From Booker T. Washington’s chapter “The Reconstruction Period”:
“The ambition [of the freed slaves] to secure an education was most praiseworthy and encouraging. The idea, however, was too prevalent that, as soon as one secured a little education, in some unexplainable way he would be free from most of the hardships of the world, and, at any rate, could live without manual labour.”
I know that I suffered from the same sentiment in my youth. I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but it was there. Now, as a college educated woman, who has never used my degree, and who has seen many friends fall into jobs and careers that didn’t require their expensively earned degrees, I ask myself about the real value of a formal college or university education.
Certainly the experience of being away from home in a semi-sheltered environment was beneficial, and getting to rub elbows with peers from other walks of life, and making life-long friends was extremely valuable. I will forever be indebted to my parents for the sacrifices they made to give me those experiences that have shaped who I am today.
But as a parent today, who is facing rising education costs, I have to ask if a similar experience for my children could be found in another more practical, less expensive place? With higher educations costs rising faster than medical costs, parents and students are going to have to take a serious look at the practicality of college. Check out this graph from Money Magazine’s August 2008 issue.
We have a private liberal arts college nearby, and I know some of the faculty through our church and homeschool group. I hear of students graduating with degrees in history, English, or religion, and then coming back after a couple of years of unemployment to seek another degree – this time in computer science. I’m sure these students are well-rounded, articulate, hard-working people, but they are coming out of their college experiences ill-prepared for real world. How can we do better?