Rogert Marolt: War is for everyone, why not college?
You’ve heard people say, “College isn’t for everyone.” I’ve even heard college graduates say it. I used to believe it. It’s baloney. The college experience is immensely valuable in so many regards that everyone can benefit from it in some way. In fact, I think not enough education is at the root of many problems. And, while there are legitimate reasons for people not to go to college, it is a false equivalency to say they are not cut out for it.
To say college is not for everyone is like saying exercise isn’t for everyone. There are plenty who don’t want to participate because it can be hard. Some avoid it because they fear they might not be good at it. Still others believe they can’t afford it. But, would anyone say that exercise is not for everyone for those same reasons? And, when you stop to think about it, whatever problems lack of education doesn’t cause, lack of exercise might be at least a contributing factor.
I suppose what bothers me most when people claim college isn’t for everyone is that it seems to imply that some people lack the mental capacity to get anything out of advanced learning or more rigorous academic study. It’s snobbery. It’s elitist.
Mostly, it ignores that the college experience is much more than academics. College is a place to grow, surrounded by others having the experience in common. It’s humbling and confidence-building at the same time.
One of the greatest things about college is living with a roommate and without your mother. At first I loved the independence that came from nobody looking over my shoulder. Then I began to view it as kind of a raw deal when I finally could stand it no more and caved in to clean our bathroom after my roommate and I endured a three-month silent standoff over the issue. Eventually I absorbed the reality that the dull responsibility of getting things done might be the bulk of adulthood. Then I discovered the variety of interesting people on campus, with outside interests, talents and hobbies, and began to see that life could be satisfying on many levels.
It’s challenging to put up your own guardrails along life’s path. They are much heavier to lift and anchor than they appear from the distance of childhood and not nearly so sturdy as you imagine. The only way to learn how to build them right is to put them to the test. Sometimes it felt as if I’d barley brushed one only to find myself in the ditch for testing it. The point, of course, is learning that a college buddy or two, while worthless at many things at that age, are sometimes very good at pulling you from the wreckage.
You can accomplish all these experiences through other life experiences, and many do, but doing it at college with lots of peers can reap big benefits. Not only can you learn from your own mistakes, but from those of many others around you — a virtual collage of constant mess-ups you could never otherwise imagine. Good things come from bad examples.
Nobody emphasizes grade school as the path to a better job and higher lifetime earnings, much less middle school where kids mostly learn how to deal with feeling awkward, which actually can aid in navigating a tight job market someday. High school isn’t a career path. So, it’s a shame that, once you turn 19, we think education must be geared toward making money.
This is odd because it seems to me that most college majors don’t actually prepare anyone for work. Studying and work are just not the same things. Writing term papers and taking tests did not prepare me for my first job or any job after that. I think lots of people who went to college would agree with this. The exceptions are for trades or technical degrees, but those are not what most college students study.
So, why do we say that people who want to be street performers or wood carvers shouldn’t bother with college? I think college can prepare kids for those jobs as well as it does those who want to get into banking. We learn our work on the job from people who are actually doing them. A college degree proves we have a large and rich life experience behind us that will likely prove valuable in any job. It opens the doors to the world. If you look at it like this, how can college not be for everyone?
Roger Marolt knows the draft proved we believe that war is for everyone, so why not college? Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about the singular problem sweeping the nation, the one threatening America’s youth at an alarming pace: optional, anonymous student surveys on equity.