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College is not quite overrated… yet.

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I feel some kind of way (as @jonubian would put it) when someone who has traditionally had relatively easy access to higher education calls it overrated, especially since underserved communities are still dropping out of high school at alarming rates. And even when we do arrive at colleges and universities across the US we are in for a big shock, despite the number of parents, aunts, uncles and well-meaning college counselors who have guided us thus far.

Yet that’s exactly what Michael Karnjanaprakorn concludes in his article College is Overrated.

In a previous article, Karnjanaprakorn writes that,

“higher education has shifted from learning to profit maximization as its core purpose.” (emphasis his)

But, in the animated version of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, he states the education system as we know it was built on the premise of profit maximization. At around 2:10, the narrator states that

“[t]he current education was designed and structured… for a different age… in the intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution.” (emphasis mine)

Which, according to the video, was a revolutionary act. Teaching street kids? Get outta here! But teaching street kids to be able to perform certain tasks deemed necessary to join a predetermined job landscape where they can bring in more money for the evolving corporate structure that would eventually control disgusting percentages of America’s wealth, therefore having a stake in making sure that education system remains? Cha-ching!

While Karnjanaprakorn offers a great number of alternatives to this education system including his startup Silkshare, I can’t help but feeling that things are still quite unfair.  We still haven’t gotten ethnic studies instituationalized in California, or even a critical mass of working-class students matriculating through higher ed and now y’all want to change the rules of engagement?

Hold. Up. This education system wasn’t created for us to learn. Okay. Got it.

One of Michael’s solutions is something I hear throughout the tech startup community. Essentially, it’s “Do shit.” It’s a very individual-oriented way of achieving a solution.  Of course doing is the best way to learn something, but there is still a gap between knowing and doing that needs to be filled. Let’s call it the empowerment gap. There’s where today’s street kids are falling.  They know things are rough and know the system isn’t just going to let them in and that their schools are failing them left and right, but lack the tools someone in another situation may have.

The revolutionary in me wants to band on the jumpwagon and say college is overrated (which implies that the path to college is also overrated).  However, I don’t see anyone placing any structures or institution or POLICIES to either replace the current system altogether or make the changes necessary to prepare ourselves and our future for the future.

My questions are, then:

1. Who benefits from saying college is overrated?

2. How can a generation of overeducated, underemployed recent (or not so recent) graduates change the world by “doing shit”?

3. And what about the lil ones? This education system isn’t teaching them to learn so… who or what is?

2 Comments

  1. Love your thoughts. I totally agree that the education system is completely flawed and fundamentally broken.

    But, my main point is that a lot of people are getting brainwashed that college is the key to success. So, organizations like Teach for America are brainwashing kids in inner cities that if they get into college, it’ll give them access to a world of riches and fame.

    In reality, this isn’t true at all.

    Maybe the title for the article was misleading. College isn’t really overrated. It just promises the wrong things.

    I don’t know the solution. We’ve built an education system that focuses on the wrong things.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Michael. I don’t know the solution, either. I do appreciate what you and others are doing to imagine a different road to education.

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