The school system is built upon assessment. It’s constantly assessing it’s students, giving them grades based on how well they match up to standards. No child left behind, race to the top, and common core are fundamentally based high stakes testing, evaluating students through their performance on multiple choice exams.
I’m not pointing fingers toward anyone specifically, but merely adding to a meaningful conversation that gets people to critically think about current system of education. I am not bashing on teachers, students or administrators in any way shape or form.
What is school for?
From a perspective that holds the grand scheme of economies and cultures in mind, the role of schools is to facilitate development of children into productive and powerful members of society by providing them with opportunities and access to resources for their learning.
The whole premise of education is to provide instruction so that children are prepared with knowledge and insight to the past, present, and future of our world.
However, the approach that most schools take is that they assess students like factories test products. As Ethan Young so eloquently put it, it works for products, transportation, etc, why doesn’t it work with students?
Check out this interview I did with NBC’s Education Nation to hear some more perspectives on college.
Ever since my shenanigan in kindergarten, I thought that I didn’t enjoy reading. In fact, most of my elementary school years I would stay as far away from books as I possibly could. I would only read when I was forced to for my English classes, because something in my mind told me that I wasn’t good at reading and that I didn’t enjoy it.
One day in high school, I picked up a self-help book, started reading the opinions and thoughts of authors on life, and I haven’t stopped reading since. Now, I read voraciously. I’ve been devouring whatever books I can get my hands on to try to see and be aware of as many perspectives as I possibly can. I can hardly read fast enough to keep up with the rate that I find new books to read.
What happened? You could argue that it was merely a point in my life that I found what I truly was passionate about, but a lot of my hesitation in reading stems deeper than merely not knowing what I wanted to learn.
Schools are set up to reward people who get good grades, and patronize people who get poor grades. People who do well in a certain subject gain the recognition and praise for doing well, therefore boosting their confidence in their ability to perform in the subject area. But people who do poorly in a certain subject often adapt a negative feeling toward the subject, simply because they didn’t receive a good grade in the subject.
How many times have you heard a student say “I hate math”?
Have you ever wondered if that student actually hates the subject of math, or if what they actually hate is that they received a poor grade in math?
By learning in a system that gives grades and places such a high value on the grade, the system teaches students to hate certain subjects as a defense mechanism to make them feel better for not doing so well.
I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a grading system. I believe that being able to chart and measure a student’s progress is a good thing. But the way that the current system of grades is set up can instill some pretty negative side effects into the very people that we’re trying to teach.
What if we were able to promote a system that inspires children to learn and explore the areas that they don’t score well in?
A lot of my friends recognize me as a quick learner, seeming to imply that I’m just lucky, as if I was born with an inherent ability to learn.
I wasn’t born a child prodigy. I didn’t have five thousand digits of pi coming out of my mouth at the age of three, and nor was I exceptionally gifted at anything. In fact, I was the last person in my kindergarten class to learn how to read.
This is a kindergarten progress report that my teacher wrote. It talks about how I have been unable to recognize my e’s. (Ironically I got the same comment about being unable to recognize my e’s in the next report too)
And even though I wasn’t always a fast learner, I had a curiosity that got me into a lot of trouble, both good and bad. My curiosity led me to explore airplanes, ask horrible questions, and completely annoy everyone who was within earshot.
It wasn’t a inherent ability to learn and retain information that got me to where I am today, but my undying curiosity.
There’s a huge difference between learning that driven by performance and learning that is driven by curiosity. Learning that is driven by performance will always value the results over the process, and only learn enough to get by. Learning that is driven by curiosity has no set goal in mind, because it seeks to learn with an open mind. Learning that is driven by curiosity will link new things together, causing a much more complete and holistic picture of the world.
That way, when new information is processed, someone with a more connected, intuitive sense will be able to make connections and learn things much faster than the person that is simply trying to memorize facts.
The role, price, and value of a university degree has been constantly changing.
The role, price and value of college and a degree are three aspects of post-secondary education should be considered objectively in order to keep an up to date, relevant perspective of education.
The Role of a Degree
The role of college is vastly different than it was fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, people attended college as a source for information because that was the only place that you could get it. The information given at school would prepare you for a career in the field of your choosing. College trained you to be a worker.
College degrees used to be seen as an elite sign of mastery and preparedness to work the job that you were trained for. In certain cases such as law or medicine, this is still the case. However, for all other cases, this has changed. The barrier of entry for many careers are now beginning to drop the requirement of a college degree.
College used to be the only way for people to get into or rise above the middle class, because it was seen as the way to secure a better future. There has even been claims that students who graduate from college make one million dollars more in their lifetime than people who don’t have a college degree.
However, in today’s world, the role of college is not as clear. Some people claim that college is a rite of passage for teenagers; a transition between childhood and adulthood. I’ve heard arguments that college is about learning to manage your own time, learning how to interact with people, and developing yourself personally.
One thing is for sure though, college today plays a very different role than it did fifty years ago, challenging a lot of the traditional notions of education.
The Price of a Degree
The next reason, price, doesn’t have too much debate around it. The cost of getting a degree has skyrocketed beyond belief. In fact, Chase is no longer making new student loans because the student loan market is no longer sustainable.
This is sad, because the price of a degree continues to rise. It isn’t uncommon for parents to begin saving up for their child’s college education the moment their child is born, or teenagers signing themselves into decades of debt to pursue a degree.
