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"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Societal Beliefs on Education and Success: Harming Student’s Futures?

“Graduating from college makes one successful.” Society holds such an assumption, but is it true?  The article Why We Need Vocational Education explores this common belief.  Mark Phillips claims that today people in America place great importance on graduating from high school and getting into college, seeing it as sign of success and the guarantee of a bright future. I’ve been influenced by this belief myself, though I may have been unaware of it at the time. It was always assumed that I’d go to college; it was just what everybody around me strived to do and I did the same without much thought to alternative routes. Any decisions other than going to a four-year university seemed risky.

College no doubt has benefitted me. I may not remember J.B Watson’s impact on the field of psychology or what role serotonin plays in certain mental disorders. These are facts that may be long forgotten years from now. But what will always stay with me are the skills that I have acquired from my experiences. Through college I’ve enhanced my ability to communicate effectively, developed an awareness of multiculturalism and diversity, and honed my ability to think critically. Such skills will contribute to my success in my future career but will they entirely account for my success? This is where I disagree with society’s assumption that college makes one successful.

I’ve realized that my education has provided me opportunities but shut out others. College has stuck me in the corner of the library, put my nose in a textbook, and shielded me from the real world. This is somewhat ironic when I consider that I’m learning about the “world”, and this notion concerns me. Since my education is supposed to prepare me for the real world, I wonder why I’m not out in the real world gaining experience and applying what I’ve learned. Does anyone else share this concern and if so what should we do about it?

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2 thoughts on “Societal Beliefs on Education and Success: Harming Student’s Futures?

  1. I share your concern and I wrote a similar entry on my blog this morning. The skills we learn in college (communicating effectively, thinking critically, etc.) could be learned in more real-life settings as well, so why are we fixated on a college education? My English degree (I graduated a month ago) gave me many skills, but it has not helped me figure out my place in society. I feel if there were some way (outside of internships) to marry education and real-life, practical experience, then students would better understand where they want to go in this vast world.

    I’m not sure how we can fix this, but I look forward to reading any other comments.

    • alison2012internship on said:

      Outside of internships, perhaps students could be provided extra support throughout their education that helps them explore ways of applying their acquired knowledge outside the classroom setting. It would also be beneficial if students were required to take classes or workshops in career search and interview skills. Having the structure of a class for career preparation might make students feel more prepared for their futures post graduation.

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