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Friday, July 29, 2011

College? It isn't the answer.

President Obama called for the US to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020. A noble goal, but will it really help and is it good for America.

“One, we need to reduce the college dropout rate (with more than one in three failing to graduate college within six years of entering).”

“Three out of 10 US public school students do not graduate from high school, major city school districts only graduate one out of two students, according to a study released Tuesday.”

There is also this economical principle called Supply and Demand – maybe if the president had worked 1 hour in a private business he would have heard of it.

So what is the answer? Clearly the government run K-12 system is broken. Clearly the government financed collegiate system is broken. You may argue that it is not broken, but it would be difficult to argue that it is working (unless you choose to ignore the deficit and high unemployment).

I had an interesting discussion a few weeks ago with my friend Michael Stadnisky who is a respected scientist and a brilliant mind. He argued that we needed “inspiration” – like when we had the moon race with USSR and a generation was inspired to go into the sciences. Today we have nothing in the educational field to inspire the masses.

In rare occasions in history events like this will transform a nation, but in most cases through history it was a single person who inspired change in a single other person. Almost all successful people will look back on their childhood and pick out that one teacher, one coach, one pastor, one parent who inspired them to do better.
Unfortunately, maybe it is due to mass marketing, education is now tied to institutions. I want to get a piece of paper with such and such school on it. A set of buildings has rarely inspired anyone (unless you’re an architect) to do anything. Instead we should be educating our young people by finding people to inspire them.

I want to go study under Professor X. There was a time when being a teach was respected and people sought out the best. Now we ridicule them (see the news). We seek out institutions, and then wonder how a building would fail us.

Instead of a higher education system built around buildings, it should be built around people. That means when you graduate from high school instead of going 200,000 in debt to earn a business degree find a small business in your area and offer to work for free. I promise you in 4 years you will be a lot less in debt and have a lot more business experience than a fancy college degree. I bet you will be more connected to the actual business community then your peers.

I’m sure our teachers would be much more prepared if instead of going to school for 4 years they went to school for one and then spent 3 years in the school system, with 1 set of children and go through 3 grades and all classes with them.
This would cut our student/teacher ratio in half. The students wouldn’t pay tuition (who can afford to pay student loans on a teacher salary) and the school district wouldn’t have to pay them (interns!)

The younger students would get a role model for 3 years straight! Talk about a chance to inspire the next generation.

So there it is – my education plan. It reduces the debt in this country, it inspires the next generation and it builds community relationship.

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