Monthly Archives: November 2014

College: Part 4

A new and interesting phenomenon is occurring: It seems the internet has freed people to discuss what really matters in education.

One of the current hot-topics is “What is the value of a college education/diploma?” If you are in college, considering college, or a parent considering college for your student(s), I encourage you to weigh in on this discussion. I would like to hear your opinions and ideas.

Everything about education, especially college, is being scrutinized. I am glad this is happening. It’s about time! For generations Americans have been unwilling to question many issues about education which they should have been discussing.

What are people saying? Some are hard-core believers in college for all who are able to attend (and can borrow the money).  Others are questioning the cost of a college education against the lifetime value that education provides. Many are asking if college professors are teaching anything of value at all. And still others are beginning to wonder if junior colleges might be providing better instruction (albeit with lesser status) and at much less cost.

I read lots of educational blogs and tweets (including from national educators and the U.S. Department of Education). The combined noise sounds like an orchestra whose instruments are playing different symphonies.

Many who write about college give the impression that colleges are quickly losing their cultural luster.

Here is an example from one of America’s most popular bloggers: actor, comedian, and writer, Matt Walsh. I am including only a sample from his very long blog on college. I will include a link to the entire piece if you are interested in reading it all.

“If you’re not familiar with it, a college degree is a thing that we tell our kids to buy with money they don’t have, in hopes that it will help them make money they might earn, which will give them the ability to pay back the money they spent in order to make the money they’re paying it back with.

“Can anyone seriously argue that spending 48 months on a college campus better prepares you for a retail environment than spending 7 years in a retail environment?

“…if we look at the great leaders of human history (something you can do even without a college degree, thanks to inventions such as Google and libraries) can you build a convincing case that leadership qualities are more often learned in academic buildings than developed out in the wilderness of the real world?

“Is a college degree actually a necessary ingredient for success in the vast majority of professions? No, no, no, no, and definitely not.

“I have…a friend [who]… graduated from a good university and now has a high paying job (that he hates, by the way) where he sits at a desk and enters numbers into a computer. He could not have gotten this job without his educational credentials, but he will be the first to tell you that his degree is in no way, shape, or form actually necessary to perform his daily duties. All he really needs are fingers and a high tolerance for mundane tasks. The college degree is irrelevant. Or should be.

“Sure, there are some fields — astrophysicist, surgeon, engineer, Pope, etc. — that must undoubtedly necessitate further education, but these are in the minority. In the predominance of cases, the best man for the job is the man who can do the job, and the best way to know if a man can do the job is by seeing if he’s ever done the job, or some kind of job in any way similar to it.

“Outside of a few specific professions, your ability to succeed in the vast majority of occupational fields should not depend on your liberal arts degree. Should not. But it does, because that’s how it is. Why is it this way? Because. Just because.

“Education, in the end, should be pursued for its own sake. We learn because we want to know, and knowledge is beautiful even if it isn’t ‘used.’ Now more than ever, a person can learn anything and acquire any knowledge without spending a dime or sitting for one minute in a college classroom. This is the miraculous reality of modern times. The potential for a person to educate him or herself is limitless — but we think knowledge must be strictly confined behind the walls of an official institution or it doesn’t count.

“Please understand this: college will not become cheaper, employers will not stop erecting irrelevant barriers to entry, schools will not stop pushing kids in one direction regardless of their unique skills and abilities, and nothing else will get better with any of this until we stop participating in the charade.

“We are truly a society of impotent and hopeless sheep if we continue to bankrupt ourselves and our children on a massively overpriced college education just because “it’s what people do.” It’s only what people do because people do it. Stop doing it.

“College is not necessary for most of us. I think it’s time we stop pretending otherwise”

Go here to read the full blog post, It’s Time to Boycott College.

So, there is one point of view. Agree? Disagree? Think Walsh has missed a really important point or points? Share your opinion, below…

Go here where I have placed my favorite homeschool resource recommendations. Check them out!

Here is what my new book looks like: It is in e-reader and paper formats. It is inexpensive and will help you. Buy it here! Buy it now!

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College: Part 3

The very first chapter of my new book, Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally, asks the all-important question, “What is a child?”

There are only a few truly Fundamental Questions you must consider in order to properly homeschool your children. Answering the question, “Who is this child?” may be the most important one of all. And, it must be answered.

If you are following a traditional 12-year, K-12 model of educating your child, you have already answered the question without even knowing it. And, if the “end product” of your child’s education is college entrance, you have missed the point of homeschooling altogether.

College should never be assumed, as was the case in my family. No thought was ever given to the person God had made me, probably because no one in my family thought about God or what He had to do with the future of His child. As a result, I entered the system of public education to be treated as a typical, generic child whose “blank slate” had to be filled with all the same info as every other child. Then, I went to college…

The explosion of online K-12 programs, now being marketed to homeschooling families, is an indication that a good many homeschooling parents are not thinking about the person God has made each of their children to become. What they care about is making their children educated and college-ready.

