I love political talk by my friends on Facebook (Even though posting a political rant on Facebook automatically makes you a moron regardless of the comment’s truth or idiocy). Facebook is a
great moderately good way to check the pulse of a community. Recently, a guy that I often agree with, has been posting increasingly more political “junk” onto the web. This was a comment that I read and thought would provide an interesting discussion.
Education: Both overvalued and the Great Equalizer
Instead of diving into whether I think Andrew was right or wrong in his comment (which I fully expect you to do in the comments!) the more important issue at hand is the overarching problem with the current system and value attributed to higher education.
First off, education is perhaps the most important thing to all of society. It truly is the great equalizer, the great distinguishes of ignorance, and perhaps the quickest way to end violence and poverty in a society. People have fault and died for the opportunity to learn. That is undeniable.
However, what is education? Is the same education necessary for everyone in all walks of life? Does everyone need, want, deserve, or survive the typical college education? We all know the answer is no. There are multiple ways to educate oneself. There are trade schools, technical schools, skills passed down from one artisan to another, self taught geniuses and others. Perhaps the biggest problem is our overvaluing of the 4 year college degree and the under-valuing means of alternate education routes.
The Education Bubble
Right now we are experiencing with education the exact same thing we experience with the housing market – a bubble. Prices of a higher education are steadily climbing, demand has never been higher, the Government keeps prices artificially low via subsidies and grants, and in turn Universities will keep jacking prices up as long as people will pay. That is how it works. Soon this education bubble will pop.
Recently, when I visited Japan, I was astounded by how educated the entire population was. I was refreshing and I loved it; however, I was equally astounded at the competition for jobs. One women I met, who had a masters degree and spoke 5 languages, was passed up for a customer support position at the airport.
The problem: EVERYONE had an expensive college education, but trade schools were not valued. Almost all “menial” tasks and labor positions were outsourced. Electricians, maids, janitors, etc. were almost exclusively foreigners. I think this pressure to succeed with such competition in Japan is a result many poles show Japan as having a lower quality of life and statistically higher suicide rates.
Soon a college education becomes essentially valueless in the marketplace and the only thing you are left with is a lot of debt without the skills your marketplace is demanding all because of the perceived value of a degree.
Government and Education
I have a love/hate relationship with the Government and education. First off, I have to admit that I myself benefited from tax dollars. I received the Pell Grant and used every penny of it being as productive as possible. In return, I got an excellent job and I have currently paid a ton of tax dollars (far exceeding the amount the Government gave me). So I guess I was a good investment.
On the other hand, I have a cousin who received the same grant and pissed it away. He literally spent the money on beer and a new truck. He doesn’t have a degree – a bad investment for the Government.
The one thing the Government does is drive the price of education up AND give poor kids the opportunity to receive an education. I can’t decide if the Government is a good thing or bad thing – where is the balance? My instincts say that the Government should stay out of it and let the market and private organizations find a way. I would have went to college without Government help, my cousin would not have.
For example, in Georgia we have the Hope Scholarship. Every student with a 3.0 GPA receives a scholarship paid for by income generated by the Georgia lottery – NOT tax payers. I think that is a great system.
1. We overvalue the traditional 4 year degree and undervalue trade and technical schools.
2. We incorrectly assume that EVERYONE wants, needs, or can handle a traditional 4 year college degree.
3. The Government subsidies education to such a point that it become a bad investment and by increasing demand increases the cost of a college education for everyone.
4. Education can be funded without the help of the Government. Often more fairly and more efficiently.
5. Education is the cornerstone to society.