Let me begin by saying two things. Firstly, I know that once you’ve read this post, dear friend, you’ll probably question why you spend time with me. I like to think there are better reasons than mistakenly thinking we had the same views on education. Secondly, I am always open to my viewpoint being changed by a well-reasoned argument (otherwise known as “if I’m a politician in the future, you can’t hold my current views against me”)
Right, so here goes.
Everyone isn’t entitled to higher education.
Now, allow me to expand. Everyone is entitled to an education. But by the time you get to the age of 18, you should have had appropriate teaching to allow you to make an important choice: whether or not academia is for you. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting to 18 and deciding that you’d like to embark on a career, but that’s not the message I was given when I was that age. I was lulled into a falsehood which dictates that to progress in the modern world you need a degree.
I learnt significantly more from working a job alongside my undergrad than I ever did in earning my 1st class (hons) piece of paper. It frustrates me no end that it’s the latter which makes me employable rather than the former. We’re now reaching a job-market state where there’s a saturation of people qualified to degree level who should get jobs, but can’t, and somehow believe that having been at university for a few years means that they shouldn’t have to lower their expectations.
The reality is, that being at university and doing a waste-of-time generic degree (naming no names, you know who you are) is a way of prolonging our ridiculous 21st century childhood state. And then, when we graduate with our borderline 2:1 generated by multiple choice quizzes and take-home exams, and can’t find a job, we are brought shockingly back down to Earth, mostly under the crushing weight of our now enormous student debt. I’ve been doing this for 7 years now. Trust me. It’s horrendous.
Last week, the government elected to axe the maintenance grant which allows hundreds of thousands of lower-income families to see their children go to university. Lots of people have shared enraged commentaries on how they would never have been able to go to university without a grant to support them.
But here’s the thing.
Yes you would. If you were truly academic, you’d have the security of knowing you’d pass your degree and walk into a job which would give you the income to pay back a loan. Or even better, education would be free to those who were intelligent enough to benefit from it at that level. And if you weren’t smart enough, you could spend those years of your life gaining a real education, learning a trade or even just how to work (something most students completely fail to grasp) rather than spending that hard-earned grant on booze and fancy hipster burgers.
I’m against a lot of things our government has done, and I’m not particularly “for” this move either. But I am against the mentality which our education system has created, which means each child feels entitled to a university place and access to the “university experience”, entitled to a degree, and entitled to a job at the end of it, regardless of if they should have been there in the first place. We’re an enabler society, and it’s ultimately costing us, both in terms of the price of education, but also in terms of the saturation of the job market, loss of truly talented people to other countries or into sectors which can support their growth, and loss of the understanding that what ultimately pays off is hard work.
I await a tirade of angry comments, eagerly.