The Gospel Of College: Is College Right For Your Kid? Part 1

by Queenie on August 5, 2010

Image of QueenieYou might be thinking are you really asking me if college is right for my kid? And, subconsciously your probably saying of course it is! You can be honest. I’m sure the title threw you off a tad bit, but something about it sparked your interest. Besides, you’re a lil shocked yet curious as to why a fully- credentialed teacher would ask a parent this question. But, don’t worry it’s just me being me; I’ve asked more provocative questions than this.By now I’m certain that you’re pretty acquainted with my personality so you know that I’m full of passion but packed with relevant and thought provoking information. But, if this is your first time to Tandem Teaching, can you trust me for minute before you blow me off. Before we start our exploration I have just one request.   Please take off ‘your thinking’ cap and follow me down the yellow brick road.

Wearing that thing, which most of us got in school, impedes our ability to think about this subject with fresh eyes. Here we go! To be honest, I’ve been simmering for sometime with the idea of posing this question to you, but I wasn’t completely sure on how you’d take it. But with a reality check from Patrick, I got myself right on ta-getha. I realized that you joined this community to hear truth not some regurgitated hogwash that you can find everywhere else. So with that being said, it’s my duty, my call, and the highest honor to be authentic and give you tips, tricks and strategies on how to raise children who are creative and dynamic thinkers (I know a lil dramatic.)

So your dying to know what is this post all about?

Essentially, I’ve started to realize that a new gospel has arrived on the scene. Gone are the days where the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are being preached in schools, but a radically different gospel, one that I’d argue is damaging and intrusive to the natural order of humanity. I’ve affectionately named it the gospel of college. Yep, I said it, the gospel of college.Its preachers are teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, and the like. And, its apostles are the trustees of the College Board. Its sacred place of worship happens to be private schools, charter schools, and public schools.

Interesting thought, you’re thinking. Think about this, from the moment your child attends the local place of worship (memba that’s a code word for schools) they are being bombarded with the premise of this new religion. All aspects of school are geared toward this idea, redemption; I mean success comes only to those who attend to college. I believe the verse can be found in the ‘holy’ book of S.A.T 3:16-17, Ahem please stand, and it reads:‘College is the way, the truth and the light and any person seeking to live a worthy life shall heed to the call. College is thy ultimate goal, a feat achieved by only the strong at heart. Upon graduation ye shall be deemed a citizen and receive your full rights as a member of society’

I know you’re starting to wonder what’s the big deal, maybe even starting to raise your eyes brows a little bit more, but trust that were going somewhere with this.

Millions of kids around the country have been told that college is the most important decision that they will ever make in their life. They are flooded with phrases which read like gospel tracts- your life will be better, you will get a higher paying job, and you will be able to compete in a global economy. Blah blah blah, check it out for your self hereBut the truth of the matter is that college in itself doesn’t bring about a miraculous transformation in one’s humanity.

Success, provision, and one’s ability to survive are not contingent upon college attendance, albeit some of these qualities exhibit themselves in those of us who have college degrees, but can we say for certain that they are a direct result of a college degree? We will save that question for another conversation, but we can agree that it’s certainly not the only place that one can develop these traits.

I’d actually be willing to bet a dolla, that you will find more people who have found there Zen, Chi or enlighten self at a quicker and greater rate than those of us who do have degrees.But for the purpose of this course imagine your child as a senior in high school. Hold a steady image in your mind; I know that as a mom you have no other desire than to make sure you do what’s best for your child. You’ve been told by the ministers of this gospel that college is what all responsible high school graduates must do- but before you settle on that belief, I’m asking you to take a step back and ask yourself these seven questions:

  1. What doors of opportunity will my child receive by attending college? (Actually write them out, don’t assume)
  2. What is the actual job security rate for people with college degrees? (Have you looked at any real data?)
  3. Will college actually promote my child’s happiness and guide them towards their passion? (Survey people around you what level of happiness do they have post college)
  4. Will college allow my child to pursue their dream or delay it? (Be honest no one is looking)
  5. Does my child need to go to college to work in their field of choice? (This is a big one, I’m not talking about the contingency plan)
  6. How much debt will my child be in at the tender age of 22? (Side note, the average graduate comes out with 23k but at USC its 55k)
  7. How long will it take my child to recoup his/her financial investment into college? (I’ll help you do a lil math, with high-unemployment rate & the median household income being around $42,000, okay I’ll stop this isn’t starting to look good, lets just say its gonna take about 30 years)

There are other questions, however this is a good list to start with. I’m being sarcastically serious in wanting you as a mom to think about the messages that schools are sending to your child and the ones that you might even be reaffirming. My goal is not to wipe away your college dreams for your child but rather to expose you to the dogma that has been attached to sending your child to college; that its “the most promising route for your child to live a happy, prosperous and successful life.” I’m trying to provoke you to question these so-called benefits or reasons on why you should become a deacon of this gospel and promote a college education.It’s okay to do some investigation about this system beyond college applications and admission policies.

