Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a video link- scary food for thought


  1. Frankly I found this video absurd. My thoughts are below, feel free to edit/reduce (I tend to play Devil's advocate and can sometimes come across harsher than I intend)

    True - college is too expensive.

    Dentist who would rather be working at McDonalds -- scary. What if everyone thought that way? Who would our doctors be? Only those with parents rich enough to put them through college debt free. How can we expect that those people would 1. want to and 2. be suitable for the job.

    Building new libraries adds nothing to the quality of education at a college? That's just laughable.

    If we were graduating geniuses from college would we be this unhealthy of a nation? I don't have any statistics and maybe this is partially stereotypical but the unhealthiest people (especially when it comes to obesity) tend to be found among those who do not go to college.

    Since when are we in a war in Pakistan?

    The man at 31:27 is recommending that people run not walk away from the idea of going to college because it won't help them when they have no money for food and no water from the municipal taps. Who is going to manage those municipal taps if not a civil engineer? And how will that civil engineer gain the knowledge to do so without a college education?

    There is no value to having a college degree if everyone else has one. If this is true, then one can compete even less without one.

    I do agree that it can be too easy perhaps to do well. However, this does not negate the value of the education. So much of college is what you make of it. The student who does the bare minimum to pass (or to get the 4.0) will not be nearly as successful as the one who works above and beyond that bare minimum.

    The most successful college of the future will be online. Where there will be no interaction between students and teachers because it will be all automated with a professor (who was educated how?) teaching hundreds of students. Not to mention that this method would be worthless for medical, engineering, and any other hand-on field (including my own specialty which I'll mention at the end). At that point, why bother doing anything more than just reading a textbook or the information online for free?

    If I had kids, I would not want them educated in a school by teachers without college degrees. I definitely do not want to have my health in the hands of doctors, nurses, dentists, therapists, etc who do not have advanced degrees!

    A note about myself and where I'm coming from. I graduated a year and a half ago with a bachelor degree in music, specifically voice performance. That degree could not have been completed online. It's an impossibility. One cannot learn all of the skills needed to compete in the world of opera without advanced training with personal instruction – in real life. Actually, a bachelor degree is the bare minimum as nearly all successful opera singers need the additional training of a masters degree with continued lessons and coachings well beyond that point. You can say that I did not study something “necessary” and that it's not “practical” and that I really didn't need to study something that will provide such little assurance of employment. I beg to differ. For a number of reasons, I was not singing professionally or even on a high community level last year. Neither was I taking private voice lessons. I cannot put into words how that pained my soul. I need music. I can't say that I need it more that God, and I could survive without it if there was no possible way to pursue it but I would be hardly a shell of the person I am now. For me, my degree was for myself more than for the purpose of getting a steady full-time job. I am currently working at McDonalds, Toys R Us, and just got a job as a preschool teachers assistant. I could have started any or all of those right out of high school. But where could I have gone from there?

  2. Anony11- thanks for your comment- and I agree with you even though I sort of agree with the video.

    I say- no matter what, students need to be responsible. This means- no pizzas on an unpaid credit card, etc.

    Where I am coming from: I finished my Bachelors at 22 with very little debt but in English and History with no plans to teach (so 'unpractical' too) because it was a state school and I lived at home. I worked full-time while I was in school full-time to accomplish this. I've been teaching English as a second language since I was 22 (noncredit until I finished my Masters)

    I finished my Masters (accredited with thesis but mostly online) while I was pregnant with baby #4- I graduated a few weeks before the baby was delivered early at 32 weeks because of pre eclampsia- this degree was achieved with no debt because it was 'affordable' and I and my husband paid for it.

    It is the way of the world- I cannot teach without a Masters and unfortunately I have a limited scoop in which I am permitted to teach. My husband has two Masters degrees- one in Theology for his priesthood and then in chaplaincy for his hospital work- he would not be qualified without these degrees. And yes- I know some people without a bachelors that know more theology

    What I got from this video (I really should have written a post!)
    1. Students should have a plan and not assume that college (especially a 4 year degree) is for everyone.
    2. Students should attempt to borrow as little money as possible- this means community college for 2 years, scholarships and grants and most importantly working and actually saving the money
    3. Graduate from a 4 year school in 4 years (this might mean a few community college classes during summers)- so don't wait to register for classes- they will fill up!
    4. Top Ramen is a right of passage- you have plenty of years to eat organic arugula and goat cheese (sounds yummy)
    5. If your dream doesn't require a college degree (maybe starting a business or something)- go for it with a plan, but appease and reassure your parents by volunteering at a soup kitchen and taking one academic class at a community college each semester.
    5. Buy gold. ;)

  3. and anony11- I am jealous of your degree! I always sang in choir in college, etc- but I didn't have the technical skills to major in music- and now, one of my vocal chords is paralyzed because I didn't get a nodule taken care of- so sing for me!

  4. I think your comments are right on, PW. Thanks for posting this, it was interesting.

  5. And some folks should go to trade/vocational school rather than college. Thank God, we are not all "professionals". We need our worthy blue collar persons too. All the comments are good. Thanks.

  6. Wow! This video presents an interesting and cynical perspective.

    I have a useless college degree, at least from a work perspective. I have a BA in History. My focus was on Medieval European History. My education was very enriching, and without it, I would not be where I am at. A student job grew into something that now allows me to support my family. I met my wife in school, my roommate was her math tutor. My education at a secular institution taught me about the Church Fathers and gave me a view a Church as protector and teacher and the Church created by Christ, not the oppressive, evil institution my Lutheran upbringing presented to me.

    I think many people assign a college education way too much value. I received a fair amount of really bad advice from guidance counsellors and family members, the same advice that children and young adults receive today. I hope I am able to do better for my children.

