I am fairly upset with the American education system.  No not because of its poor quality and how it is quickly falling behind other nations, but because it has become a necessity to go to college.  There has been a trend in the past couple decades that the US has decided a college education is a right and a necessity, not a privilege and a choice.  Yes it’s hypocritical to hear this from a kid who goes to one of the most expensive and privileged universities in the nation, but ignore that for a second.  All across America kids take out insane loans in order to go to schools that teach them arbitrary facts across such a broad range of subjects that it is insanely hard to recall that information a couple years down the road.  Last summer I interned for the Club Monaco (a Ralph Lauren subsidiary) finance team.  My tasks were eclectic, but most had essentially nothing to do with what I had learned in school.  I looked at income statements, sure, but they had their own accounting system which I learned on the job, not in a classroom in Taylor.  The ironic thing is that I needed to sit through those classes and memorize all this information in order to even get a chance of getting that internship in the first place.  Obviously this isn’t true with all majors.  The hard sciences and mathematics majors should probably ignore this post (that means you, Matt), but for me and my career, the classroom is not the best place to learn.

Let’s stop pretending that college is something that it is not.  It is a transition and development period in a young adult’s life.  It gives us four years to find out who we are and what we want to be.  A couple weeks ago Professor Comas wrote in a blog post that we take grades too seriously, and I wholeheartedly agree with that.  I have learned tons at Bucknell, but the important stuff that will help me in my future cannot be written on a test or graded by a professor.  The classes that I have learned from the most are the ones that we debate topics whose roots stem far away from a textbook.  These conversations are not limited to an 8 and half by 11 sheet of paper and are founded in the real world.  Is Bucknell worth the price? Perhaps, but the majority of its value is located outside the classroom.

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9 responses »

  1. Lindsey F. says:

    I definitely agree with your point. I had an internship last summer where I used general understanding of principles I learned at school but had to adapt to the company itself. And yes, I think that’s what college is about. Preparing you to be able to adapt to different environments. But the problem is, to get to those different envrionments, you have to have good grades. Which is why everyone here is so obsessed with their grades (me included). So how does this trend stop? Because I think everyone would be happier if they actually wanted to learn the information for personal gains rather than grades.

  2. Charles says:

    I agree with your point that college has become a necessity rather than a privilege and a choice. The most interesting question I thought you rose is whether or not Bucknell is worth the price. Its hard because like you said many things we learn can not be reduced to a grade on a piece of a paper. But, today our world is structured in such a that it is very difficult to be successful in a certain field and not go to college. This leads me to believe that maybe the solution is reform in the education system. The education system could possibly attempt to make school less traditional and more geared toward modern times to better meet the needs of its consumers–students.

    • Loukas T says:

      Thinking of students as consumers is a awesome idea. I never really thought of it that way. I feel like college is in a weird stage where the university aims to make both the parents and the student happy. Obviously our parents and us have a different idea of what we want from college so it’s almost a compromise in the end.

  3. wesmw says:

    You bring up some really great points in your post. I definitely agree with you that the best learning takes place outside of the classroom. Over the course of my Bucknell career I’ve had three internships that I learned much from. However, the amount of knowledge or experience that I applied to these internships did not come from anything that I learned in the classroom at Bucknell aside from some excel stuff. However, I do not think that this is an isolated problem at Bucknell. As you mention this is a problem with the whole American education system.

  4. Matt says:

    I actually agree with you, Loukas. Contrary to what you said, engineering is actually very similar to the situation you mentioned regarding your internship; employers don’t really care about individual skills you learn (since everyone, like you said, does it their own way , and every job has a learning curve anyways), they just want to see that you “made it” and have decent grades. Engineering is not a skill set, just like accounting isn’t learning balance sheets or biology is learning the scientific method; it’s a thought process.

    But that is where America has gone wrong. College is supposed to teach you how to THINK, not how to perform certain skills in certain jobs. Employers treat college like it’s only a place to gain competency, not as a place for people who wanted higher education to learn critical reasoning. I read this horrible story a few weeks ago about a girl who had graduated from a relatively reputable four-year school with a B.A., and after school the only job she could get was as a paralegal’s assistant. The job description was literally just politically-correct wording for an office monkey/file bitch/copy troll, with occasional delving into Microsoft Office and probably a lot of coffee runs. This is the kind of stuff I was doing in middle school to help my dad out (i.e. keep me out of the house and give my mom a chance to regain her sanity), and her salary was barely enough to pay the bills, let alone pay off all those insane college loans.

    And that is why you have people like the president saying that every child “can and should go to college.” This is completely misleading, and we need to reverse this trend quickly. A high school education needs to be enough to start a decent career, while college is a chance for the more intellectually-minded to grow and enter fields requiring a little more academic rigor. And I agree that a majority of what you learn is from practical wisdom and extracurriculars, not in the classroom. But for now, let’s put an end to assuming college is the only gateway to a livable future and bring it back to its traditional roots.

    Sorry for the novel…

  5. Abby says:

    I completely agree with your comment about not necessarily needing what we learn in the classroom for “real life.” I interned at an advertising agency last summer, and like you, found that I really didn’t use anything that I had learned in school on the job. At the same time, however, I still think that college is still very important to creating successful individuals in the long run, because it makes us broader people. Sure, if I went into my profession right out of high school, I could probably learn on the job and do just fine. But that narrow profession would be all that I knew, and eventually, particularly if and when I wanted to rise to higher positions in the company, a narrow view could become a major problem.

  6. Jordi says:

    If you are consumers and I provide a service, it utterly up ends the educational mission as we normally understand it. For example, why not just give higher grades to those who pay more?

  7. Jordi says:

    Plus, who are the consumers? You? Whoever paid for your education? Future employers and grad schools?

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