Educational Intersections

mini graduation cap on US money -- education costs

Something is amiss at the intersection of high school, transitioning into college and college, transitioning into becoming an adult consumer. I’m all for a college education, but let’s zoom out for a moment and get ourselves a bird’s eye view.

There’s an enormous push to get kids right into college after high school. This would make more sense if they were properly equipped to make such massive decisions at that point in their life. Seemingly, our options are to either push the choice out a couple of years, so they can approach their career selection as a full fledged consumer, or redefine the high school experience so they’re stronger, more developed human beings before taking such an impactful leap.  As a mom of two, my vote is for the latter. These young people could get an early and authentic view of what they want to do with their lives. Their individual interests could be sparked, explored and nurtured before they’re asked to make such big choices. There are a couple of critical colliding facts for us to consider.

As of last year (2015), student debt officially surpassed consumer debt in the land of the free. Education debt is now second only to home mortgages and at over a trillion dollars of education debt, it overshadows the 800 billion in consumer debt by our citizens. The average college graduate is harnessed with an average $33,000 of debt and will likely work a low wage job or be unemployed for almost a decade before they reach the median salary in this country. Worth it? Perhaps, but combined with statistic number two, I am left feeling unsure. I was floored to learn that 73% of degreed professionals work in a field other than what they went to college for. Gasp! These two tidbits leave me questioning a lot about our education system.

There’s got to be a way for the high school experience to be more about entrepreneurship and career based lifetime learning. I’d like to see our young people get more than a tiny window of thought and exploration time before they take on gobs of debt for something that they probably won’t stick with. We need a rethink.

I’m wondering if the whole high school to college, college to consumer set up is what it is for the very reason I question it. Is the current high school experience just a tunnel that leads you into debt, which leads you into a job (not a career) so you can chip away at the shackles of debt for your inadvertent servitude. There’s got to be a better way than having these kids become immediate indebted consumers, who must work a job to pay for their learning debt. Debt for vocational learning that 3 out of 4 of them will later walk away from as they pivot into a whole new career anyway.

Let’s not forget that free thinkers and entrepreneurs are not exactly promoted by the American paradigm anymore. If you think freely, you might see past the chains being forced upon you. Why would a system seemingly, hell bent on indoctrination, promote that kind of existence and nurture it at a young age?

I’m a bit passionate about the freedom to build my pie and my rights to bake and eat my own pie, sharing it if and how I choose. I want that for my children and and I want for their entire generation to be applauded for thinking outside the box. Forced consumerism of paid for knowledge is one step closer to forced pie sharing. It feels one step closer to standing in line and waiting for our lives to be handed to us.

Collegiate choices need to be approached with a higher level of responsibility. We need a shift in the high school experience. Sure, reading Romeo and Juliette and learning about the War of 1812 are important. But we have a capacity and time issue, and frankly by the time our girls are thinking this critically, I’d like to see them more focused on their own interests than on studying the past.  It’s time to redesign the experiences that bridge our kids directly into adult life. We can do better.

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