    By itself, a college degree does nothing. A college degree does not give one a job. One gets a job by developing skills. A degree may be required to obtain a particular job, and a degree program program may present skills to obtain a job, but a degree does not declare one competent to do a particular job.

    Working through school is good. Actually living on a budget is good. These are some necessary life skills. Attaining $20K in debt for a History Degree is not so good.

    One should take time gather perspective and reevaluate one's goals. (Another necessary life skill) Is what you are doing now bringing you where you want to be? Is the outcome worth the cost? Are your expectations realistic?

    My perspective is hard-earned. I failed out of college during my first attempt through it. I loved college, I loved it more when I was interested in attending the courses I was taking and when I was more interested in learning than doing. The experience was expensive and painful. Was it worthwhile? Yes.

  7. There are some rather disturbing ideological underpinnings to this video - they seem to fall into the same category as the followers on Ayn Rand (whom I would never describe as a Philosopher).

    There are many countries in which education, including tertiary education, is supported by the government. They have not fallen into a heap: in fact, they supply the USA with the skilled labour force it requires.

    Is education a public good? If so, why is it wrong for society (through government) to support it?

    As for "useless" degrees - why are they useless? What makes a degree in music any more useless than one in economics: at least there is truth in the former.


  8. Also I forgot to add - in looking on the internet, the NIA seems to be a questionable organisation.


  9. bear- I hear you- but I still say they have a lot to say about student debt- and student debt that isn't necessary at all- it is possible for most to live at home, eat noodles, maybe even share books (when a Spanish I text is $100 like at my college- something is wrong)

  10. I agree with the detractors that there is a lot of hyperbole in the video and a lot of questionable ideology. And yet just because they are over the top in so many areas doesn't mean that they don't have a kernel of truth. The numbers about the debt that people get into are accurate. And I think the part that compares the housing bubble created by federally funded loans via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the education bubble created by federal loans via Sallie Mae is right on. I came to that conclusion on my own long before I watched this video by an independent examination of the facts. The NIA may even be whack jobs I have no idea but that doesn't mean they are wrong on everything. You have to sift out the wheat from the chaff.

    I'm torn here. I have both a BA and an MA in English. I spent a few years teaching and am now a stay-at-home mom. I don't think my education is worthless nor my husband's degree in theology. And yet we're still paying off his student loans (my parents generously paid off mine so we don't have that weight pulling us down.) I very much value education, even liberal arts education. I don't regret the time I spent going to school. But I can place a high value on it while still thinking that the market cost has been vastly inflated in a dangerous, unsustainable way. It isn't good that people begin life after college under a mountain of debt.

    I value my education and I even think that having an educated populace is a public good. But that doesn't mean there isn't an education bubble or that it wasn't a disaster in economic terms for the federal government to get into the business of subsidizing individual students via student loans which artificially inflated the cost of education. I value my house too and think that housing is a basic human need and a public good.... but that doesn't mean that there wasn't a housing bubble that was fueled in part by government subsidized loans. And that doesn't mean that we don't owe far too much money on the four walls and roof that protect my family from the weather. I can value the good while still thinking that we owe far more than we should for it.

    What will I tell my children in a decade and a half when they begin to look at college? I want them to have the kind of education I had. Not only reading the great books but talking about them in a challenging academic environment. There is a value to a great university beyond the books and teachers even, something that they can't get as autodidacts. However, I don't want my children to go into massive debt to get it. Will it even be possible to do as you suggest, priests wife, and get an education on the cheap via living at home and eating ramen noodles if inflation continues? What if the bubble bursts and schools close? Where are we headed?

    Bottom line, I do think the federal government should get out of the business of subsidizing education and let the market value settle back to something that is reasonable and sustainable. And I'm with you, pw, in counseling that students should exercise extreme caution in prudently getting an education without accumulating crushing debt. I don't know what I'll be telling my kids in a few years but I suspect by then the bubble will have collapsed and things will look very different anyhow.

  11. I don't have time to watch the video because I'm single momming it this week, but I value my "useless" education (music and Latin). I could support my family with my degree (soon to be degrees) and a lower quality of life, but I found a dashing young University employee to do the job for me while I keep house. :)

    I am thankful that we both graduated debt free, although I regret that I valued being debt free more than my sanity. Multiple priests counseled me to take out loans rather than staying with my dysfunctional family of origin and I, foolishly, loved money too much to listen.

    Dysfunctional family aside, I would not be able to graduate debt free by living at home and working today because tuition at my Alma Mater has TRIPLED. Fees have also tripled and students often pay as much as SIX TIMES what I payed for required materials because nearly every text book comes with class-required software that can only be registered to one person. Did I mention that I started college less than 10 years ago?

    If a young person came to me asking for sage advice, I would advise that person to consider the projected job openings and the projected STARTING salary and then decide whether to go into debt only if the odds looked good. I'd also suggest that the young person think very seriously about how the debt would impact his/her vocation since most orthodox religious orders don't accept candidates with debt and debt can be a serious problem if one is called to marriage as well. Since I am an organist, I would add that going into debt for a church job is a really, really bad idea and that in my diocese, church workers are completely expendable.

    Maybe I would have had time to watch it after all....

  12. Melania and Alice- Thanks for your thoughtful comments- this is a very important issue

    More frustration- just heard on the radio that the UC board of regents have been giving 21% raises to various admin positions. Tuition for CA universities have gone sky high- the UC and CSU system used to be world-class but extremely affordable for those CA residents who have been paying taxes for decades- now- they are trying to recruit foreign students who pay LOTS of money to beef up their bank accounts...I don't have an answer

  13. Melanie,
    "There is a value to a great university beyond the books and teachers even, something that they can't get as autodidacts." Agree x 1000.


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