The following first appeared in PanamPost, you can read the original article here
I have written before about the college bubble in the United States and where it may lead. The current problems in the college system are pretty obvious, just as Mark Cuban stated in an interview last week. How this giant college debacle unfolds will have huge implications and may lead to entirely new ways of looking at education, not only in the university system but with schooling overall.
The College Hoax
For the last few generations in the West, the prestige of earning a college degree has been diminishing. It has now reached a tipping point where the cost of going to college far out-weighs the benefits. Many people do not realize the vast changes that are happening around them, not just in education but in all sectors of the economy.
Young people have been told by their well-meaning parents and university administrators that going to college is a requirement for being a productive member of society. They have also been told that your earnings are correlated with the level of degree you attain. If you have been to school in the last ten years you are probably familiar with the graph that looks something like this:
Ironically enough, a first-year statistics course will help you dispel this fallacy. Correlation is not causation, and I would say that this correlation has more to do with the smart and well-connected members of society being able to earn more money, whether or not they hold a degree. Bill Gates, for instance, dropped out of Harvard, which in fact increased his ability to make his fortune. Today, this is even more pronounced, not only because the cost of college education has gone up but also how far removed from the market these learned skills have become. In today’s word, real-world experience is more valuable than wasting time and money on a common degree.
With a bachelors degree’s in hand, most are then abandoned in an economy where the “secure jobs” they were promised are no where to be found. These “secure jobs” where part of a three-legged stool (Social Security, 401k, company pension) that is now eroding and will likely be completely pulled out from most of those that bought into it. The fact is the economy is weighed down with taxes and regulation, and the baby boomers are not leaving their jobs to be replaced by the next generation because they are unprepared for retirement.
Once a student graduates, they have six months before they need to start repaying the loan. What does that mean for those unable to find that cushy job they were waiting for within those six months? They decide to pile on more debt and go back to the carefree college life for another degree. This only postpones the pain and creates a cycle of debt that thousands of students are now trapped in. The results of this cycle can be seen in the ever increasing student debt which now sits at US$1.2 trillion.
Based on my own conversations with students, when the rubber hits the road and these students finally do need to find a job to payback their debt, many are unable to do so and will simply default. I have written about the potential consequences of this phenomenon in my previous article.
The current university system is on an unsustainable path, and we have better alternatives in today’s technological landscape.
The Schooling of People
Although many people are able to admit that there are problems with the university system, and that it may not be the best decision in today’s world, compulsory K-12 schooling is still very much a sacred cow. It is practically heresy to suggest that children not attend.
This effort is not just my suspicion but has been well documented by authors such as John Taylor Gatto, Charlotte Iserbyt, and Murray Rothbard. You can watch this priceless video interview with John Taylor Gatto, where he talks about every aspect of the school system that he was once a part of. TheSchool Sucks Project is also a great place to go to learn about the problems with the current education system. Many people are upset about the implementation of Common Core, but this is just one example of an agenda that has gone on for decades to clamp down on imagination and individuality.
It’s funny that the only other time we use the word “school,” we are referring to a school of fish that think and swim together in unison, as one monolithic group. From my observation, current schools serve the same purpose in stamping out imagination and creativity, in order to instill obedience and the ethics that pleases the tribe.
Giving up children to strangers to be taught in large classes for 15,000 hours is something that is unique in human history and is not adequate in providing the amount of attention a child needs during their formative years. The denigration of the system has turned many public schools into what are now essentially child prisons that busy parents use as a babysitting services. I believe we’re at the point now where sending your child to some of these institutions could be considered a form of child abuse.
For these reasons, I see the K-12 schools, along with the current university system, unfit for the technological times that we live in.
New Tools for Education
Here are some examples of some of the educational tools that can be used to get children ready for a new, more connected, and globalized world. There are countless more, but these are a good start to understand the resources that are out there.
Travel: Traveling is one of the greatest educations that you can have. Learning new languages and meeting people from different cultures is what I would consider to be one of the most important skills in today’s globalized economy. To succeed in the volatile markets of today, where the global powers are constantly shifting, you need to be able to go where there is opportunity.
This may even mean leaving the country where you were born. It is an idea that many find unfathomable, unless they have had the experience of traveling when they were younger and realize that their city and country are not the center of the universe. Travel is now easier than ever through budget airlines and a vast array of websites that make it easy to navigate and communicate with people in different areas. Before traveling to a new country, study the language for free with Duolingo.
YouTube: YouTube is never ending amount of information on almost any subject. I have now made it a normal routine to spent a night or two watching all the videos I can find on a given subject when I want to learn a new skill. The incentive-driven nature of YouTube, funneling traffic from a video back to the user’s own website, has caused all kinds of information to be available for free at only a click away.
Khan Academy: This is a free online resource where you can take courses in practically any subject. You can go at your own pace, and even sign up for a coached class where someone will help guide you through it.
The Great Courses: This is a phenomenal company that provides physical DVD or streaming video courses taught by some of the top people in their respective fields. They are entertaining and interactive. I have learned photography, mixology, and music theory from courses that I have taken through this company.
Academic Earth: This also features free video courses from the world’s top scholars.
Homeschooling with Netflix: Netflix is a great way to supplement homeschooling by adding in documentaries at appropriate times. One great example is using the book series The History of the World, along with this list of Netflix documentaries that go along with it.
Unschooling: This is a style of education that is done at home, but does not rely on a teacher or a curriculum. It is the belief that real learning comes from pursuing one’s own interests through play, internships, work experience, books, travel, etc. There are various networks of unschooling parents all over the world that are there to support each other. A good way to get started on the subject is by listening to The Unplugged Mom podcast.
The Trivium/Quadrivium: I cannot emphasis this topic enough. The trivium is the basis of the liberal arts, as opposed to the practical arts. The trivium is made up of grammar, logic and rhetoric — in that order — and teaches one how to comprehend, scrutinize, and correctly convey ideas to others. The quadrivium is the study of numbers and is made up of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The study of these seven liberal arts is the key to understanding and communicating about the world around us. A great resource to find out more about these methods is triviumeducation.com, or you can download the trivium binder and get started right away.
A New Age in Education
We presently have the tools to completely change the face of education. The only things holding us back from fully implementing these new techniques are awareness and the psychological borders people have been trained to believe in. In today’s economy, it is more important than ever to think as entrepreneurs and harness innovation as it becomes available. The amount of opportunity out there for an autodidact is hard to fathom, as we are swimming in a sea of information.
Whether or not the college bubble bursts in the coming years, using these new resources is the smart thing to do. Hopefully, we will see more people opting for alternative ways to educate themselves and their children, and we can have more competitive and responsive services in this area. Until then, use them yourself, and follow your own passions and interests.