Let’s take today to acknowledge the end of the academic year. Mine actually ended a few weeks ago; those in elementary and secondary schools still have some time left. Overall, though, how would one evaluate the state of American education? I know someone in my position is not supposed to say this, but let’s be honest: we’re in trouble.
Our society is doing its best to convince almost everyone who graduates high school that they need to go to college. I realize my own livelihood might be in jeopardy if I counter this trend, but based on what I’ve seen of college students, there are a good many of them who should be doing something else. From a Christian point of view, it’s important to recognize that one should follow the path God lays out, and that could be far different than following the herd into college.
There are many occupations for which a college degree isn’t required. For instance, my undergraduate degree was in radio, tv, and film production. Yet, frankly, I could have gotten my first job in broadcasting without that degree. What was my primary “takeaway” from those four years? The same as a lot of graduates today:
Now, that doesn’t apply to my later degrees: I needed my master’s and doctorate in history to be a professor, and those experiences were valuable. It all depends. My concern is that we shove people toward college without sometimes considering the options.
Then there’s the preparation for college. How many students are really ready for any type of rigorous intellectual activity? Again, I’m not supposed to say things like this, but let’s be real: when I teach a room full of freshmen and sophomores a survey course in American history, are they really primed to tackle the kind of reading and studying necessary for genuine learning? All I have to do is look at the rate at which students withdraw from those courses before the end of the semester to answer that. For those who stay to the end, what is the failure rate? I won’t divulge any statistics here, but it can be discouraging. Those who work hard and succeed often tell me they’ve never learned so much in a course before, and they are grateful for the standards I hold. That is satisfying.
But if you follow the trends, you know our society has become so “sensitive” that we don’t want to hold anyone very accountable anymore. We wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. While the following cartoons may be stretching the point somewhat, the reason they can be funny is because we recognize the element of truth in them:
We are killing ourselves as a people. Time to wake up and see the damage we are doing.