Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Obsession with College

by Daniel L. Bennett

Karin Kasdin tells a compelling story in an artilce for The Faster Times of how her family has managed to accept the fact that their son, who was diagnosed with severe ADHD in middle school and struggled just to finish high school, decided not to go to college. The Kasdin's spent countless money on psychologists, medication and tutors throughout their son's youth in an attempt to get him college ready, all the while ignoring the possibility that he might not be cut out for formal academic education. When they finally accepted this fact and allowed their son to pursue his own interests, he excelled and went on to become a successful commercial real estate salesman and later would start his own internet company - all without having spent a day in a college classroom. This experience appears to have led Kasdin to reach a similar conclusion as CCAP:
vast number of our young people are wasting valuable time and money in college when they could be learning a trade, working as apprentices, becoming entrepreneurs, immersing themselves in the arts, or working in community service. Most large companies today offer training programs through which employees learn the skills they will need to perform well in the jobs for which they were hired.

College has become both an entitlement and a prerequisite to a happy life, so much so, that adults even feel free to push other people’s children.
Kasdin's story reminds me of a close friend who struggled with formal schooling throughout middle and high school, but whose parents, although both highly educated and successful, did not force him to go to college. Rather, they allowed him to explore his own interests. He was very talented in music and the arts, as well as possessing exceptional social skills, and would later start and manage a semi-successful regional band and open his own media production company. Although he did eventually pursue and obtain a formal credential at an arts college, he was already on his way to a successful career before enrolling in a non-traditional college that focused on vocational aptitude, rather than a broad-based liberal arts education.

The point of my story is that we Americans are obsessed with traditional college and the supposed benefits that it confers. It is oversold and I believe that many kids are being set up for failure by sending them off to a 4-year college, when they might be better off pursuing a vocation or trade. This was the topic of a recent article that I wrote for Forbes.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Are you guys going to ignore all the quasi-experimental evidence on the benefits of schooling forever?

You guys are economists and you repeatedly use a couple of anecdotes as they were good evidence.