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Is College Failing Us?

I have stumbled upon some disturbing stories recently on some of the higher education websites claiming that the college degree isn’t worth what it used to be. Without delay, I declare it absurd and resolve to avoid using the news outlets that report such information. However, I find a small part of me is captivated and wants to keep reading. My curiosity could take me down two separate, but equally dangerous paths. Option one – my research horrifies me and I start to resemble Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” doubting every step I took until this point in my life. Option two – I am enlightened, but not about the declining worth of college versus its increasing cost; instead I learn to define the worth of education not based on its monetary value (but that is still a big element) but also by the experience it has given me.

The first article that catches my attention suggests that college degrees are no longer sufficient; therefore in order to compete graduate school is necessary. I have heard this view many times: when I decided to become a teacher, some well-meaning people told me that I would have to get my master’s to stay in that field; when I decided to get my master’s, some perhaps not so well-meaning people told me I wouldn’t get hired at a higher rate; and when I decided to give up teaching, some told me that I was being foolish. But what the article, perhaps unintentionally, tells me is that I made a smart decision – I started my career as a teacher, and then went back for my master’s in a field related to my career. By waiting, I could be meticulous in my choice between careers – could I see myself as an administrator? Did I want to guide students emotionally and intellectually? In the end, I opted to study technology in order to better prepare my students and myself for a 21st century culture; by selecting an applicable major where every class was specialized I was able to make the most of my time and money. Now when I need to develop a blog article for Educational Advocates, I can draw on my skills as both an English and technology major I learned how to modify my style and voice for various outlets.

However, then the article suggests that I should not have changed careers in an economy where many are returning to school in order to avoid the job market. Again, the article neglects to consider the experience I collected while both gainfully employed as a student and later as a teacher. From my college years I learned that I need to be willing to adapt: in college, I had to juggle my classes with my jobs; more recently, I understood that I may have to travel for interviews and think outside the box when networking and researching jobs. From my career experience I learned how to communicate with others, which included more than just interview skills, but also how to answer a phone properly, how to respond when I make a mistake, how to say thank you when warranted. Early in my career I thought that I could relate to my students because of familiarity with their concerns, but after teaching seniors for several years I now know that is was not age that connected us but my ability to relate without condescension that made them feel welcome to voice concerns, something I hope to develop as I continue my new career in guidance.

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