Times they are a-changing. When we began homeschooling, no publisher would sell materials to us so we had to come up with our own. Today, everyone is getting in on the act of creating online curricula. Even a U.S. Congressman has created an online K-12 curriculum. But, the growing presence of top level colleges offering online high school is something amazing. Examples are the nation’s 10th rated university and the world’s largest Christian university. Even Harvard University offers its summer program to high schoolers. Homeschoolers are a huge market and a way to create an easy path to a particular college once the student has graduated from that college’s online high school. Each program claims to be a vast improvement over what a child will receive in public school. That may be so, but it still does not answer The Question.

For years, we who have homeschooled (and speak or write about homeschooling) are continually asked, “What program (or curriculum) do you recommend that will provide my child with the best education?”

That is the absolutely wrong question!

Before you ask, “What is the best program to teach my child Algebra 2” or “How do I get my child to stop resisting being homeschooled?” begin asking, “Given what God has been showing me He has created this child to do in life, how can I best nurture those giftings and talents?”

If you are wondering, “What kind of question is that! you will find the answer in my book: Chapter 1 (and I will eventually say more about it in following blogs).

After you have gotten your answer from Him, you can check out my recommendations for some good teaching materials.

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And, consider getting my book, Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally. It contains lots of practical insights.

College is necessary. When it is.

More to come…

College: Part 2

College is no longer the “given” it once was.

I graduated from high school at age 16. No one in my family doubted the next step for me was college. The family culture required it. It did not even matter which college I attended. Pick one and go. I was neither emotionally nor practically ready for college. I was 16, going on 12, as the next 4 years confirmed.

Today I am encouraged by the growing number of homeschool parents who are not afraid to ask “Why?” about nearly everything:

“Why am I making my son learn to read at age 5?”

“Why are we doing Algebra right now, anyway?”

“Why do we keep using this curriculum when nobody likes it?”

And, “Why are we assuming college is the most appropriate next step for my child?”

There are many alternatives to college and I will speak of them in future blogs. Right now I want to ask some questions related to college:

“What is the value of a college diploma?” “Does a college diploma mean the student has received a college education?”

For decades, statistics have shown that a college diploma raises a person’s lifetime employment earnings over that of a high school diploma. Today’s youth are encouraged to look at the future’s best employment opportunities and strive to enter those disciplines.

Educators are using the acronym STEM to direct students toward the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math since these are the four fields that promise the highest degree of future earnings potential.

According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the most valuable college degrees in terms of future earnings against the cost of obtaining that degree:

1. Engineering (especially Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Materials Sciences)
2. Physics
3. Economics
4. Statistics (more valuable than a degree in business)
5. Applied Mathematics
6. General Mathematics
7. Nursing (strong demand with questionable earnings growth potential)
8. Education (in demand with little earnings growth potential)

And, here are the Forbes’ top 10 U.S. colleges ranked by the financial value of their diplomas as against the cost of attending that college:

1. Harvey Mudd College (California)
2. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)
3. Polytechnic Institute of New York (NYU-Poly)
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
5. SUNY – Maritime College
6. Colorado School of Mines
7. Stevens Institute of Technology
8. Stanford University
9. Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
10. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT)

Just reading the names of these colleges gives you the idea that STEM really is a valuable direction for your student to take.*

By contrast, Forbes rates the following college majors in terms of their poor future earnings potential:

1. Anthropology and Archaeology
2. Film, Video, & Photographic Arts
3. Fine Arts
4. Philosophy & Religious Studies
5. Liberal Arts
6. Music
7. Physical Fitness and Parks & Recreation
8. Commercial Art & Graphic Design
9. History
10. English & Literature

Should we all now conclude that our homeschooled students be directed into a future in STEM? Or, is there something more important than simply looking at an individual’s future earning potential?

I will begin addressing these questions in my next blog.

*[For anyone interested, the following website ranks over 1,000 colleges by the value of their degrees (cost of their degrees against the potential future earnings their degrees deliver): http://www.payscale.com/college-education-value-2013].

Hitting them where it hurts:

I was about to send this post when, just now, I received a blog from the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Here is the gist of what he said:

Too many people are graduating from college with lots of debt which they cannot pay off because their education does not translate into employment. 90% of the income realized by for-profit colleges comes from Federal loans and grants. These for-profit colleges should be able to demonstrate that what they teach their students is valued in the marketplace, or the Government should stop providing funds to students attending those colleges. (Presumably, the college would then go bankrupt—my comment).

The Secretary went on to say that, from now on, all for-profit colleges must track their students’ post-graduation employment to determine if those graduates actually received an education that made them employable. Finally, he said that the Government will begin to create a list (I believe, similar to the one I have listed, above) which will let students know which colleges offer courses that have practical meaning for a student’s future.

At first, I was cynical about what I read (but, then, I am cynical about nearly everything the Federal Government imposes on its citizenry these days). However, after reading it again, I wondered if the Secretary was actually on to something…

I would like to hear what you think, not just about what Duncan said, but about college in general. Post your thoughts, below.

Order a copy of my book, Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally in either paperback or e-reader.

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Check out my recommendations for homeschooling materials.

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