The Broad is Back!

May 16, 2010

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Everyone doesn’t need college!

For years, I’ve been saying that college isn’t for everyone. No one should be denied a college education based on race, creed, gender, class or sexual orientation, but no one should go just “because” it’s the thing to do. When I worked for the City University of New York in the 90s, I saw many students who would have been better served somewhere else, and many who were underserved in college because I was spending a disproportionate amount of time on the others. When I talked about this with some colleagues I was called elitist.

Then I moved to countries where not everyone got to go to college. Often university educations at public schools were free, but students had to earn a place through hard work. And if they didn’t make university, there were other paths that led to good jobs and respect in society. My view that Americans vest far too much in university educations was confirmed.

And sadly, now that I’m back in the US, teaching for a community college, I am teaching skills that should have been taught in 6th grade. Our community colleges have become the high schools of my parents’ generation. And I’ve learned from talking with students that many would rather be in trade schools, but they don’t get the financial aid that they get at a “real” school.

To me, this situation wastes taxpayers’ and students’ money, students’ time and faculty patience. This year I learned the statistic that 75% of community college students who start never finish. But I don’t know which 75%, so I treat them all the same. But a lot of those students drain me. School ends next week, and not a day too soon. In fact, I shouldn’t be writing this now, but in today’s New York Times there’s was a great article by Jacques Steinberg called “Plan B: Skip College“.  Read it.  In it he says everything I would like to say.  And he has “experts.”  I really do know what I’m talking about, but I’m not important enough to be listened to.

We need a revolution in education in this country, one not started by politicians or statisticians, but by educators.  We need to stop thinking of the “ideal” and get real.  President Obama says we need more college graduates.  We don’t.  We need better quality graduates and we need jobs and training for people.  We need to say plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, and carpenters are valued and dignified positions.  An excellent IT person doesn’t need a liberal arts degree.  If the IT person wants one, but all means get one, but why do we make people?

The system is screwed up. That’s why.



  1. I hear you on the draining-ness!

    I blame No Child Left Behind and the whole charter school movement.

    But there is plenty of blame to go around!

    Comment by Emily — May 16, 2010 @ 11:06 pm |Reply

  2. Why blame anyone? Obviously no one in politics is listening. What do we have to do to get things done. I’m in college now and I am hating every minute of it because I can’t get a job worth a damn, supporting my wife and two children, without a degree. Just like what was stated before, I couldn’t afford trade school. I remember growing up, my dad always told me he wanted me to go to college. Well dad, now I have no choice.

    Comment by Joe — June 13, 2010 @ 6:54 pm |Reply

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