean? I hear things like “an examined life” and “well-rounded students” and I immediately think of someone that’s not an expert (or even above average) at anything. Instead, they’re basically treading water like everyone else in the same cesspool of mediocrity and general, useless, regurgitated information.
We need to change how we view the purpose of education. Every student does not have the same need. How many of us had to suffer through years of a foreign language even though we knew we’d never use it? How many of us struggled needlessly through biology, chemistry or physics when we had absolutely no aspirations to go into the physical sciences? Has anyone that’s not an engineer or scientist used the Pythagorean theorem, calculated a 2nd derivative, or used Ohm’s Law lately?
Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach to education, would it not make more sense for parents and teachers to help our children develop essential life skills, relevant training geared toward a career and eventually adulthood?
I firmly believe, through personal experience, that college isn’t for everyone. In fact, I would argue that most people don’t need a high school or college degree. Parents, however, will insist on sending their children to college because they’ve been taught you need a degree in order to be successful and happy. There’s a nice, short essay written by Jeffrey Tucker entitled “Ditch College, Get a Real Skill, Live a Good Life” which shares many of my thoughts on education and work.
As I had written in my last post, my wife and I comply with compulsory education requirements for our children because I don’t want them taken away from us. My plan for them post-compulsory education is simple. These are some guidelines and rules I’ve shared with our firstborn as she prepares to graduate from high school in the spring:
As long as you live in my house, you will work or you will go to school. Or both. There’s no sitting around waiting for the perfect job to just fall in your lap. If you are going to attend school, it should be to prepare for a specific career.
Most high school and college graduates are woefully unprepared to enter the workplace. They lack experience and useful skills in the real world. The reason is that our high schools and colleges are not training students for work. They are teaching them to pass exams.
The majority of young people, that actually get a part-time job while going to school, think it’s all about the money. They might start at McDonald’s or somewhere else in Retail. They get excited about earning a paycheck. Pretty soon, they realize that the work is very difficult, the hours are long, you end up working holidays and weekends, and in the end, the money isn’t all that great. So what do they do? They quit. This is the biggest career mistake most young people make.
When you have no experience, no transferable job skills, when you are competing potentially against a hundred other people just like you (except that maybe some of them have college degrees), when Leftists keep pushing for higher minimum wage, destroying entry-level jobs for inexperienced, young people — your spoon-fed, entitled world which you’ve been suckling since Kindergarten will eventually come crashing into reality.
But there’s hope if you look at your job as an opportunity to fill in the missing gaps.
Forget the paycheck. Focus on the things you can learn from your job — skills that will separate you from your competition. It’s not just about having the head knowledge to do simple tasks, but it has everything to do with PROVING you can and have done these things.
- Can you operate a cash register, credit card machine, order entry system?
- Do you know how to balance your drawer?
- Do you know how to greet, listen to, and assist customers in person? On the phone? Over the internet?
- Have you proven to your manager that you can show up ON TIME to work, day in and day out, for weeks, months, or YEARS?
- Do you know how to deal with unpleasant or even angry customers?
Eventually, if you prove yourself trustworthy with the little things, your manager might actually give you more important jobs to fulfill. Maybe you will manage other people. Maybe you will be in charge of a department or a sales group.
- Can you train and lead a team of subordinates?
- Can you be trusted to open the store? Close up? Make the night deposits?
- Have you handled ordering supplies, working with vendors, or creating invoices?
- Have you made accounts receivables calls? What was your success ratio?
These are all highly sought-after skills in the workplace. For many employers, a resume showing a history of consistent, proven execution of these skills is a lot more useful than a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy or 18th Century Scandinavian History.
The other important consideration is just to find out what kinds of careers are out there. How many young people aspire to own a coffee shop or little boutique store or an internet business and have NEVER WORKED IN ONE before?!? Or even spoken to someone that’s successfully doing that exact job?
If you want to own a business someday, what do you know about finding a space? Negotiating a lease? Getting the necessary licenses or permits (because the State will confiscate your property and throw you in jail if you don’t)? Are you going to hire employees? Do you have the slightest CLUE as to what regulations and requirements are involved in hiring help? Do you know how to file business taxes or keep accounting records?
Do you know how much liquid capital you require? How long do you anticipate it will be before you are profitable? Can you read or prepare financial statements? Do you know who your customers are and where to find them?
Finally, when it comes to college, there are legitimate careers that require a degree. Do you know that many large companies offer free or partial college tuition reimbursement? In other words, why shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a college education in hopes that you might someday get a job related to your studies when you can start working at a company, gain critical experience and a salary, and then have your company send you to college or graduate school on their dime?
My daughter has been thinking about owning her own business someday. Because of that, we encouraged her to find a job, ANY JOB, at a business owned by an individual or family. I even encouraged her to offer to work for free on the condition that the owners would teach her EVERYTHING they know about starting, managing, and growing a successful business.
And sure enough, God provided and answered our prayers. Our neighbors and dear friends own a successful, family-owned, business and were looking to hire additional help. We talked with them and before you knew it, they hired our daughter part-time. And she’s been thrilled to work for them ever since, as she’s written in her blog.
I have no idea how long she will be there or if she will someday go to college. But I can guarantee her time is better spent right now learning invaluable, practical skills in the real world instead of running off to college, taking on debt, and searching aimlessly to attain the “examined life” shielded from any semblance of reality.
Parents, think long and hard before you send your children off to college just because it’s what you might have done or it’s what everyone else is doing. There are many free resources online to broaden your minds. Instead, give your children a hunger to learn life skills to have success wherever they may go.