American culture glorifies the college experience like no other, with hundreds of movies and tv shows depicting four years of life directly after high school. Most high school teachers push college as the one and the only path to take in life and openly shame those that refuse to attend an institution of higher education. But is it really best for our young people, and our nation if more and more students are pushed into debt at such an early age? Why is the older generation so keen on the value of a college diploma?
Attending college directly after high school in the 1980s, when tuition could be paid for with a simple summer job, and grade inflation wasn’t so rampant made a lot of sense. Taking four years off of life to explore possibilities and to meet other young people from distant places was completely reasonable. In the worst case, one would come out of college with writing, and critical thinking skills, as unlike today it would not be possible to get through all four years without doing actual intellectual work. Sure, slackers have always existed, however at that point in time politically correct culture had not taken such a strong foothold in academia, and one had to put in the effort to pass their courses.
However, today this situation is much different with universities becoming more like corporations and professor giving out ‘A’s like candy in fear of being accused of “discrimination”. The student has become a paying customer buying an extremely expensive service, and as a result, has every right to expect a passing grade with a diploma at the end of four years. This is fine except for the fact that a college degree has become more like a status symbol and less like proof of an individual’s capacity to work.
Finally, why has the culture decided that a young person even needs to begin pursuing a specialized career? Instead of encouraging teenagers to attend school, why don’t we direct them towards exploration? Working on a fishing boat in Alaska for the summer, or on a cattle ranch in Colorado is certain to be a life-changing experience, and who knows – one might actually make a little bit of money along the way. If a particularly driven young person wants to start working, why not go into a field such as software development that requires no formal education? After some careful thought and experimentation, one can go to college at any point in their lives.
It seems like the idea that college is the only way to get by in life is slowly fading from the public consciousness. Hopefully, as tuition costs rise people will begin to seriously explore alternatives and young people will have much more enriching, fulfilled lives.