Thursday, August 21, 2008

College = Success

The idea that I had to go to college to succeed in life was ingrained in me from birth from my father, who was the first one in his family to go to college. But is college really necessary for success? Charles Murray doesn't think so and he's on a mission to change "reality."

"Q: You say the value of the bachelor's degree has eroded.

A: The B.A. is supposed to stand for a classic liberal education. That means having to read and understand some really tough texts. Well, there are lots of kids who are never going to be able to read Aristotle's Ethics and understand it. … You have colleges watering down courses, inflating grades, pretending kids are doing college-level work when they're not. By making a degree something everyone is supposed to want, we punish people who do not get one.

Q: Would you advise someone today not to go for a four-year degree?

A: The B.A., which has become a requirement to get a job interview, often has absolutely nothing to do with what the job requires. (But) the reality in today's world is that having the B.A. makes the difference. We have to change the reality.

I understand and agree with much of what Murray is saying; but changing the reality, if it is even possible, takes a long time while. The reality is, I'm not even sure I've fully accepted the idea that a college degree isn't necessary for my own children.

We've encouraged our children to get a college to further their education, but also with the reality that a bachelor's degree can provide them with more opportunities throughout their lives. But we've also explained to our children that to be successful, they don't need to have a college diploma. I know many successful people who don't have college degrees and I know many graduates with advanced degrees who I wouldn't consider a success in life.

It all depends on a child's goals and definition of success. Practically speaking, my advice to my children is to find something you love to do, do it well, and figure out a way to support yourself and a family doing it. And secretly I hope that includes a college degree, just to be on the safe side.

Is college for everyone? Probably not. But as my children have gotten older, I struggle with the idea that it's not for them.

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