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We interrupt the evening’s homework for a public service announcement…..DO NOT wait to finish school until you have a family, a job, and innumerable responsibilities! Kids, stay in school while your parents are paying for everything, while you don’t have a teething infant, and while you don’t have a boss that’s more demanding than Jillian Michaels. College has been amazing and fun, but holy WOW is it a lot of work, especially on top of everything else right now.

I have learned not to regret the silly things I’ve done as a kid, but there are certainly times that I want to ask early 2000s Dottie what the heck she was thinking. I can’t seem to remember what possessed me to drop out of school and move across the country my junior year of college, but it sure seemed like the BEST IDEA EVER in my 20 year old mind. Of course, being a dance major in college also seemed like a great idea back then, despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get a job as a professional dancer, and it would be an absolutely useless degree for any other career path–talk about a huge waste of money!

I heard an interesting perspective on college a few weeks ago, and I’ve been pondering since then whether this individual is a genius or a complete idiot. I was listening to a podcast about homeschooling (because I am thinking of homeschooling my son) and there was actually an entire section on how evil it is that our country’s school systems are geared towards sending every student to college. At first that seemed crazy to me, but as I’ve thought about it I’m wondering if there isn’t some merit to what they were saying. When I was in high school, there was an alternative high school right around the corner where kids that didn’t want to go to college could go and be more prepared to enter certain professions (mechanics, IT, that sort of thing). Going to college wasn’t a certainty, you really had to get good grades to even have a chance. I also don’t remember there being nearly as many choices for majors as there are now. This might be a good thing — I’m certainly happy I have more languages I can study than would probably have been available ten or twenty years ago — but there are quite a few things I’ve seen in the news that make me wonder if this is part of the dumbing down of America’s universities. When I hear that there are classes devoted to Beyoncé, pornography, and the Klingon language, I’m starting to wonder why I pay more than $10k/year (just for classes, I don’t live on campus or have any kind of meal plan) for college–and that’s just a state university! The tuition at a private college would probably make me vomit… Sometimes the system just doesn’t make any sense to me–I could be completely fluent in another language, but without a bachelors degree, many places won’t hire me as an interpreter, even if I can prove my language skills. I’m wondering when we started to value a piece of paper over actual knowledge and competance.

I’m curious what everyone thinks about this. Has the course/major offerings of some colleges started to make 4 year degrees irrelevant in the marketplace? (Of course I’m not talking about a career requiring post secondary school like medicine, education, or law). Should we be encouraging our kids to think twice before they decide to go to college? Is the amount of debt they are racking up going to have an actual payoff when they try to enter the workforce, or are there many great careers that really just need knowledge rather than a degree? Should 4 year degrees be required for positions for which the relevant skills can be obtained without one (such as interpreting)? I think our education system is just as broken as our healthcare system, but I can’t even begin to imagine what we need to do as a country to fix it.

Of course, under the current system more than half the “good” jobs require a degree, so it’s back to homework for me!