The Theory of College: Do We Really Need It?

Every child is urged to go to college these days.  I was always under the impression that college is the key to being successful in life.  Meanwhile, I find my step dad to be very successful, and he didn’t have a college degree.  Come to think of it, there are people all around me that didn’t go to college, yet they seem pretty happy.  So this got me wondering, is college really necessary?

burtontower010410-thumb-537x358-21757In the article Live and Learn by Louis Menand, there are three theories proposed concerning college.  The first theory says that only the best students can go to college.  It suggests that college is a four year intelligence test to filter out those who are not smart enough to be successful.  The second theory states that college is intended to give students a well rounded education, creating a society of like-minded individuals.  The third theory, the theory that I believe to be ideal, states that college is meant to give people the skills they need to work in a certain profession, and that occupations should only require vocational school or certain college classes to be taken.  This theory says that not everyone should go to college, just the people that pursue a profession that requires the skills acquired through a college education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of students coming out of high school end up going to college.  Many of these students are only going to college because they were told they have to, not necessarily because they want to.  In the past, people would go to college in order to work in elite professions, such as becoming a doctor or lawyer.  Otherwise, most people could get a decent job right out of high school.  However, times have changed.  Now it seems as if you need a college degree in order to get a decent job.  The problem is that students are now being told that they have to go to college, regardless of what they actually want to do for a career.  Plumbers and artists and electricians and mechanics are all going to college for what?  They only need to learn certain skills to be successful in their careers.  This is why I support Menand’s third theory.  It is practical.  It is efficient.  It will save money.

080730-N-5277R-003People going into professions that only require certain skills should only have to learn those skills, not spend four years learning about things that might not matter in their careers.  My step father, for instance, is a firefighter and a paramedic.  He started his career without a college degree.  He took some classes and worked hard to pass his tests and earn his medic’s license (which has a 95% confidence requirement).  He became a successful fireman and has now worked for over twenty years with his department.  Now the department requires that new applicants have a bachelors degree in order to get hired in.  My step dad even had to get a bachelors degree in order to become a captain.  It took him six years to get his bachelors degree, for he was working full time and supporting a family of five at the same time.  The majority of the classes he took were not related to his job at all, such as the humanities classes he had to take, or the golfing class he took to fulfill a PE requirement.  Not only was he wasting his time in these classes, but both the township and my step dad spent money on these classes.  My step dad didn’t need to know about other religions or how to do calculus to become move on as a firefighter, but he was forced to.  There are thousands of people in the same situation.

College has become a gimmick, a way for public and private institutions to make billions of dollars just because people think they have to go to college.  Unfortunately, people really do need a degree if they want to be compete with other workers.  However, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Employers should stop requiring college degrees unless the material is actually necessary for that specific job.  People should be required to take certain classes or learn certain skills for their jobs.  Not everyone needs to go to college in order to do their job well.  Society is convinced that college will lead to success, meanwhile there are lots of people coming out of college without a good paying job.  Theory three would save people from going to college when they don’t have to.  Unlike the first two theories, theory three prevents people from spending four years in college before finding out exactly what they want to become.  Getting jobs shouldn’t be determined by who has the biggest diploma, it should be about who has the skills needed to be productive in that profession.

I found Menand’s third theory to be very ideal and productive compared to the way college currently impacts our society.  My point here is that college is not a necessity for everyone.  Menand’s article forced me to question whether I need to go to college, and I hope that this will allow others to question their education.  I am a firm supporter of the third theory, but I would love for others to make their own theories as well.  There are certainly more theories than the three that Louis Menand mentioned, but theory three sounded to me like it would work.  As I said before, it is something that is practical.  College should not be something that can hurt people.  It should only benefit those who truly need it.