“Education is a requirement for success. College is not.”



“Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”


This is just a short thought on education mostly because I keep hearing about ‘free’ (note: nothing is free) college for everyone. Personally, I think this is nuts. Maybe some technical college or community college, but if you choose to go to a 4-year college, please, go get a good loan. But it’s your choice. And you should pay for your choice.

That said. Free is energizing, but we should be taking a look at structurally whether the education system accommodates the true development of the potential of people.

And maybe this is where I veer a bit from other people.

I break education down into two basic aspects: structural foundational education and ongoing education.

Structural education is the basics you need to assume adult responsibilities and citizen responsibilities. Lets call it readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic + civic education. But I offer it with a twist. Its not time driven (you go at your own pace to the floor or the ceiling) and let me highlight the ceiling aspect. There should be “gifted student programs” because we want the smartest to go as fast, and far, as they can and feel comfortable doing so. Please note that I believe this despite the fact research suggests gifted programs don’t really optimize either IQ or scores and break out gifted students typically benefits disadvantaged gifted students moreso than anyone (even advanced gifted students). But I even have a twist on this. it has been shown time and time again that even one gifted student in a class can lift the entire class. So there has to be some cross-pollination which leads me to the additional ‘gifted student’ program: The generalist path. So what happens if you are gifted in combinatorial thinking? Well. Now you have a gifted program. This structural thinking demands a bit of changed perspectives on education, but in my pealike brain the existing system could be transformed to this thinking (rather than build something from scratch).**

** note: building a new education system from scratch, of which I am a proponent of, is a topic for another day.

Ongoing education certainly has a beginning, but I am unclear there is an end. The reality is awarding more college degrees does not increase the number of jobs that most graduates desire. We are running up against a fundamental limit both in terms of people being herded into college programs and the number of matched-skilled jobs available for them when they graduate. Numbers vary, but about 1 in 5 college graduates in the US are considered overeducated for their current occupation. Circling back, please note “when they graduate.” We are in a weird spot where we feel like there should be a “done this, deserve that” linear like flow. And while. Hypothetically (because of the investment), this should be right, its not. education is complimentary to experience and the combinatorial aspects sometimes mean that there is a time continuum aspect to value created. Well. that’s the whole “ongoing” thing. Anyway. While most people don’t know these numbers, they sense the numbers and as a consequence “higher” education has become easier to access, yet, fewer people take advantage of it. I would argue the majority of people, absent the overwhelming expense, are focused not on education per se, but rather ‘development’, i.e., develop constant learning to be of value and create value in the community (some of which could be monetized). And, yes, this could be primarily in their profession of choice. But. Good management of resources, all resources, should enable opportunities for all people to thrive today and tomorrow, to educate and improve themselves. We should conserve a system of ongoing learning, i.e., education.

Look. The conservation of education is part of, but not the same as, the larger question of national efficiency and effectiveness which I am fairly sure we, society, do not really know how to answer. That’s bad. Its really bad that our perspectives are mostly what’s holding us back. Any significant redesign of education involves changes in how we see as well as how we act, and I would suggest the world – in all its imperfect glory – has repeatedly attempted to transform our perspectives. I am not suggesting education has to run in opposition to rampant industrialization and capitalism, but it should certainly not be run by it.

In the end. It is easy to run into problems when decisions about education are made by a population that is, itself, under educated and steeped in a belief that education is to train for some specific profession.

In the end, 13 years ago I wrote college isn’t for everyone. It isn’t. And we should stop suggesting people who don’t go to college are lesser than, in any way, than someone who elects to go. That said. I think the entire education system needs to be redesigned, but college education in particular needs to shift from a profit-making machine into institutions dedicated to being places of learning. I say that because we are in a weird place where less and less people value a college education and more and more people are suggesting it should be for free, i.e., it is of no value and costs nothing. We should want to have every child have the ability to access college should they desire it. And insure the ones who will excel with a college experience get there with the highest probability of success. And let non-college goers still have opportunities to learn while pursuing their professional choices. Ponder.

Written by Bruce