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Formal Education: Necessary?

By Edited Aug 28, 2014 1 0

For the past 50 years, formal education beyond High School has been deemed mandatory in order to live a successful life of financial stability. Students depend on this system to land a good job that pays a good salary, which, in turn, buys them a good house where they live a good life. Nonetheless, "based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor, about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 [in 2011] were jobless or underemployed" (Weissmann). There is an obvious issue with this system that is supposed to create a life for every investor. Formal college education is not necessary in order to succeed in life. Exploration into this controversy magnifies the benefits of avoiding this flawed system.

A four-year degree does not guarantee a stable job in the field you are interested in. If you ask a college student why they are pursuing a fancy degree, 99 percent of the responses will be "to get a job." Universities are super saturated with students desperately trying to make something of themselves. Yet, they are competing with every student in America for a very limited number of jobs available. In addition, college tuition is increasing while financial support is decreasing, making it harder for financially restricted families to send children to college. An investment into a college degree can put a heavy amount of stress on unprivileged families.

Many college students claim that Universities teach skills that cannot be learned otherwise. Elizabeth Hoyt, author of an article about life lessons learned in college, surfaces valuable skills that are mastered throughout college. Some of these skills include: "budgeting, independence, multi-tasking, motivation, note-taking, prioritizing, working with others, and being resourceful" (Hoyt). Although these skills can be learned without college, they are mastered a lot quicker through the system.

Opposers of informal education argue that certain professions should not be learned on a trial-and-error basis. These professions include engineers and doctors. If these areas were not formally taught, people would not feel safe. Areas like these need to be formally taught to minimize risk.

Certain areas do need formal education, but not everyone is going to be a doctor or engineer. Before an education system even existed, people learned through the process of trial-and-error. Without this process and innovators not being discouraged from their mistakes, we would not have safe ways of transportation or exceptional healthcare.

One of the faults in the system is that formal education demands students to be right in order to succeed and get an A, but punishes students who are wrong. This teaches people to be afraid of making mistakes and when they do make a mistake, the class moves so quickly that they do not have time to go back and learn from their mistake. According to creativity expert Ken Robinson, "we are now running education systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities" (Robinson).
There are many alternatives to a college degree such as entrepreneurship, apprenticeship, and learning a trade. Not only do these categories provide a sense of accomplishment, they also put yourself in charge of your own future and not have to rely on anyone else for your success.
Entrepreneurs are most often the "self-made millionaires." These ambitious people invest in themselves by putting money towards creating a business they are passionate about. The benefit of investing in a small business is that it rewards hard and smart working. With the advanced technology and software, a person without any experience in opening a business can create an online store with websites such as Shopify and Square. These websites give you all the tools you need to develop an appealing online store to sell products and services for a small fee.

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If you are curious about certain topics and want to learn more but don't want to pay for formal education, libraries and the Internet are practically limitless sources of information. This way, you do not have to study subjects that you will never put to use. KhanAcademy.com is a website that teaches school subjects conveniently from the Internet. New subjects are added everyday to create an even bigger database. Subjects range from math and science to arts and humanities. Therefore, people can conveniently learn about these subjects without having a formal education.

All in all, unless you are going into a professional field, formal education is not necessary. With the amount of information we can easily access from a book or webpage, there is no need to be in a formal setting. We can learn anywhere and in multiple shades of gray, instead of the black and white of a college institution. So whether you become your own boss or work your way up from the bottom of a company, you do not need a degree to get there.



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  1. Elizabeth Hoyt "Valuable Life Skills Learned in College." Fastweb. 1/10/2013. 16/07/2014 <Web >
  2. Jordan Weissman "53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed—How?." The Atlantic. 23/04/2012. 9/07/2014 <Web >
  3. Ken Robinson "Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity." TED. 15/07/2014 <Web >

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