Should Everyone Be Super

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Disney-Pixar movie, The Incredibles. The reason I bring up this classic movie (which has a killer soundtrack by the way), is because a certain quote in it: “If everyone’s super, no one is.” Most of the people I know don’t choose to live their life by a Disney movie saying, but maybe you should. Maybe the idea that nobody is amazing or special if everyone is can transcend more than just a super hero movie and help portray what I view as an epidemic in the American educational system.

“If everyone one’s super, no one is!”

You see, as I read Louis Menand’s essay, Live and Learn, I found myself thinking back to that oddly profound cartoon quotation. It’s a question I’ve been grappling for quite sometime and was finally able to articulate when I combined this essay’s theories of why people attend college with my own life experiences. It boiled down to this: If everyone attends college, does the degree they receive retain the same value?

This question started to form in my mind towards the beginning of my senior year of high school. I was filling out the Common App and hating my life when I started to wonder if college was really necessary. I soon determined that, for me, college (and the subsequent mountains of student loans) was a must, but as I looked around my graduating class, I saw a bunch of kids that were going to college without a clear cut path in mind or even a great desire to learn at a deeper more comprehensive level. They were simply going because “that’s what people did.”

I found myself agreeing whole-heartedly with the third theory that Menand proposed: college (for those with non-liberal arts oriented goals) should be a place to learn the skills needed for future careers. I agree that this should be the purpose of higher education for most people, and that vocational/technical schools should be included in this definition. But I would like to take it a step further and propose that not everyone should even attend these schools and that kids should be given the option to start specializing their educational track while still in high school.

I would like to make it clear that I’m not proposing the tracking method that is used in Europe. I don’t think kids should be set on a certain track in elementary school. But I do think that certain classes should not be required in high school for certain students. Take for example my really good friend. He hated math—despised it really. I understand his pain completely, but he already knew what he wanted to do after graduation and it didn’t require him to learn how to find the derivative of a function. He had an apprenticeship set up with the power company to learn how to check lines. It required

A lineman checks for circuit completeness.

him to understand circuits, but he couldn’t take the only class that offered taught that subject because he needed to fulfill his math requirement. This is just one example, but I think that our schooling needs to start being more specialized sooner so that the students who acknowledge that they aren’t cut out for the now “traditional” track of school can find great alternatives.

Besides providing alternatives for kids who don’t want to go to college or can’t go to college, we should also take a long look at how our culture consistently tells students that the need to go to college. I’m not trying to sound elitist at all, but not everyone should go to college; it’s not a one-size fit all career path. Not everyone needs a college degree, and not every job needs to hire someone who has one either. I look at it this way: if everyone has a college degree then the value of those who worked hard and actually garnered knowledge and skills and bettered themselves is diminished by those who just tried to do enough. I mean, if everyone has a college degree, then is it something “super” to achieve at all?

4 thoughts on “Should Everyone Be Super

  1. Your points are very interesting about high school, but there are a lot of kids who will specialize their schedule to avoid hard classes like math simply because they don’t want to work hard not because they have a career path in mind that doesn’t require such courses. This would be a major problem because these kids will limiting their future options.

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    • I totally agree with you that this is a possibility. I don’t propose doing the tracking method, but I think that when a person gets to be a sophomore or junior in high school, they should be allowed to start specializing if they so desire. If kids simply avoid harder classes like math because they want to take the easy way out, then the only person they are hurting is themselves. Besides, do you really want to put college educated people into the world that, if given the opportunity, would have taken the easy way out? I personally would want someone who tries something simply to challenge themselves but that’s just me.

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  2. The year before I started fifth grade — which was age ten in Finland — our school system changed so that we didn’t have to decide whether to enter a vocational/trade or college-bound track. For us, that decision now came at sixteen. The memory of those scary tracks makes me very much agree with Kevin. At the same time, I agree with Abby that there is something very problematic about college having become the default for anything. It’s not exactly inflation, but it’s similar: the value of the currency — a college degree — is declining. For those who go to college for the “right” reasons, it basically just means they’ll have to continue onto professional schools, whereas for Abby’s friend, it means years of unnecessary and tedious schoolwork.

    So I agree: maybe not everybody should go to college. But who should decide this? When? And how?

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  3. You bring up a really great point that I think many high school seniors, and even college students ponder. None of us really know for sure what we’re going to do in our future, so we don’t know if a college education would be worth it. Going to college just because everyone else doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to put in so much time and money. I’ll bring up the old quote, “If everyone jumped off of a bridge would you?”.

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