lunadelcorvo: (Can it be A time now?)
[personal profile] lunadelcorvo
This is sort of out of nowhere, but it's actually a long comment I left in response to a poll by "templeghosts" over on LJ. I ended up spending a bit of time on it and thought I'd share. I'm also curious as to your thoughts on this generally.

- I think everyone should go to college, if for no other reason than (here in the US, at least) elementary education has become astonishingly dumbed down. My son has been lucky enough to get into some of the best schools in our area (largely because of where we live; he is still in the public system), but the education he has received throughout has been rudimentary and shallow. As a professor, I also see freshman every year, and their lack of basic reading, writing, and thinking skills together with their overall lack of cultural literacy is appalling. The "basic education" one used to get by the end of high school now requires college. Someone mentioned an MA now being considered the benchmark that a BA used to be? Given the dearth of actual education students receive by the end of high school, that makes perfect sense.

- I also think that there should be some kind of mandatory waiting period BEFORE going to college. Nobody knows themselves well enough at 18 to decide the course of their own lives, and they often don't have a clue about how the world works. Make them go live on their own for a while, travel, practice being a self-sufficient proto-adult, THEN college.

- I do think tuition should be if not free, then affordable. The ways in which universities bilk students for ever more money makes me see red, especially in light of the cash cow that is college sports. Too often, the "academic side" of a university never sees a penny of that sports cash.

- I also think that NO degree program should be without foundational humanities/gen ed content. Yes, pre-med students DO need philosophy, pre-laws do need art, business majors (maybe more than anyone) need history. Maybe Plato and Napoleon have no direct bearing on performing surgery or negotiating a corporate merger, but I don't want to trust my body or my economy to myopic 'vocationally trained' automatons that have never heard of Plato or Napoleon...(or cracked a work of literature, or studied a painting in context). The same goes for basic science, literature, composition, logic, etc. The lack of education in these broad, general, culturally foundational areas is why we have politicians who have no clue what evolution is, or how climate change works, or how women get pregnant.

- No, I have not 'pushed' my son towards college. With two professors as parents, both of whom have completed at least one degree in his lifetime, I think it's inevitable; he sees, first hand, that education is its own reward, and already observes the disastrous lack of education in our public figures. He's also painfully aware of how little actual education he's getting (and he's even in the advanced program, which I note not to brag, but to point to the lamentable state of education at large), and is often frustrated by it.

Date: September 22nd, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
- I also think that there should be some kind of mandatory waiting period BEFORE going to college. Nobody knows themselves well enough at 18 to decide the course of their own lives, and they often don't have a clue about how the world works. Make them go live on their own for a while, travel, practice being a self-sufficient proto-adult, THEN college.

I don't have a moral problem with this, but how exactly do you expect it to work when the wage that the child can command without anything but a high school diploma doesn't allow them to live independently at all -- much less travel anywhere, even assuming they've been working through high school?

I doubt that living in mom and dad's basement for a year is the kind of proto-adulthood you're contemplating. But the assumption that families can broadly afford to fund a gap year for kids seems sort of ridiculously privileged as an assumption, especially if they're then going to go on and fund, at least partially, 4 years of undergrad after that.

Date: September 22nd, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I see what you're saying, and no, I'm not talking about either living in the basement or having a parent-funded year.

One of the first things I think some of these kids need to learn is how hard it can be to get by on some crap entry-level job. Too many of the college students I see still think that the working poor are lazy mooches; nothing corrects that like having to scrape by as the working poor themselves. Let them share a crappy apartment, drive a rust-bucket (or better yet, try to organize their time around public transport), and content with the daily realities of life for a while.

As far as travel (and I should have made this clearer) I mean road tripping on a dime a day, couch-surfing, even living in parts of their own city they may never have spent time in before. They go from suburban high school to insular campus, driving the car their parents give them, and somehow never manage to be exposed to anything *hard," never seeing any other way of experiencing the world other than their own....

Date: September 22nd, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
THis is also, by the way, part and parcel of my feeling that college should be if not free, then damn close to - so the whole description if something of a "wishlist....."

Date: September 22nd, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh totally. One of the things that I like (now, as an adult, looking back on it, NOT at the time) was how Antioch's co-op program forced me to basically live in poverty for a summer after my first year of college -- I ended up working night-shift at a gas station, making $7.25 an hour and nearly starving to death and being literally too poor to take the bus which convinced me that maybe I needed to make a plan and get a skill. It was a shitty experience, but ultimately a really good one for me to have had.

What worries me is that we had the support to be able to do that through the University and I had a roommate and support from my family and we still ended up starving. And that was in the mid-1990's, where anyone who could fog a mirror could get a job and the minimum wage was more in line with the cost of living, at least in a minimal sense. If we'd been asked to do the same thing now -- or kids with less parental or institutional support -- we wouldn't have learned a hard lesson about how shitty it was to scrape by, we would have been evicted and literally starved on the street.

So yeah. On one hand, I hate the type of parenting that coddles children like that. On the other hand, our economy is so broken that it's really hard to put your kids into a situation where they likely can't succeed because the deck is so stacked against anyone in that situation. My vote, of course, is to fix the economy and stop coddling kids, but clearly the powers that be aren't listening to me. :)

Date: September 23rd, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, they never listen to me, either. Funny that... ;)

Date: September 23rd, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I absolutely agree with you. To add to it, the massive SCAM that student loans have turned into (without the option of bankruptcy) needs to be overhauled substantially.

There is a movement with some serious momentum to have young adults serve a mandatory 6 months to 2 years in either the military or in community service before either getting another kind of job or going to college. While the concept seems sound, I fear that opportunists will see this a great way to get slave labor. If they place safeguards to enure that its truly community service, maybe it would work. We'll see. I'm not especially trusting of any plans that are mandatory for adults...
Edited Date: September 23rd, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)



Things I need to remember:
• Asking for help is not, as it turns out, fatal.
• Laughing is easier than pulling your hair out, and doesn't have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a plague victim.
• Even the biggest tasks can be defeated if taken a bit at a time.
• I can write a paper the night before it's due, but the results are not all they could be.
• Be thorough, but focused.
• Trust yourself.
• Honesty, always.

Historians are the Cassandras of the Humanities