Education

Why is College Right After High-School?

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A lot of people have picked out what is broken in college, but I think perhaps a more core issue about college is a simpler one – that we are sending people to college immediately after high school.

The problem with this practice, as I see it, are numerous. To start with, people leaving high-school aren’t the people I want in college. Imagine the following scenario. You finish college, you learn a trade. After being in your trade for 10 years, you now know the types of things that it would be useful to learn. This is true not only of your trade, but of your philosophy of life. You would have more in common with the people whose books you read in English class. You would understand the ethical difficulties faced in a work environment. You would see the value in understanding things at a deeper level.

I think the idea that we are using right now – that you do school then work and almost never in the reverse order, is one of the main problems of academia. This would also kill a lot of the problematic bias of academia. Kids don’t care, or even know enough, to know when they are being shoveled a pile. However, as an adult, you are much more prepared to push back when someone is pushing a worthless ideology on you. You are also more likely to take your money someone where they aren’t doing that.

Since an adult would know what they needed from college, they would be better able to recognize if they are getting it.

I also think this would benefit high-school education. I fear that some high-school educators are thinking, “it’s okay if they don’t know X/Y/Z because they will learn it in college.” If high-school students went straight to the job market instead of more school, then high-schools themselves would have a much more urgent task, and I feel they would respond appropriately. The way we have it right now, you don’t have any real feedback on whether or not your education is worth anything for 16 years.

I also think it will incentivize the schools more. Without a mandated stream of students coming in directly from high school, they actually have to make the case that going to college really does make you a better person. They have to convince you that spending that time and money is really worth it. Otherwise people just won’t go.

Finally, I also think that this would help transform our current mode of work. I think that the expectation that a large percentage of the workforce may want to go back to school would actually help fix some damaging situations in the workplace. Right now, jobs are setup with fixed hours plus vacation. They are basically set so that they are the most major, permanent part of your life. What if, instead, jobs themselves understood themselves to have a lesser role in your life? I don’t think people would be less productive, I just think we would be less tied to the thing we called a “job” to be productive. What if people who worked also engaged in academics – that they weren’t separate things? What if people who worked also engaged in science?

At my office we have a very unusual situation. I am a computer programmer who does independent research in biology and Intelligent Design. The owner of my company actually has a degree in English, but he also discovers exoplanets in his free time. This is a highly unusual setup, but what if it wasn’t so unusual? What if this was just how we expected things to work? That people further on their careers would start branching out, exploring, doing new things?

I actually think that it would make us all more productive, not less. What’s unproductive is worthless schooling. For most people, that’s 4 years completely down the drain. If people came out of high school to work, then not only would they start being productive immediately, they would actually benefit from the schooling they received down the road, making them even more productive.

Thoughts?

10 Replies to “Why is College Right After High-School?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Good post.

    Too many high school grads think they have to go to college and that’s a mistake. I’ve met several unemployed 20 & 30 yr olds with masters degrees and more. College has rendered them useless. Over-educated and unwilling to work at a lower-scale job and completely unskilled for anything practical.

    People think that being an auto-mechanic does not take a lot of intelligence, but they’re very wrong about that.

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert says:

    I disagree.

    I guess we disagree about the purpose of college.

    For me, a college should not be a trade school. It should not be preparing people for the work place. Rather, it should be for satisfying the yearning for more knowledge. That’s knowledge for the sake of knowledge, learning for the sake of learning. Learning to satisfy curiosity, rather than to acquire skills.

    Of course, there’s a role for preparing people for the work place. But our colleges are the wrong places for that. The community colleges probably do a better job at that than do the traditional 4 year schools.

  3. 3
    johnnyb says:

    For me, a college should not be a trade school.

    I agree. I’m not sure how you got something else from my post. To quote myself:

    This is true not only of your trade, but of your philosophy of life. You would have more in common with the people whose books you read in English class. You would understand the ethical difficulties faced in a work environment. You would see the value in understanding things at a deeper level.

    Experience is just as important in knowing for the sake of knowledge as it is for anything else. It takes a while to figure out what you should be curious about. If you go to school too early, you will only be curious about what people tell you to be curious about.