I want you to know that college is an option, BUT it’s just that, an option, implying that there are many others.

Ultimately, I want you to know that its perfectly okay for you to ask your child the question ‘is college the right choice for you?’I say to you Selah, (pause & calmly think on these things) don’t arrive at a conclusion just yet. Follow me as we explore this five-part series on the Gospel of College. In the mean time drop me a note in the comment box and let me know your initial thoughts, you know I like quality dialogue. Stay tuned for part 2, it will be juicy!


Megan August 5, 2010 at 8:18 am

Bravo Queenie! I love the topics you have raised with this post. Need to let it simmer in my head a bit before I say more.
The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer), a post by Seth Godin, is another fascinating side of this issue.
Megan´s last blog post ..Wednesday Wisdom

Liz August 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

Wow… this is a ballsy question to ask! As a mom with a kid in a waldorf school I can tell you the big question on parents’ minds is whether keeping their kid in this kind of school will hurt their chances at getting into a ‘good college’ and all the benefits that are alleged to occur after that.
It seems to me that at this point, a college degree is becoming what a HS diploma was a generation or two ago: a credential that assures a potential employer that you have basic skills in reading, writing and math, and are responsible enough to have made it to enough classes and done enough homework to pass them.
With the state of public education as it is, I don’t think anyone would necessarily assume that someone with a HS diploma had these basic skills.
I can also say that I think the emphasis on college is a prime way to scare parents into opening their wallets for tutoring, test prep, coaching for entrance essays, and even extra-curricular activities to show the ‘well-roundedness’ of the applicant.
My guy is only 10, so we’re a ways away from this decision, but I love the questions you posed!
Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Jane August 5, 2010 at 11:12 am

You nailed it!

College is an option. Not the only game in town.

Ariel Kirkland August 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Wow. This post is so on target! The evangelical metaphor for the “gospel of college” is hilarious and ingenious.

I am not a parent who is making these decisions, but I have matriculated through undergraduate and graduate school, am 80K in debt and not practicing in my areas of study (which, by the way, is not an anomaly). Even my father told me that most students do not study in an area related to their current profession!

I just finished writing a blog about how my passion for event design was first sparked when I was 18, but my parents very promptly reminded me “that’s not what we’re sending you to college for.” Although I’m truly thankful for the development of my analytical and critical thinking skills, and exposure to racial and political discourse; I could have spent that 6+ years developing my brand, networking and receiving training in the event industry.

To that end, college can hinder the path of a child if the parent is not sensitive to the innate gifts and talents of their children- as described in Patrick’s entry “I Could Have Been A Dancer.”

Queenie August 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm

@Liz, its such a weird place to be in when you have your kid in a system that you really believe in but there is the “real world” and you don’t want to set them up for failure. Oh boy! I can hear this dilemma. The other ideas that you present on “the emphasis on college is a prime way to scare parents into opening their wallets for tutoring…” is a great point. To that end, its very scary to think that the first 2 years at most state colleges are filled w/ remedial work.

Heather August 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Very interesting and great topic. It is funny because my mother just sent me an article on the same topic. I think college isn’t for everyone. I myself didn’t go to a four year college and my knowledge is from on the job experience. I looking back on it would have liked to have gone to college. I feel there are things I might have gotten a bit earlier on in life. But for my son I feel it depends on his interests. College is a choice. The things you learn in college can be learned in life experience also. I just think it is important to work on your passions. Focus on what you are good at and if you need to go to college to refine that skill then do it. Otherwise look for life experience to learn more where ever you can. Check out this article.

Megan August 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Just read this on The Awl
“According to at least one math-doer, Americans have a total of $826.5 billion in “revolving credit”—largely credit cards. The current estimated total of outstanding student loans, both federal and private? $829.785 billion.”

Megan August 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Wow – this is a worse article. From the Wall Street Journal –
Its about parents making payments on college student loans even after their son died.
Megan´s last blog post ..How to Make a Healthy Lunch Your Kid Will WANT to Eat

Queenie August 9, 2010 at 6:29 pm

This story is beyond my comprehension. They are calling to ask about his estate and their child has died, I am at a loss for words. No son, and 85K worth of debt. SMH

Ariel Kirkland August 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm

After reading the articles submitted by Megan and Heather, I am deeply troubled. Even though the alternatives presented in Mr. Altucher’s article are simple and thought-provoking, they only ring true for the affluent who can provide that type of “jumpstart” for their children.

However, there is a way for “average joe/joann” to work the alternative. A former co-worker of mine who began her career after high-school as an admin asst. for a law firm, spent her salary on her tuition at a community college, got a better job after completion of her AA, transferred to another school and paid for her BA with cash. She was younger than me and made twice the amount of money I did by gaining work experience, while I was a graduate school intern in the very same department!

We are being dooped!
Ariel Kirkland´s last blog post ..Child’s Play