The Value of a Degree
In today’s world, a degree may help you get your foot in the door, but it doesn’t do much more than that. Millions of students are graduating with degrees, saturating society with an overabundance of students who have internship experience, degrees, and other things that make it difficult to properly assess a job applicant.
The general trend is that when more people have access to a certain product or service, the competitive edge of the product or service diminishes. The same is true for college degrees. The more people that have degrees, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish talent.
The fact that someone has a degree today doesn’t mean terribly much. Having a degree simply tells me that an individual spent a few years of their life doing homework and taking tests from an institution, and they did well enough on their exams to receive a piece of paper. A degree tells me nothing about a person’s work ethic, their dreams, their ability to communicate and work in a team, or even how much they actually know.
Ultimately, college isn’t for everyone, and I would argue that based on the price, value, and role, that it isn’t meant for most people.
Productive (adj) – having the power of producing; generative; creative: a productive effort.
Homework is something that has been done for generations. It is something given by teachers for students to do in order to solidify the concepts and skills learned in the classroom. Performance on homework has always been used as a standard across entire classes in order to compare people.
The goal of homework is from what I’ve gathered, twofold. One characteristic is to obtain practice and the other seems to be research.
The goal of practice is most evident in math, where homework is done to reinforce concepts and methods into a student. Practice is about doing things over and over until it becomes easy or natural.
The goal of research is about obtaining knowledge, and outputting it in some form, whether it be analysis or presentation. Research usually includes putting information into your own words, indicating that you understand the information.
These are all practical, beneficial learning goals, but the way that it is presented in homework is often very bland and unattractive, often leading to the exact opposite effect.
Homework that is done by an individual is usually one in thousands. All of their classmates have done the exact homework, and students for years beforehand have probably done the exact same homework assignment.
Homework isn’t generally a thing that is framed and cherished after it is returned. Homework is usually thrown away after it is finished, because there no longer is value in keeping it.
We’re stuck in a system of education that makes students perform among one standard. But no one in the workforce does this. Companies don’t do the exact same thing as other companies, and neither do employees do the same thing as each other.
So in the truest sense of the word, most homework assignments within the current education system don’t allow students to be productive, because students are spending their time doing the exact same thing as each other.
I would like to propose that if we allowed students to work on projects that carried significance in the world, giving them the freedom to be creative, then they would no longer be bored, uninterested, and disengaged in school.
If we allowed students to learn by solving problems that don’t yet have solutions in the world, we are unleashing them to truly learn and innovate for the future. Then the teachers job is not to be the one that lectures and grades, but the one who facilitates and asks questions.
Learning by doing homework is great, but learning by changing the world is greater.
This is the cost of attending UCSD for fall quarter of 2013. That is about $14661.87 more per year than what it cost to attend the University of California in 1956, or a 17554.6% increase.
Last school year, I attempted to find out where exactly the money being paid for tuition goes, and it took me nearly two weeks of searching, talking to administrators, before I finally found it somewhat deeply embedded inside a link on Google. I couldn’t even get a breakdown of where tuition goes.
Searching for a Breakdown of Tuition
It’s much more difficult than expected to obtain such a breakdown. I thought I would be able to find it online, but it was nowhere to be found. The next logical assumption would that I would be able to find out simply by walking into the registrars office and asking the secretary. When I walked in, it was quite alarming when I found out that most of the administration didn’t even know where our money was exactly going or even where to get the information.
Not only does this illustrate the weakness and frailty of a centralized, bureaucratic system, it also illustrates that students have been brainwashed to pay money into a black box without questioning where it goes. I was probably one of very few people to ever make such a request to the secretary at the registrars office that he gave me a funny look.
Second, the fact that no one was able to provide justification for charging me $4915.29 for tuition makes me question if the money is even used efficiently. There’s probably a higher chance than not that if administrators did release this information, students would be unhappy with how much superfluous money is being spent.
So my next step was attempting to talk to someone higher up in administration authority to find out. Unfortunately, I had no idea who to contact or where to start, so I turned to the “Uncollege Network” on Facebook for help.
The responses were overwhelming. The most helpful comment by far was a comment telling me to look on IPEDS. After a quick search, I found the breakdown I was looking for. It’s available for all schools online, but here is a quick taste of what I found for UCSD.
Looking through this information, I realized a couple of things. I first realized that the core revenues added up to be about $400 million more than core expenses, meaning there is about $400 million going unrecorded.
Out of 30,070 students, 53% take some sort of a loan averaging $5003. That’s nearly $80 million dollars in loans just for UCSD students in the year of 2011.
The College Education Bubble is Bursting
Chase recently announced that beginning in October, they will no longer be issuing new student loans.
This is extremely significant, because student loan debt is, not surprisingly, over $1 trillion. Banks are realizing that the money being lent for student loans are not being paid off, so it makes little sense for banks to give out money they won’t get back.
The value of a degree has diminished while the cost of it has skyrocketed.
But something deep inside our culture and our perceived value of a degree is keeping us from letting go of it. The irony lies in the fact that most people admit that college does an inadequate job of preparing for the real world, but people still need a degree to get their “foot in the door”.
The reason why companies and culture still see a degree as valuable isn’t because it means that a person is prepared for work, it’s because they have no idea how to compare people otherwise.
College education is in real need of a revolution.