Moderation in education: a four-year degree is not always a necessity

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March 12, 2012

9:48 PM

When Rick Santorum recently called President Barack Obama a “snob” for urging all Americans to go to college, I was initially turned off by his implication that not all Americans deserve the chance to continue their education and pursue a college degree at a school like the College of William and Mary. Obama, however, meant not just four-year colleges and universities, but also vocational schools. In the end, I decided that while I do not agree with Santorum’s labeling of Obama as a “snob,” I believe that not all Americans should go to college, and that such a statement urging all citizens to pursue higher education negatively affects those who choose not to. That being said, our education system does need to do a better job of preparing students for college, regardless of whether they take that path.

Taking into account Obama’s original statement, I am more willing to agree with his notion of encouraging some form of higher education for all Americans. I do think it is beneficial to encourage people to consider the various types of education available after high school, including vocational training. After all, not all Americans are cut out for a four-year college degree, for while some people’s talents lie in academic studies, others possess skills that are more connected with certain trades. It is essential to the well-being of our society that we have citizens working at a variety of jobs.

There are already problems with college graduates finding work. Do we need to be encouraging even more people to attend college when there might be a more successful, alternative route for them? As students at the College are probably aware, there is a lot of pressure to attend college in today’s culture. In fact, students who choose to attend trade school or postpone college for the time being are often looked down upon. While this is a cultural problem concerning how we view our fellow citizens, I don’t think having every single person go to college is the solution.

However, I do wish we could improve our education system to better prepare students for higher education. A student may be of naturally high intelligence that lends itself to the academic world, but if he was unfortunate enough to attend poor schools, he may have missed out on the chance to develop those skills. Overall, we need to give all students a fair chance to reach their potential, whatever that may be, and better prepare them to achieve success in whatever path they choose to take. If we could improve in this area, rather than simply encouraging all Americans to attend college, the quality of life may begin to increase for people in all types of jobs.

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  • Elaine Oestreich

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