Many of our readers know that we are homeschooling our children — unschooling them, actually. Some like to ask us the question “What will your children do about college? Will they be able to get in? Will they be adequately prepared?”
While studies show that homeschooled children typically have no issue getting into college, and actually succeed beyond their public-schooled counterparts, the answer is: we don’t necessarily want them to go to college at all.
Today (and for the last 10 or 15 years), it’s been considered necessary to go to college after high school. If you don’t go, there’s something wrong with you. All smart young people who wish to be successful in life must attend college. It is simply what you do after high school, before you start life. But I propose that college not only isn’t necessary (for many), it’s not even beneficial. I think we’ve all been suffering under what I call “the college delusion.”
College as a Lifestyle Necessity
Please understand. We won’t be discouraging our children, nor any other children, from attending college. We don’t believe that you “shouldn’t” go to college. What we believe is that you should attend college if and only if your future life plans require a college degree.
If you know you want to be a stay-at-home mom…you don’t need college. If you want to be a truck driver…you don’t need college. If you want to be an electrician…you don’t need college (though you will need trade school).
If you want to be a doctor…you do need college. If you want to be a computer engineer…you need college.
We will be encouraging our kids to figure out what they really want to do with their lives, and if needed trying out internships, apprenticeships, etc. so that they are sure of their path before choosing to go to college or not. Should they choose a path in life that requires college, we’ll do whatever we can to support them in going to the school of their choice. (We are saving money for all of them to go right now.) Should they choose a path that does not require college, then we’ll help them get any training or experience required for that path instead of college — be it an apprenticeship, trade school, or whatever.
That is how college should be seen: a form of education and training for a future career. Not a lifestyle necessity, which is how it is currently seen.
The Problem with “Everybody Goes to College”
Everyone’s complaining about how much tuition has gone up over the last couple of decades. The “solution” has been to offer more student loans.
Guess why the price is going up? Because demand is higher! When thousands of new students wish to go to college each year, colleges have to increase their staff, buildings, dorms, meal services, and everything else to compensate. Or, they have to turn many students away. College becomes more valuable, and so the price goes up. It’s simple supply-and-demand.
The more people who demand to go to college (even if they don’t need it, go in as “undecided” major and take 8 years to finish a bachelor’s degree), the more college will cost. This makes a college education harder to obtain for everyone. And that’s just one problem we’re facing.
A bigger problem is the pervasive attitude about college.
We have lied to our children (“our children” being my generation). We were told that if we did well in school and got into a good college, we’d get a degree (in anything) and we’d be guaranteed a good job. We’d make at least the national average of $40,000 a year right out of college. We’d be in demand because of our higher education!
Unfortunately, with a larger percentage of people with college degrees than ever before, that hasn’t exactly panned out. Many of the graduates also have degrees in fields that are not very in demand right now. Many of them are unable to find a job in their field. (The recession didn’t help either; people with 10+ years of experience were offering to work in entry-level jobs just to have a job in their own field. No one will hire a recent graduate over someone with that much experience, typically.)
These people (the 18 – 30 crowd) feel cheated and lied to. They were promised if they “did everything right” and got their education that they would be successful. Now they’re delivering pizzas and working at Home Depot. According to research conducted by companies that deal with cash advance apps, they also usually have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans that they have no means to pay back. Many can expect to be paying their student loans into their 40s, nearly until their own children will be facing a choice to go to college.
Meanwhile, skilled labor jobs, like construction, plumbing, electricians, etc. are desperately needing more employees. But these jobs aren’t valued because they are blue-collar jobs that do not require a college education. They are looked down upon. They pay perfectly decent salaries, but people don’t want to take them!
It has been suggested that to “fix the middle class” (a problem which I believe has been exacerbated, if not caused, by this college delusion) we ought to raise the minimum wage and make every job a “good job.” Well, there are lots of “good jobs” out there right now! Skilled labor jobs. (Which Mike Rowe has been desperately trying to bring attention to.) And raising the minimum wage only means inflation will get worse, and things will be even harder for the poorest people to afford.
College is Not the Answer
There are many paths to success in life.
It is not true that if you don’t go to college, you are somehow uneducated or dumb or lazy. A lot of people act that way, but that’s simply ridiculous.
We need farmers, plumbers, construction workers, garbage people, SAHMs, and all manner of other skilled and “unskilled” labor! If you are happy with your path in life and you can take care of yourself and/or your family (depending on your life situation), then you are a success. You do not need a piece of paper saying that you have knowledge to be considered successful.
I hate that we are telling our children there is this golden path to success — which is not even working out — and not allowing them to explore all the options available to them. I knew a guy in college who said “What I really like to do is sit on my [butt] and listen to music, and drive. I’d like to be a truck driver. But my mom would kill me.” So he put himself through a rigorous and expensive architecture program instead. What would have been wrong with being a truck driver? He would have enjoyed it, not had student loan debt, and made enough money to support himself!
If knowledge is what you’re after, you can take most college courses for free if you don’t expect anything from the college when you’re done. Reading books on your own is education. Attending workshops or learning from a friend is too! College isn’t necessary to gather knowledge.
College is also not a necessary part of the “life experience.” The “experience” people are talking about is basically an immature extension of adolescence. It glorifies drinking and partying and going on missions to “find yourself.” It pushes people to wait to “settle down” until they are in their late 20s to early 30s. And I have even heard some speak very rudely about those who choose a different path — how ‘crazy’ and stupid it is to choose to settle down in your early 20s because you “couldn’t possibly be mature enough.”
I find that very sad.
All people are ready at different times, of course, but we shouldn’t set our children up to expect to mess around and wait to start their “real” lives until they are nearing 30. Of course, this phenomenon could also be because of the angst that these young adults feel because their plans haven’t worked out the way they thought….
A Different Definition of Success
We’ll be teaching our children that working hard at whatever path they choose is what makes them successful.
If they go to college and earn a pH.d. and go on to become some world-renowned expert in something — that’s great!
If they are SAHMs or farmers or ditch diggers — that’s great too!
College is simply another potential tool in one’s arsenal. It is a way to get an education for certain paths in life. It is not the be-all, end-all experience that everyone must have. We need to stop glorifying it and return it to its place as a useful choice, but not one that trumps all others.
It’s time to start valuing hard work, parenting, blue collar labor, and familial relationships just as much as we value education now. I could say a lot more about our society’s warped values (just look at any TV show — watch Jeopardy and see who’s on there and what kind of questions they ask!), but I won’t.
We’re out to change things. We’re out to give our children a sense that who they are and their God-given talents are more important than society’s standards. We want them to enjoy and appreciate all the things in life that really matter. We want to feel strong and confident and not inferior if they choose a path that the world currently considers “lesser.”
And that is why we homeschool. That is why we unschool. That is why we expose them to a wide variety of people and work and all kinds of different things in this world. We want them to grow up knowing they have options, but that each of them is unique and each of their paths to success is equally valued.