Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The UnCollege? The Five Minute College? Or Traditional Liberal Arts?

My husband jokes about college being the best seven years of his life despite the fact that he graduated in four years.  And, while he and I strongly advocate for liberal arts college education and are the proud parent of two college graduates with a third on his way, there is much to be said about the Uncollege social movement founded by Dale Stephens and recently posted by CNN: (http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/03/stephens.college/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn)

 In the article, Stevens makes the following points:
  1. "[College] rewards conformity rather than independence, competition rather than collaboration, regurgitation rather than learning and theory rather than application..."
  2. "...Failure is punished instead of seen as a learning opportunity...College fails to empower us with the skills necessary to become productive members of today's global entrepreneurial economy."
  3. "College is expensive..."
Dale Stephens advocates "taking education beyond the classroom through self directed learning with real world experience and self-designed projects:

Father Guido Sarducci similarly advocated the "Five Minute University" - to simply teach what the average 1970's or 1980's graduate knows five years after graduation... all in five minutes.


All joking aside:
  • TRUE: many students get 'lost' in college, and it is the highly motivated student who will get the research assistant positions and special attention and that many must compete for one or two coveted spots.  That said, isn't that true of just about anything we want?  Isn't this in itself a learning opportunity?  
  • TRUE: failure is punished rather than embraced and learned from and this is something we all need to reconsider and change.
  • Not all competition is unhealthy.  It pushes us to be better and in many cases teaches us that collaboration can provide a competitive edge.
  • TRUE: college is expensive both for families, cities and states.
  • TRUE: college is not for everyone.  Some young adults may do better in an UNCOLLEGE environment with mentors or direct learning/working experiences to help them attain their goals.  
  • TRUE: MOST SCHOOLS - from elementary through college often teach for tests and not to critically think, understand, and apply old and new concepts to real life problems.  This IS A SERIOUS ISSUE that ALL SCHOOLS MUST ADDRESS.  In the meantime, we as parents can help model creative thinking and real life applications of often dry school materials - see the following blog posts:
  • While liberal arts college may not directly teach entrepreneurial skills they advocate critical thinking and practical applications of theory. 
  • Good liberal arts colleges provide students with a breadth of knowledge which allows them to interact socially, at cocktail parties for example, and mingle with just about anyone for at least five minutes.  And, while I joke about this, being well-read is a vital networking skill. 
While in college I learned about myself and what I could accomplish, I learned to live on my own, and I learned about Rousseau, Lincoln, Stalin, Machiavelli, Victor Hugo, Margaret Mead, Jean Piaget and Modest Mussorgsky - all of whom I have incorporated into 3-8 grade curricula and I am grateful to all those who believed in me.
    Most high school seniors are not ready for college.  They are still figuring out who and what they are, many have little direction, and many are burned out from the pressure of high school and looming college acceptance.  MY ALTERNATIVE: mandatory one or two year "community service" BEFORE college that would enable those with entrepreneurial skills to work at developing them while other young adults can gain personal growth and direction by building, clerking, interning, volunteering in community and/or private institutions, hospitals, museums, courts.  With this real life experience and growth opportunities they can then more clearly decide whether college is right for them, and if it is, they can more maturely approach the application and the learning processes college offers.

    Those are my two-cents... what are yours?  Is college for everyone?  Did you/do you find a benefit to a liberal arts college education?


    1. I did benefit from my liberal arts education. I worry about the notion that it should train one to do X or Y, mostly because there's no guarantee that X or Y will be around for the 40-50 years of one's working life.
      That said, I agree college is not for everyone, that some college courses don't teach one to think, and that teaching to the (doubtfully useful) test has become MORE popular, with No Child Left Behind/Race to the Top.

      ROG, ABC Wednesday team

    2. Interesting post for the U Day! I have benefited from my college degree, but I certainly do agree that college is not for everyone. Enjoy your week!


    3. Great and interesting post.Most high school seniors are not ready for college! That's a fact. I went to college to study psychology but after a few tests, which I passed, I realised that this was not the subject I would study, so I went to the Training College for Teachers. Later much later I started to study English and got two certificates which enable me to teach English at a high school. I did it according to the books at home and sent in my lessons to the teacher of the college which organized language tuition. Once a month I went to college to meet other students and we spent a day doing conversation, grammar, phonetics, literature.
      I knew an English girl who wanted to speak with me and earn a bit of money this way. I was over 50 then. So never too old to learn!

    4. Good post Meryl. Charles was very involved in the establishment of Colleges in British Columbia, but now sometimes I know he questions the value of a watered down liberal arts as presented now. I attended all the English and Philosophy courses offered as a mature student, and have never regretted the experience, but I now see young students just out of High School, without motivation or maturity and failing dismally to reap any benefits.

    5. I never made it to college. I was accepted and had my bags packed, but I landed a good job and there was this girl..... The girl and I will celebrate our 36th anniversary next week.

      An Arkies Musings

    6. I am very grateful for my liberal arts education. It took me places beyond what I ever expected...even though I got a lot of "what can you possibly do with THAT degree?" I enjoyed a challenging independent study at a university in a developing tropical country (which I fell in love with and return to frequently and give of my time and talents within the community), I became an award-winning college instructor, and I wrote/had published a college textbook.

