kitchen table math, the sequel: In a van down by the river

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In a van down by the river

I had to go to the high school with my son last night for a mandatory program for everyone involved with athletics and extracurricular activities. A parent had to attend with a student. It was on "chemical health" and it included a motivational speaker - a basketball coach. At the end, everyone had to sign a "contract". I assumed that the message was going to be more sophisticated than when I had to watch "Refer Madness" in 1969. Only a little. All I could think of was Chris Farley and the SNL skit. A large part of the talk was to emphasize Determination, Respect, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Motivation, and S for something. All of that is fine, but he made a big pitch for how college is now mandatory for success. He gave the usual statistics, except for the ones which show increased college loan defaults because the degree hasn't helped. He made it seem that not going to college was two steps away from living in a van down by the river.

9 comments:

MagisterGreen said...

I'm just old enough to remember when inspirational speakers HADN'T gone to college. Heck, it was part of what made them inspirational...

kcab said...

Maybe the S was for Sportsmanship? I'm just guessing based on the theme of a similar program I had to go to last week. I'm not sure if ours was better or worse than yours, ours seemed to be directed at encouraging sportsmanship among the Football/Hockey/Soccer parents.

Crimson Wife said...

Having some sort of post-graduation plan is mandatory for my kids, to avoid getting stuck in a dead-end, low-wage job. College, trade school, an apprenticeship, enlisting in the military, a well-thought out attempt to start a business, a community service program like City Year- all these things are good options. I've just seen too many people who did not have any kind of plan drift through their 20's and now 15 years after finishing high school find themselves no better off than when they first graduated.

ChemProf said...

Agreed, Crimson Wife, but I also worry about students who go to college with no real plan, manage some weak major, and are in the same place upon graduation, just with a lot more debt.

Allison said...

--He made it seem that not going to college was two steps away from living in a van down by the river.

That's probably because if the ed bubble breaks and people stop going to college, *he'll* be two steps away from living in a van down by the river.

SteveH said...

"...*he'll* be two steps away from living in a van down by the river."

Hah! He does or did teach and coach at a small regional college. Their enrollment does depend on having more kids think that college is their only option.

You might expect that his main objective would be to get kids to think about setting goals in their life, but the talk focused specifically about college. He even gave unemployment statistics for both college graduates and non-college graduates. Never mind what the employment statistics would be for the college graduates if they never went to college. That must be the solution! Just make everyone go to college and then unemployment will drop. Then again, he gave his brother as an example of one who had top degrees and a top job only to become a crack addict and lose everything.

It would have been more effective if he gave examples of what kids can do if they find themselves in bad situations like being at a friend's house when he/she starts raiding the medicine cabinet.

Jen said...

Gotta agree with ChemProf: "I also worry about students who go to college with no real plan, manage some weak major, and are in the same place upon graduation, just with a lot more debt."

Better you wake up 10-15 years later and go to community college, than be in a low-wage dead-end job with tens of thousands in college debt from an unused/not useful college degree (or some semesters of college) fifteen years later.

With all that debt around your neck, you may well have fewer options to go back to school than the people who didn't go in the first place!

CassyT said...

Heard on NPR this morning. 30% of adults in U.S. have a college degree.

Some thoughts on future entrepreneurs ( Generation Z Will Revolutionize Education) by Penelope Trunk, who also has some interesting college advice.

Trunk's Gen Z prediction #3?
The college degree will return to its bourgeois roots; entrepreneurship will rule.

SteveH said...

"Generation Z"

"I understand that to study history (contemporary or ancient), you must study generational shifts in thinking, because the way the generation thinks helps us to understand and explain historical action. And maybe predict future action."

Unless the basis for the analysis is fundamentally wrong.


"1. A huge wave of homeschooling will create a more self-directed workforce."

"Huge wave"? OK, stop reading.



"3. The college degree will return to its bourgeois roots; entrepreneurship will rule."

"Bourgeois"?

All because of home unschooling?

It's not clear that the big push of college for all will stop any time soon. How many homeschoolers skip college and are they really so good at directing their careers? How many homeschoolers are unschooled? How would this define a generation? Does unschooling produce the results she expects?


You don't have to build a cute generation theory to talk about long term changes to job requirements and job security. My father almost made it through a career at Pratt & Whitney before he was laid off in the 1980s. Union jobs are no guarantee either. Pensions and Social Security are under attack.

Entrepreneurship is nice if your significant other has the steady job with insurance and a 401K plan. Some made a killing with the internet boom, and some lost the ranch. Even in the 1980s when Reagan was talking about how it's OK for women to stay at home with the kids, it wasn't possible to do ecomonically. Now, there is even a bigger job layoff risk factor.


This is really not about college or entrepreneurship. It's about how there are fewer guarantees, even with a college degree or union seniority. The idea of risk versus reward hasn't changed, but more people are seeing the big risk involved with a large college debt. The risk landscape has changed.

What I see for my son is more risk overall, and risk is better when it's self-controlled. This might mean entrepreneurship, or it could mean developing short and long term career plans. He needs to view himself as a product that is independent of any one job.