One factor that often defines parents’ choices, from where they live, to what jobs they take, to the amount of time they spend shuttling their kids to and from extra-curricular activities — is the specter of college.
However, this piece in The Atlantic Monthly, written anonymously by an adjunct English professor who teachers at two “colleges of last resort,” suggests that perhaps we should accept that college is not for everyone. He describes the frustration of trying to teach police officers-to-be or adults in technical jobs who are attending college at great financial cost to themselves or to their employers, but who have a limited grasp of grammar, spacious thinking, and, as he says, “are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.”
The problem, he says, is a growing sense that a college degree is a universal need and right. He writes that there is a demand for the American workforce to be more professional at every level. We would like our bank-teller, child-protection workers, and police officers to be college-educated. Admitting lots of students is good business for schools, he admits, and going to college can be a “feel-good” exercise for many. But he says, “There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass.”
Yet he says that suggesting the vocational-training track in today’s idealistic America is taboo: “Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist . . . I sympathize with this stance.” But he says, “it is with me and my red pen that that ideal crashes and burns.”
Readers, what’s your take? Considering the financial burdens of college and the impact it can have family choices and finances, do you think some less-than-stellar students would be better off not going at all?