It’s the beginning of a new semester, and my classes are working on the college debate. They’re reading articles about the value of college education.
- “Do Too Many Young People Go to College?” in WSJ
- “Why Go to College at All?” in The New York Times
- “Should College be for Everyone?” in The New York Times – Room for Debate
- Freakonomics Goes to College – Podcast
Most students advocate going to college. To be expected. However, most of these students see college purely as a kind of magic wand (or a license) to “getting a good job, making a lot of money, and supporting a family.” No one says much about learning. I guess “kids” these days just aren’t as idealistic (or naive?) as I was when I was going to college… Most of them (not all of them) are not interested in what college has to offer – they just know that to be successful in life they have to go to college. But they are not very sure how a college diploma will accomplish this American Dream.
In one class, several students declared college a big waste of time. One actually wrote in her discussion posting, “College is a big waste of time and money.”
I replied in a private message, “I think your argument would be stronger if you could discuss why, then, you are in college. What do you hope to get out of college?”
She replied, “Honestly, I don’t know.” And this was not a “I don’t know but I’m eager to find out.” This was a “I don’t know and I really don’t care. Why are you even asking me this stupid question? Leave me alone.”
As one might expect, this class is difficult to teach. They’re quiet – not because they’re shy but because they don’t care. THEY JUST DON’T CARE. I feel terrible for the few students who seem eager to learn, to participate, to talk, and to have fun. The attitude written on the faces of the disengaged students, however, is a toxin. Somehow it seems to pervade the class dynamic. No matter how peppy and how energetic I am, nothing sparks.
Lord help me.