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Education Isn’t What it Used to be Part 2

Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment. And it’s not enough. Reform is no use anymore.  Because that’s simply improving a broken model.  What we need … is not evolution but a revolution in education.

– Sir Ken Robinson

So, where were we?

Ah yes.  Degrees.

My point in saying that degrees are not worth what they used to be worth is not to discourage you from getting a degree or to imply that if what you want to do requires a degree that you shouldn’t bother.  There are many ways to get around the barriers that face recent graduates.  My point is that getting a degree is not a meal ticket.  It is not a safety net, or a winning lottery ticket.  Not any longer.

Degrees, I think we will find, will return to the status they had when they were first introduced.  Degrees used to be about imparting and receiving knowledge– a general knowledge of a variety of subjects so that a person who attended University could be called well educated, not about securing a position.

Why do you want a degree, anyway?

I’d like to call this into question simply because an alarming number of my peers’ answers are: “Because that’s what I have to do.”

You don’t need to get a degree, especially if that’s not in line with what you want to do.  I’ve already talked about deciding if what you want to do is in line with getting a degree, so I won’t dwell on it, but that’s the first and most important consideration you need to take into account.

Quite often people’s passions are not in line with the ‘ideal path’ that school or your parents, peers and teachers believe would be better for you.  The only person who knows what the ideal path is for you is you, and you must trust in that.  No matter what people say, your best chance at being successful always lies in following your passions instead of following the well-troden path or the money.  Money will come when you’re doing what you love.

Something else to take into consideration when going into school is how much money it’s going to cost you.  A lot of people look at student debt as a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be.  People don’t really think when they plunge themselves into a forty thousand dollar debt when it’s for school, because they think that once they’re through school they’ll earn it back in a couple of years.  They think that’s a guarantee.

But, as we’ve already gone through, there are no guarantees. There was a special done by CBC News here in Canada talking about graduate debt and how it can actually set you back farther than someone who didn’t go to university.

They studied a particular couple– the husband went to college for 2 years and paid for it outright (Since college is much, much cheaper here in Canada than University is.) and his wife went to University and was some sixty thousand dollars in debt.

All the common idioms were true.  She did get a better job out of University than he did when he was out of college– but there were some key differences that most people don’t talk about.  First of all, although she did get a better job than he did straight out of school, she spent 2 extra years in school while he was working and earning an income while she was incurring debt.  Furthermore, by the time she got out of school, he had been at his job for 2 years and earned a promotion in that time, upgrading his income to the exact same level hers was coming out of school.

She also had $60,000 worth of debt to her name, whereas he had none.  It took her ten years to pay it off.  Ten years. If you don’t know what that kind of debt and payment time can do to your income, look at this post I wrote here.  People often think student loans aren’t a big deal because the interest rate is very low compared to traditional loans, but it still adds up very quickly when you’re not able to pay it off all at once.  And if it takes you ten years to pay off your loan, you’re likely paying more than 50% more than you initially borrowed.

That’s a huge chunk of money you could have put towards a house, vacations, a second property– whatever.  Money you could be spending on your own needs instead of paying back to the government or a bank.

If you’re still not convinced that student debt is a big problem, you might want to check out this article that was published in the Wall Street Journal this year.  National Student Debt has now officially surpassed America’s National Credit Card Debt.  And if you know how I feel about credit cards, I’m sure you can surmise how I feel about student loans.

Preparation for the real world

Unfortunately, the school system in general simply doesn’t prepare students adequately for the world they’ll be in once they graduate.  How can they?  School systems and curriculum’s are rigid and relatively unchanging– they’re based on past demographics instead of recent ones.  Five years from now the job market will be completely different from how it is now, so how is it that schools can claim they’ll prepare you for the world 16 years into the future?  Schools are constantly working off of an old model, meaning the only people guaranteed success are the ones doing something different– those who are taking steps to prepare themselves for what is happening now.

Believe it or not, I could go on about how ill prepared school makes us, but I think you get the point.  The system needs a complete overhaul.

The bottom line here is that what you need when you’re going into the job market is to use your brain.  Don’t rely on tried-and-true methods of the past because they don’t last.  As soon as something becomes a ‘sure thing’ everyone starts to do it.  It over-populates and then it becomes worthless and ineffective.  Suddenly you need to find a different way of making a go of it.

I want to be very clear that I’m not arguing against getting a degree.  If that’s what you want, or that’s what your dream career requires then go for it.  Work hard and seperate yourself out from the crowd and make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing and I’m sure that you’ll succeed.  All I urge is that you really think about it before you take the leap into getting your degree.  Think of how much debt you’re putting yourself into, how much you’ll be earning out of school, how much time it will take you to go where you want to, etc.  Be smart.  Plan out your future before you throw yourself into circumstances that will take years to undo.

And first and foremost, follow your passion. Nothing is more important.  If someone tells you you can’t make a living doing what you love, don’t listen.  If you’re serious about your dreams and your passions, you will find a way to make it work no matter what.  I literally do not know anyone who followed their dreams and ultimately failed.  As the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’  Believe it.

Here are some resources if you’re interested in reading more about education and the crisis it is currently going through:

Graduate unemployment: Here and here

Sir Ken Robinson’s talks on Education: Here and here *HIGHLY RECOMMENDED*

Graduate Debt: Here

2 Responses to “Education Isn’t What it Used to be Part 2”

  1. Cool post. I think you’re spot on about the need for everyone to carefully question WHY and WHAT they want to go to school for- and if furthering one’s formal education is right for then, on either the BA or MA/PhD level. Like you say, there’s no meal ticket.

  2. James says:

    Brilliant nice work
    What about usless homework?

    :-)

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