Been hearing a common phrase these days. It is that there is an education gap between the rich and the poor, and it’s getting larger. We are all very familiar with the problem of income-inequality, but now we are facing an even bigger problem, they say, and it’s called education-inequality.
For someone like me — and I’m fastly approaching middle age — this phrase has a disquieting effect. Why? because, education inequality in America has always been around. No one paid very much attention to it in the past because it wasn’t a big deal. That’s right. We live in America, and it’s the land of opportunity. And that always meant that the there was more than one way to get ahead. You could work really hard at what you do, you could invent something new, or you could find your niche.
We always knew that going to an ivy league school provided a greater education than attending a state school, but no one cared. Education was always what you made of it. And that is what distresses me the most by what I hear. People are attending college not because they want to, but because they think they have to. And they are being pressured to study a field that has the highest potential for job prospects, such as STEM fields like Engineering. I agree that we need more Engineers, but the simple fact is that if you are going to be an Engineer, you better like doing math 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 30 plus years.
There seems to be only one path to a better life, and it’s achieving more and more education — formal education. Considering that upwards of 50% of college students drop out, I think there has got to be a different way. Now, candidates like Bernie Sanders want to make 4-year college free for all students. It isn’t enough to provide a free 2-year community college degree — one that would guarantee employment with less cost, but we need to provide 4-years to every student. Because that’s a “better” degree to get.
When I was in high school, I worked at a Dairy Queen. The owner bought this Dairy Queen right after he graduated from high school — with financing help from the owner of the Dairy Queen that he had worked at in high school. Well, he’s now a millionaire. And he chose what he did because he really enjoyed working at Dairy Queen and owning his own business. He worked really hard, upwards of 12 hours a day, when he started. He did a lot of his own carpentry work. And he learned everything he needed to know to be successful. He was truly a self-directed learner. And this is what we need more of.
If you enjoy going to school — and I’ll admit that I did — if you enjoy sitting in classrooms for 4-plus years, and reading textbooks, and writing research papers, then by all means go to a formal university. If you don’t, then go to a 2-year school, get a practical degree, and then work very hard at what you do. I’ve worked at companies where experience is definitely overcoming education as the most desired background. Learn your nitch in the best way that you can — by being a self-directed learner. Take on-line courses, read books, practice skills. Get better and better at what you love to do best. America is still the land of opportunity. It’s not the land of higher education. It’s the land of OPPORTUNITY. Go out a get it.