Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I Is Edjumicated.

I am a homeschooler and a State certified teacher. Surprisingly, these two selves are not in conflict, and I don't believe that homeschoolers and traditional schoolers need to be adversaries. We're all hoping for the same thing - to give our children the best educational experience possible.

Education is a funny animal. Yes, we need an educated population. People, in our society, need to be able to read and do basic math. It would be nice if they had some basic scientific knowledge - at least enough to know the life cycle or the water cycle, or why trees lose their leaves and regrow them every year. It would be good if they can communicate, effectively, and mostly grammatically correct, in writing, especially with as prolific as social media and Internet communication has become. It's too easy for people who don't understand nuances of language to misconstrue what's being said and lash out. It's good to have a basic understanding of our history, because a failure to understand history dooms one to repeat it - or so they say.

Learning is important.

But education in this country ... indeed, in our world ... has been touted as the single most effective tool for raising oneself out of poverty. At least we are being told that this is true. It's not just that educated people can command better jobs, but that educated people are more worthy of our money. At least that's the message that we are giving our young people. We all, firmly, believe that to be successful, we must have an education, and that education must extend beyond the twelve years of free, compulsory education into costly four-year and beyond degrees. We've been fed this lie for my entire lifetime, and I'm certain that it's been the believed truth for much longer than that. We have been taught that we must all go to college.

The result has been that the number of college educated individuals has increased from about 25% with Bachelor's degrees in the 1990s to almost 40% in 2015. So, yay! We're a more educated country ... except having that Bachelor's degree has done nothing to ensure that we're all working. In fact, millennials (those who are under the age of 35) have more degrees, but their unemployment rate is much higher at 14% than even the national average, which is just over 5%.

What's worse is that young adults are graduating from college with degrees they can't use that landed them tens of thousands of dollars in debt. According to a twenty-something year old Master's degreed woman who was interviewed for this article, "There are enough people with master’s degrees that they can require them.” She's a waitress. She went to school for six years, spent between $30,000 and $120,000 to earn her degree, and works at a job that someone without even a high school diploma is qualified to do.

Statistically, 84% of college grads are employed compared to 72% of high school grads in the same age group. I find those numbers remarkable, because there's not a very large unemployment gap between those who have a degree and those who never went to college. The statistic does not allow for any other variables, but the fact is that someone who has a college degree with accompanying student loans has no choice, but to have a job, and someone who has no student loans, has a bit more freedom to work at a low-wage job, because he doesn't have a student loan debt, or to not work at all and be working on building his own business or whatever.

I'm not making an argument against going to college. I loved college, and the career I thought I wanted to do required (and still requires) a college degree. For those who want a career that requires that piece of paper, I say, go for it! College can be an amazing experience.

For everyone else, there are other options, and as parents, especially as homeschooling parents, we should be helping our children explore some of those options rather than getting sucked into the belief that a secure, successful career requires a debt-load that is higher than the mortgage most people carry. No twenty-five year old, single adult should owe more money than his parent's owe for their house.

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