    The people that I know that would most (a) enjoy and (b) benefit from college education are not the people at the end of high school, but the people who have been living life in the real world for 10 years. This is not just in their job, but also as a person.

    Going to college right after high school is only a good default option if the goal is to teach a trade, because that’s when you need to learn or have a trade. If the goal is to teach higher-level thinking, then you need more life experience to see what there is to think about. Trying to talk about the importance of economics to someone who has never had to look for a job or balanced a checkbook is quite silly. Learning about biology takes on a whole new meaning when you have to watch out for your own growing children.

  4. 4
    chris haynes says:

    The reason college is important is…….Getting your ticket punched.

    Let’s be honest, its about getting a good job. And for good jobs, large institutions require a 4 year college degree, not for the learning it implies, but because:
    – it indicates a certain level of diligence

    – it protects them against employment discrimination complaints

    – it doesnt cost them much

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    johnnyb: Going to college right after high school is only a good default option if the goal is to teach a trade, because that’s when you need to learn or have a trade.

    I disagree.

    Going to college is taking a 4 year vow of poverty. Someone who has already started a family cannot do this.

  6. 6
    johnnyb says:

    Going to college is taking a 4 year vow of poverty. Someone who has already started a family cannot do this.

    That’s my point – we need to rethink it to make it possible. And the cost is probably the least-problematic part of the problem as well. The societal blocks to this are at least as large.

    However, I think part of the problem is viewing college as the whole dorm-room-I’m-doing-nothing-but-college experience. What if, instead, people took one or two classes at a time for their whole lives rather than just a bunch of them right when they get out of high school. Early-career people would likely start off with trade-oriented classes, but as you yourself become deeper, then, if you wanted, you start taking deeper classes about philosophy, history, etc.

    Actual full-time enrollment should be the exception, not the rule. College should be for people who are looking to deepen themselves, at whatever pace they are comfortable with.

  7. 7

    In the category of “If I were King … ” — here’s what I would do:

    To get a PhD in any of the biological sciences — in particular evolutionary biology — I would require that the candidate spend at least two years of total immersion as a team member in the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) of a very large and complex system such as a petro-chemical plant, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, a modern automobile manufacturing factory or other similar “designed” system.

    The PhD candidate would be required to accomplish actual hands-on work in the maintenance of such system, trouble shooting problems as they occur as well as performing periodic preventive maintenance tasks. The candidate would not be allowed to work in management or supervisory positions, nor would the candidate be involved in the design of the system, but would be one of the actual hands-on grunts doing the day-by-day work of keeping a complex system, designed and built by someone else, up and running.

    The candidate would work alongside “journeyman” O&M workers and would be required to learn the design of the system and it’s many varied functional subsystems by actual touch and feel.

    It’s called earning a degree from the “University Of The Seat Of The Pants.”

    Perhaps this added requirement for earning a PhD would give the candidate a real world appreciation of what design really looks like … an appreciation that can’t be achieved by a kindergarten to grad school academic lifetime experience.

  8. 8
    bFast says:

    In general I find this a strange post within the context of ID.

    Second, in general I agree with your sentiments. My father was quite convinced that a person needed to take a year out between high-school and college. We kids all did. We found that in doing so we had a better understanding of life in general, and specifically of why we wanted to go to college.

    Dad’s view extended that we were to cover the first year of tuition without loan support. This too was wise for similar reasons.

    I remember once a teacher was late for class. All of the pimple-faces cheered, we with more maturity felt ripped off. That’s the difference between collage as high-school continuation, and college as an expensive, valuable, education.

  9. 9
    EvilSnack says:

    One platform plank of the Sick and Tired Party is a call to require that the expenses of everybody’s first year of college (tuition, books, and all fees) must be paid with money earned by the student while working a real job.

  10. 10
    LaylaDavis says:

    Cool topic! This is the question for every high school pupil. But college is really necessary for everyone. It gives you the chance to understand if your career choice is right. I have chosen the professor`s way…and now I`m working on my dissertation and assists the professor of American literature.

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