Declining enrollment not always a bad thing

johnnyopinionsWhen a child is born, he or she has just a few years of life free from responsibilities outside the home. During these years, the child learns to walk, speak and fit into society. At four years old, the child has learned enough to finally attend school, at which point he or she may begin preschool. After preschool comes grade school, then middle school, junior high and high school. After finishing high school, a decision must be made — continue school for a few more years, or try to make it in the world without a degree. People typically think it most responsible to attend college, but it may not remain that way forever. College enrollment is dropping in the U.S. — and that may be a good thing.

Life in the U.S. revolves entirely around education, but the only reason this is true is because it has been that way for a long time. President Obama said that “a college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class,” and he is absolutely correct, but maybe it shouldn’t be that way. According to the World Bank, the life expectancy of the average American is 78.74 years as of 2012. To suggest that school must consume the first twenty-some years — more than a quarter of one’s life — is depressing. Moreover, it isn’t just a large portion of one’s life being spent on education, it’s also more money than most people of the current generation can afford. The issue of money in education is one that is hotly debated among politicians and presidential candidates, but addressing money is not enough anymore. It’s time to take a critical look at the education system of the U.S., especially as it relates to one’s status in the workforce.

Education has a substitute now — the internet. These days, if a person needs information of almost any kind, the internet can provide it. A dedicated individual armed with Google can learn just as much about a topic as someone who studies it at college as long as the individual remains focused on learning. Of course, without a college degree, many high level positions and careers are simply unattainable, but this is only because businesses can still find plenty of people with degrees. The reason why life is so difficult for those who don’t go to college is because society is so centered on education that a degree outweighs the knowledge, experience and skills an occupation requires. If a person is a perfect fit for a job, but doesn’t have a college degree, he or she should still be able to get the job, regardless of what it is. Any knowledge that may be missed could be covered in training, which is mandatory at most jobs where degrees are required anyway.

People who don’t go to college, as well as those who don’t finish high school, are not stupid. This is important to realize because there are entire countries in which the education system is extremely inferior or even nonexistent when compared to the one we in the U.S. take for granted. If the sentiment is that those without a traditional education are inferior to those with an education, then there are millions of people around the world who — for no other reason than not being able to go to school — are inferior to privileged people from developed countries like the U.S. College isn’t going anywhere. As long as there are people who love to learn and gain knowledge, there will be places for them to do so. With the shifting dynamics of the U.S., however, choosing not to go to college will become a more and more popular decision. As that happens, it is important to understand what role college should play in society. For now, it is somewhat of a bridge to a better life. One day, it might just be a place where people go to gain knowledge and be intellectual. Either way, it doesn’t need to be compulsory, and the choice to not attend college should not be a major disadvantage for those who are already qualified for the jobs they desire.

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