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May 17, 2011
These students in Bong County, Liberia, study ...

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I have had discussions with people all over hell and back regarding education.  I think it’s important.  I also worry about the degree to which the system is preparing the population to exist in society (get it DEGREE!  get it?)

I hear horror stories from my teacher friends in the city and from those within my immediate family circle who work in education out in the suburbs.  In my sphere, people are concerned and paying attention, but there are as many ideas for how to improve the system as there are people who have given it any thought.

The New Mayor talked about the city’s issues during his inaugural speech on Monday.  This stuff is in the forefront.

I still think corporations should create indentured students right out of high school.  This is essentially how many people achieve post-graduate degrees in the business arena.  The corp pays for your MBA (or some portion), but you can’t move on from that employer for a term of X or you owe that money back.

In this manner, the corp subsidizes education and benefits by theoretically not having to retrain new graduates.  While I was still a hired corporate goon, my experience was that new college graduates would usually not know most of what they needed to know when they were hired.  They would gain that training during their first year or so on the job through work experience and more formal training within the organization.

Of course, this is also how the MBA has achieved a cost that far outstrips the educational value that it provides.  Certainly, there is the branding factor and the creation of an instant (though flawed and insincere) network of colleagues that share the same branding (I didn’t actually get a school mascot seared into my flesh, but I bet some of you losers did).  Let’s face it, if the corps are paying for the MBA, the school has much less incentive to make it cost-effective.

This article is an interesting look at the gap between what bureaucrats in higher education think and what the rest of the people think.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans say the U.S. higher education system is not providing students with a good value. And 75 percent of Americans say college is financially out of reach for most people.

Three-quarters of college presidents, on the other hand, say college is a good or excellent value, and 42 percent of them say college is affordable for most people.

The college presidents have their reasons.  They aren’t just totally out of touch or insane.

None of this is new.  That, in itself, is concerning.

What I really wanted to say is that education is valuable.  Higher education is valuable.  Perhaps that value does not equate to the dollar cost, but that does not mean that people shouldn’t consider formal education a positive thing.

That said, you get out of it what you put into it.  Not only are students unprepared, but they aren’t even trying.

Meanwhile, six in 10 college presidents say students are less prepared for college and study less than their counterparts had 10 years ago. Their pessimism is borne out by research. A comprehensive study finds college students only study 12 hours a week on average. And a 2008 study found that one-third of college students are enrolled in pricey remedial courses because they lack proficiency in basic math or reading.

No, you do not need formal college level education to succeed in life.  Nevertheless, you will still need to work your ass off.   On the other hand, the chatter I continually hear that college is a ripoff or suggestions that people should avoid higher education entirely are naïve and supported by poorly framed arguments.

The Pew researchers estimate that the average college graduate makes $650,000 more over his or her lifetime than a high school graduate. And even if they don’t think college was the best deal, more than 85 percent of college grads surveyed say their education was a good investment for them personally.

Let’s try not to muddle the many issues at play here.  Knowledge is a good thing.  School is a place to gain knowledge.  School is not the only place to gain valuable, usable knowledge.  Students do not gain knowledge simply by showing up at a school.

There are very real and very concerning societal and economic factors hampering the educational system.  Let’s try to work on that.  While we are at it, let’s remember to use the strainer so that knowledge baby doesn’t circle the drain as well.

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