Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Value of a College Education

I've been quite consistent with my belief that not everyone needs a college education.  I've stated that on this blog many times.  And I know that Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, et al., didn't finish college.

I've also said that there's a lot of foolishness at our universities nowadays, from far-left social justice warriors to excessive fees to silly classes that don't lend themselves to intellect.

This, however, is a bit puerile:
In a Facebook post, he announced that he was dropping out, despite having earned a 4.0 grade point average. He said that he would start his own business and learn more from that experience than anything he could hope to achieve at Kansas State or any college. He ran a photo of himself giving the finger to Kansas State, although he's since said he really wants to be doing that to all of higher education.

Many Inside Higher Ed readers will likely find his comments insulting and ill informed, and some faculty members and students at K-State have pointed out that he wrote some things that are factually questionable. But Willson is attracting many fans online as his Facebook post has gone viral -- and trashing course requirements and general education seems to be a big part of Willson's appeal.

"YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED," Willson wrote on Facebook. (The wording, grammar and capitalization quoted here and later in this story are verbatim from Willson's and others' social media posts.) "You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day. Heck you may have already seen it if you've been through college. You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use. Wasting 4 years of your life to be stuck at a paycheck that grows slower than the rate of inflation. Paying $200 for a $6 textbook. Being taught by teacher's who have never done what they're teaching. Average income has increased 5x over the last 40 years while cost of college has increased 18x. You're spending thousands of dollars to learn information you won't ever even use just to get a piece of paper."

He added: "Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking gen. ed. courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES."
A few comments.

  • If you're learning the quadratic formula in college, instead of in 9th grade, something's wrong.
  • What do you expect a college to teach you about marriage, forchrissakes?
  • You're in college and can't figure out how to fill out a tax form?  How do you think all those non-college people do it?
Others have noted that Willson's criticism of Kansas State for not offering the courses he wants (on marriage and taxes) is wrong. Kansas State has a School of Family Studies and Human Services with numerous courses on marriage and personal finance.
General ed can be valuable if it isn't watered down with tripe.  I don't know about Kansas State's general ed requirements, but you can get a good education anywhere if you want to.  The two most successful friends I have both graduated from state schools with degrees in engineering--financially and in most other ways, they're doing just fine, and they probably wouldn't have been so successful without that engineering education or those degrees.

Anyway, I hope the kid is successful in business.  Doesn't make him any less of an arrogant douche, though.


Anonymous said...

I think it's a scam for certain people, in those either without aptitude or already have the knowledge to build their own success. If you're like a majority of people going to college though, you may not necessarily want to start your own business or have some amazing idea to get you success. You may just want to build connections, learn the fundamentals, and get the work done needed to get to middle class. Unfortunately there is truth in that many classes for general ed aren't really all that helpful or useful and some pragmatic classes for real-world living would be more beneficial. I enjoyed my History and Spanish classes, but it wasn't "$1500 a class" enjoyment.

Also, a lot of careers and companies still require college degrees, such as the company I've been interning at. They've told me on multiple occasions I'm competent enough to join their team as it is, but that the hiring requirement requires a college degree and that I would have way more opportunities with the piece of paper regardless of what I actually learned there. That may be moreso a problem with the industry than education in itself though.

Darren said...

I said that general ed *can* be valuable, not that it is at every school. If "history of sexism in film" qualifies for a "history" class, instead of a US, world, or regional history class, then no, it's not valuable. Ditto for some of the English offerings.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'll put the well-roundedness of my personal education up against anyone's. European history, military history, psychology, philosophy, classical literature, leadership...can today's students even mention, much less discuss, Kant, Mill, Milton, Virgil, Tallyrand, and/or Gustavus Adolphus, and their applicability to today? And I haven't yet mentioned our *required* math, science, and engineering curriculum.

Universities *can* be places of great learning, although I grant many choose not to be. Still, students can get a decent education *if they want one*, if they're willing to work for it. I tell my students all the time that if they work just a smidge--just a SMIDGE!--harder than those around them, they'll go so much further in life....