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Your Kids Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Education

We are currently living in an era where innovation and experience are valued more than college education when employers decide whether or not they will hire a candidate. In fact, jobs within the tech industry (which pay well over $200k) often hire recent high school graduates. All you need is an understanding of where technology is headed, how you can be onboard during the transition, and the wherewithal to jump at the right moment.

The myth of education

There was a time when having a college education represented prestige and a guarantee that one would secure a well-paying job. It was as if a college degree was the magic weapon in achieving great happiness and wealth. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Positions that require certain degrees, like positions within the medical field and legal profession, are saturated with individuals who are willing to take anything just to pay their inflated student loan debt.

To make matters worse, most students go to college because they can’t imagine what life would be like if they didn’t. Students rarely have an idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives after they graduate from high school, and they are equally as confused once they finally graduate from college. Additionally, college does not set a person up for understanding the groundwork of entrepreneurial life and what it takes to make a business survive.

Sure, a person will learn the basic business skills that are the foundation for running a business administratively, but how does this play a role in the structuring of relationships, partnerships, and financial advocacy? It doesn’t, and it was never meant to. College primarily sets most students up for a life of working for others who probably never attended a 4-year institute—and who instead, went off to gain valuable skills working in the industry in which they ultimately started their own company.

Why college isn’t for everyone

It’s time to stop forcing your belief of what college can do for others onto the world around you. Although college serves some, you must acknowledge that it indeed does not serve others and, as such, should not be considered the only option after graduating from high school. As a matter of fact, most startup companies today are founded by young millennials who are tech-savvy and money hungry.

According to Forbes, the millennial generation is shaping the modern workforce, creating jobs through innovative start-ups, and getting paid a lot of money for doing so. They aren’t afraid to take the necessary risks required to plunge into the world with only an idea, drive, and a bit of passion. Although skills are necessary, most positions are hiring other young individuals without skills because they are willing to train.

Is college the best move?

College is a great move for certain people. The only issue is when we somehow fall victim to the idea that college is a great move for all people, regardless of what the person wants to do. We throw our antiquated views of how the world operates onto those of a younger generation and then get upset when they refuse to fall in line with OUR way of thinking.

The only way to know what’s best for someone else is to actually take the time to ask them. If they don’t know, then give them the room necessary to figure it out through the life experiences that will come forth for them. Life is the best teacher; and from life, we learn patience, strategic thinking, and critical reasoning—all of which are necessary to successfully operate an effective business.

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About Audra L.

Audra L. is an author, columnist and community activist who's dedicated to finding truth through research and effective communication. She received her degree in Public Policy and teaches Community Development, Public Speaking and Communications Law to youth throughout the nation. She is the recipient of over 23 awards and honors for her commitment to community outreach initiatives.

7 comments

  1. You seem to assume that the purpose of college is to get a good paying job, and actually, most studies show that while initially the high school grad and college grad may be on equal footing or perhaps the skilled high school grad even earns more, over their lifetimes, the college educated person will earn more.

    But more importantly, when did college become equated with vocational training? The purpose of a good education is to create inquiring minds capable of sifting through information and arguments in a rational manner. A good education addresses social contract theory, the nature of a just society, how others live, our political history, the importance of art and music, conducting scientific inquiry, and a host of other skills and understanding.

    Life, as you say, teaches many things, some good, some not so good. And if “life” is the best teacher why get an education at all? Rarely will a young person ever again have the opportunity to broaden their horizons that they have in a college filled with diverse viewpoints and classes in things they perhaps never even thought of before.

  2. “In fact, jobs within the tech industry (which pay well over $200k) often hire recent high school graduates. All you need is an understanding of where technology is headed, how you can be onboard during the transition, and the wherewithal to jump at the right moment.”

    I work in the tech industry – I’m a web programmer, been working as a .Net developer for about a decade now, and I can say that this is definitely *not* standard and is bad advice to give to a high school student who wants a career as a programmer. Not only do the overwhelming majority of jobs require a college degree (and more and more they require a CS degree, which is unfortunate for my industry) but the idea that the $200k+ jobs are available for entry-level high schoolers is out of touch with reality. While I’m sure that there exist some high schoolers who have managed to get that, they’re by far the exception (and generally they’ll be people who’ve been developing commercial code of their own that they’re selling and are already successes).

    Also, while I wish that there were less of a focus on college education for programmers, there are some things which are best learned in that type of setting (in part because making mistakes won’t hurt anybody else – struggling for a few hours/days/weeks because of a stupid off-by-one error won’t cost a business anything).

  3. It is fascinating that someone who makes clear in her bio that she went to college is now using those skills to teach people that -surprise!- perhaps they should not bother going to college.

    Ms. L is nevertheless correct that a 4 year college degree may not be appropriate or necessary for everyone, but let’s be clear about a few of things: 1) the likes of of a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg are exceedingly rare and the timing of their ideas was a huge factor in their success, 2) not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or business owner. And, like it or not, our society needs large numbers of people willing to work for a wage, 3) the U.S. has done a terrible job of helping young people acquire skills that may mitigate the need for a college education (see Germany as a better model), and 4) much hiring is based on the existence of a college degree and that bias is not likely to change anytime soon. Google may indeed hire employees without a college degree, but they nevertheless have somehow acquired skills and aptitude not possessed by the average entry level applicant.

    A college system that saddles students with huge levels of debt upon graduation and/or is increasingly only affordable by families of means, is neither sustainable nor fully serving the purpose for which it is advertised (socioeconomic advancement). Nevertheless, the author’s comments might have been more meaningful had they focused more on existing or needed alternative strategies (e.g., 2 yr. community colleges, trade schools, apprenticeships, etc.) that would have greater application to the larger group of young people not destined to be the next Bill Gates.

  4. I completely agree with you.
    My advice to a new HS grad is to save some money and travel the world for a year or two and then start working in an entry level job in a field that you love.
    That’s what I think after 75 years and 50 countries.

    • “Save money” and “travel the world for a year or two” are at odds with each other. Maybe 75 years ago it was possible though?

  5. Great article. I agree 100% on most points. I also agree with one of the responses in college is great for some people but not all people. I personally went off to college in 1975 not having a clue what I was going to do in life. I majored in Vocal Music mainly due to that was my focus in high school and the university offered me a scholarship (not much) in that field after I auditioned for the heck of it. I wish I had not gotten the scholarship; maybe then I would have gone into college with a more open mind about “what do I want to be when I grow up”. I had a lot of fun for 5 years though; frat parties, campus activities; just an extension of high school for me really.

    I have long believed this country would be better off requiring all 18 year olds to spend two years in service for their country following the model of Israel. I do not mean military service necessarily but some time of service; build out a program that works like a “Peace Corp for the USA”. Why not do something good for out country (working with older folks, impoverished areas, etc.) while growing up into a young adult. This would be a great transition from HIGH SCHOOL to LIFE.

    Most people would have a better chance of choosing a career path at age 20 than 18. Not all people need this model for for many it might mean a great difference in a more productive life.

    Just saying…….

    • We have a “Peace Corps for the USA” – it’s called Americorps, I’ve known a number of people who went into it, but the problem is that people right out of high school have very few skills. It’s not their fault, but they haven’t had the time to learn a trade, or a profession. If they’re under a lot of supervision, they can generally do manual labor, or basic tasks, but most things require at least a year or so of training to really be good at it. Most of what is needed in the US isn’t unskilled manual labor, but moderately skilled and highly skilled labor. Things like nurses for the aging population, engineers for road and bridge infrastructure, environmental scientists for evaluating our use of natural resources, teachers – and good teachers, not just warm bodies in classrooms, we need the things that require education and training.

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