Wednesday, October 12, 2011
What? You don't care if your kids go to college? What kind of parent are you?!
I read this great article the other day and it got me thinking. I know it may be shocking, but I really don't care if my kids go to college or not. I mean, I want them to be educated, but college is just one of many possible paths to get there. My goals for them are very simple: to grow up to be happy, to stay curious and love learning, and to be good people. If college fits into that picture for them, great. If not - also great.
I went to college right after high school, but after a semester I realized I really had no idea what I wanted to do, and therefore had no specific goal to work toward. I couldn't decide what classes to take. So I didn't go back... until about half a decade later. I then spent 4 years working full time and going to school part time, and got an Associate Degree in Computer Networking and Maintenance. At that point I was on the fence about continuing to work towards a Bachelor's Degree but finally decided not to, because I was tired of putting aside things I really wanted to read and learn, in order to complete required reading that wasn't interesting and busy work that wasn't useful. I realized I could always keep learning on my own in other ways. Once I made that decision I felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders, and it felt good to have chosen that freedom for myself. I kind of became a twenty-something unschooler.
If my kids do choose college, I strongly feel that they should have to pay for a significant amount of their own educations so they're invested in the results - I know plenty of people who partied their way through college and completely wasted Mom & Dad's money. I had to pay for most of my own education and I was driven to get every dime's worth out of it - nothing less than straight A's was acceptable to me. If my kids know what they want to do and want to go to college, great - and I will gladly support them. But if it's not for them, I'm also fine with that. In the current day & age, I think what is more likely to be useful is a) actual work experience, even if that means starting at the very bottom - something which a lot of people seem to think is beneath them - and being the best darn whatever-it-is that they can be, and b) more specific technical training / work skills / certifications which can be acquired by taking a few classes in specific areas as needed, rather than taking a whole roster of courses where maybe only 30% of the classes are actually relevant to the job desired.
And my Associate Degree? I got it in 2003 and I'm still making payments on my student loans. Even though I finished with a GPA of 3.98, I didn't feel like I could represent myself as a qualified "expert" to get a job in my field. I lacked confidence in that education I had worked so hard for (and paid so much for). So I chose to stay at the company I've been with for the past decade+ because I like the work and the people I work with, and the pay is decent. And once I had kids, they offered me the flexibility to work part time at pretty much whatever hours are convenient to me. For me, it turned out to be a really good choice. The degree though? Well, maybe I'll use it someday...