Break the Stigma

June 29, 2014
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It’s pretty clear that our educational system is flawed. But is that clear in all of the right ways?

I could pull up a bunch of studies and meaningless numbers that rank our public schools against those of other countries. I could talk about standardized tests (although to most people, that’s a big enough flaw as it is). But there’s one problem that nobody seems to notice.

Society is all about trying to be equal. We all strive to protect our rights and to give everyone a fair chance at “the American Dream.” But we hold a certain disrespect for those who don’t go to college. I don’t mean those who don’t attend Ivies; I mean any kind of college. Dropouts. Bums. That’s how we treat them.

For you to be treated seriously in today’s society, you have to have a secondary education. If you don’t go to college, it is nearly guaranteed that you will be ostracized. We tend to treat a college as a pedestal, and once we climb it, we hold the right to look down below us to the primitive people that didn't climb high enough. But is that fair?

Let’s take the prestige out of college for a second. For a high school senior, they can go and get a job now and start working, start living. Or, they can go to another institution for four, eight, twelve years. But now they get to pay sixty thousand dollars a year to sit in a chair. Why? So they can get a piece of paper that might entitle them to a line of work in an already underemployed world.

But for some reason, we discredit this rational choice. Now granted, there are lots of positive aspects to going to college, enough that I know that I will do so. However, making one choice over the other is not a justification for this inequality. As a matter of fact, we rely on people that don’t hold degrees. For instance, you don’t need a degree to be a firefighter, a policeman or a plumber. Construction workers and dental hygienists don’t need degrees, either.

The bottom line is we pretend that the only way to become educated is to go to college. But you do not spell education S-A-T. There are other very important factors to becoming an educated person. Abraham Lincoln only had one year of any kind of formal schooling, and nobody discredits him as a leader or a thinker or a strategist. The real educational experiences are not found inside of a concrete box.
I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from attending college. I've weighed my options and I think college is a much better choice for me. But what we all need to learn to do is to admit that it is okay not to attend a university. We ought to start showing more respect to those who do not take our own path, because they are just as human as we are.

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