Higher education is becoming a very contested topic these days. For the first time in centuries, a large percentage of the population has started to distrust institutions of higher learning, especially those that are not related to the more practical STEM FIELDS (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).
This general distrust is due to many factors, some valid while others are myths. It is easy for rumor and false information to proliferate on the internet, where even the most inert topics can become highly controversial.
Yet, those who sing the absolute praises of Academia are maybe remembering a time when the political and socio-economic situation was different. Nuance is key when attempting to understand reality. Both sides of the argument have valid points, based on personal experience.
That being said let’s look at some of the most popular myths regarding higher education in the United States of America.
1. College is useless and your degrees don’t matter
It is easy to observe a boiling degree of bitterness towards institutions of high learning. Some claim that college has become a useless pursuit that prologues your adolescence, enslaves you with debt, and fails to prepare you for life.
The most reasonable answer to that critique is: it depends. There are without a doubt, professions that cannot be learned by doing them.
Yes, 85-90% of jobs are indeed learned on the fly, even when your degree matches the field of activity of your employer. However, in fields such as medicine, engineering, law, and bio-chem, going to University is imperative.
These are astoundingly complicated fields, in both volumes of knowledge and intellectual requirements. Besides, they require a staggering amount of tools, laboratories, equipment, and didactic material. STEM prepares you for some of the most important jobs in society, forming the pillars of any civilization.
Yet, some ground must be ceded to the naysayers for other degrees. Those with degrees in Interpretive Dance will not out-earn Harvard Law graduates.
Of course, you can pursue anything as a passion. Passions are what make life worth living. Yet, making a career without consulting the market is a gamble.
2. You need to go to college to succeed in life
On the other extreme of the argument, we have those who claim that a life without a degree, is a life wasted. Fun fact, plumbers have saved more lives than doctors. People in the past were dying on mass due to bad sanitation in cities.
Most trade jobs make civilized life possible. Behind every shiny office building, park, research facility, or concert hall, there is a small army of tradesmen that set everything up. There is dignity in skilled labor.
Some welders out-earn most college graduates, and there are people with degrees working service jobs.
The market does not value diplomas, they value competence and experience. A degree is just proof that you have a bare minimum of required knowledge. Still, in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, people finish college and can’t get lucrative jobs. Despite going into debt and spending 4 years of studying, they are the bottom of the barrel.
This can lead to immense levels of frustration, resentment, and disappointment. Meanwhile, a skilled tradesman that started right after high school is earning so much that he can start saving money, instead of being tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, with a minimum wage job.
Do not listen to either extreme. College has its uses, but so does learning a trade or starting your own business.
3. You can just skip going to classes, and get a degree online
Yes, at face value, that statement is true. However, in doing so you will be denying yourself one of the most powerful advantages in your life: networking. There is enough information online that you can teach yourself a vast number of subjects for free.
So, why do people go through superman struggles just to get into Ivy League schools, or elite Universities in Europe? It’s about who you meet.
In fact, you would struggle to find an ultra-successful antisocial person. Having knowledge and being competent is less than half of the equation. We live in the real world where we also have to deal with people and logistics.
Most powerful people know each other from college, that can make a life-changing difference down the line. And I’m not referencing corruption and illegal favors. Sometimes, even someone taking your call can save your business.
Life is indeed a game of inches. An obscure piece of knowledge, a chance meeting, or an old colleague can make a world of difference.
Yes, it is possible to sign up for an online degree and outsource your most boring papers. It is possible to save countless hours by researching some essay writing service reviews, picking your favorite one, and having them write for you. Still, a happy life cannot be achieved just through memorizing and applying knowledge.
Social skills and social circles require their special kind of intelligence. These aptitudes are developed by spending your youth among your peers, not online in front of a screen. In this regard, pursuing higher education is worth it.
There are many myths regarding education because it is a complex topic. It is also affected by politics, economics, technology, etc. A sincere look will want to eliminate external factors and adopt a nuanced approach.
Some people say that you are a failure at being a human if you don’t pursue higher education, while others accuse it of being a scam. Both are wrong.
Just like any other thing, it has pros and cons. Learn honestly about the perks and drawbacks, and make an informed decision.