      As a professor and former faculty student adviser, I agree that not everyone "has" to go to college in order to be successful in life. I have seen students who burn out/fall out/flunk out because their parents pushed them into college or because they chose majors that they think will make them money even though they really have no interest in that area. On the other hand, some who chose not to go to college, for whatever reason, could benefit from an education and go to a whole new level in their lives. I have seen people who failed college at a young age, only to return ten or twenty years later and excel. I feel the decision to go to college is best when based upon individual goals, motivation, and what one really desires at a certain time in life.

    7. I graduated school, spent three years serving in the Royal Navy, then went to university. The life experience prior to 'more school' was valuable beyond words.
      Jane x

    8. That is a really interesting idea. A lot of experience and maturity could be gained in those couple of years.

    9. I think College is a great thing but Life Experiences can be just as valuable in living in the real world.
      Great post Meryl.

    10. Interesting points. But I must say that Father Sarducci never fails to make me laugh.

    11. I did not go to college but got my degree through the distance learning Open University, we tried fitted a year of college socialising and debate into a week when attending the summer schools:-) I think the community service idea is a good one to give young people life skills, and time to think about what they really want to do.

    12. I did find a benefit to college for myself. But it is not for everyone. Unfortunately, however, it is really hard to find a job if you don't have a degree and quite frankly I wish this thinking would change and people would understand that just because you went to school for an extra 4 or 6 years doesn't mean that you are smarter than someone who worked those years or was some sort of an apprentice or had a mentor of some kind. I think we should start looking at people's skills, talents and experience AS WELL AS their education.

    13. Very interesting post! I think the same could be said about French colleges!
      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment;o)

      Hope you are having a nice and happy week****

    14. Very interesting. Happy RT!

      Mine's here.

    15. I definitely think hands on knowledge learned in technical schools can be equally if not more valuable in landing a job these days. The ideal for many is a degree coupled with the later learning of practical skills. I tend to agree that going to university right out of high school might be to soon as goals are rarely formulated at that stage of life. However, some that delay never find the path back!

    16. As someone who works for a University, I truly believe college isn't for everyone. You are absolutely right that is rewards the motivated students and it is competitive (just, as you mentioned, like everything else in life). I think the thing that college offers that few other places do is a "safe" place to test things out--studying abroad, taking a variety of classes, different groups of friends, finding interests that aren't where you thought your path was leading. Those can be found other places, but I genuinely believe that a college education is worth it for those who want it--it is an experience like none other.

    17. I finished my degree in four years straight out of high school; my husband in five because he has to work a year to help with expenses. I wonder why most HS seniors are not ready for the rigors of college? Is is because they are not pushed enough in HS? Is it because parents don't expect as much academic accountability from kids as they used to? I don't know. As an adjunct instructor for a senior capstone course, I've see a definite decline in basic knowledge of writing and problem solving over the past six years. And I wonder if many colleges are now just in it for the money. It's a crime to saddle kids with that kind of debt upon graduation. Sometimes I think it would serve many students better if there were very narrowly defined degrees, tailored to very specific areas of expertise that could be done in two years and cut out a lot of the fluff courses (and expense) that are offered now.

    18. Very interesting post for U.

    19. We were only talking about this yesterday. In Ireland 15 year olds choose their subjects for their Leaving Certificate based on what career they think they want to pursue. Most go to college because it is what everyone else is doing or what is expected. I think a couple of years out working after secondary school would give them time to discover what they want to do with their lives. Then if they go to college it is because they want to.

    20. In the country where I came from, college means getting you a job when you finished. For me it's a vital aspect that every young generation should take consideration into.

    21. Self motivated learning is an awesome thing if the person has the discipline to do it. Someone who has an intrinsic drive to learn. Most high school kids I have known do not have this. I think traditional school is the best bet for most but unschooling is a valid option for the driven.

    22. Hmmm...very interesting...Found you at the Sunday bloghop! Glad I did, am a happy new follower :).


    23. Hi there, new follower here. I love the looks of your blog from what I've seen so far. I will definitely be back. If you get a chance, I'd love it if you'd follow back.


    24. I absolutely agree with you! 1-2 years of community service and then college. 18 year olds don't have a clue, I know I didn't and I am paying for it now. Thanks for visiting and for a great post!

    25. I enjoyed reading this post. I am a university graduate and glad I attended...but maybe I should have worked for a year or two first. One of my daughters did take a year off between high school and University. She was so motivated after her one year off that she actually graduated in three years, taking extra courses during the summer to make up for the year she worked. She got excellent grades too.

      Personally, I think the best thing you can do for your kids is teach them to love reading. If you van read you can learn just about anything. That's my two cents. :)

    26. So many good points...

      I love the idea of mandatory community service but, sadly, don't think it would every fly here in the U.S.

      I have a child entering college in the Fall so I am patting my pockets, but also very aware of how that college experience has changed in so many ways. I also think the time spent on social media must have an effect if one were to compare my (for example) college experience, vs. my child's. The intensity of engagement, with other students and faculty may not be the same? (We bonded over coffee, not via FB).

      I also loved your other post about visual literacy.

    27. College...oh yes, oh yes!
      I agree with most of your points except taking a few years off because I've seen some extend those few years to many years! Perhaps the best is a marriage of the service ops with freshmen year.