Many years ago, former general and outgoing president Eisenhower warned us of the dangers inherent in America’s Military-Industrial complex. Is it past time to watch out for the University-Government-Banking complex? I’ve taught at the university level. My students were kids. Not bad kids. Just kids.
What if – and this is a statement I would have cringed at 40 years ago – we required two years of national service before college enrollment? Working in healthcare, environmental work, the military, or in an updated incarnation of VISTA. If not this, what if we at least followed the example of the NFL and didn’t allow students to enter a university program until four years after their high school class has graduated? [The NBA has a minimum age as well as a one-year requirement.]
Before committing themselves to a massive debt that qualifies them to work as a barista, let the kids learn about the world. Our society needs skilled tradespeople and caregivers, retail managers and other professions where – for all practical purposes – a college degree really isn’t needed. The American university system has become an extremely expensive means of socializing our youth in the years between leaving home and becoming productive members of society. Except for a tiny minority of students, it’s really not an educational system. Maybe they’ll even find a good career that doesn’t entail accumulating all that debt that paralyzes their future and constipates the national economy.
Since this student debt also subsidizes athletic programs and the retail and real estate communities in college towns, we may also need to find ways to help these businesses readjust to reality.
Today’s thanks go to Barbette Hunter, who found and posted this note on Facebook a few months ago –
Become friends with people who aren’t your age.
Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours.
Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class.
This is how you see the world.
This is how you grow.
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – I’m surrounded by lots of age 20-30 something Canadians & Aussies, with a handful of Europeans. They’re friendly, knowledgeable, confident and curious. There’s nary an American to be found. The ones you do see have hired guides and take taxis rather than walking and exploring on their own. I’ve had this same experience in Africa and other parts of Latin America.
Has the US poured its next generation into the jello mold of gotta-a-job-or-else?
These kids I’ve met learn more on the road than US kids learn in a classroom. They learn that, under the cosmetic differences, people are the same all over the world. They learn how to deal with the new and unexpected. They learn to deal with hardship in ways that most American kids don’t.
Life – unmediated and unchaperoned.