In my role as a curriculum director of a statewide virtual school, I am often invited to meetings to discuss evolving programs to better meet student needs. These meetings usually involve different forms of educational professionals (teachers, administrators, etc.) as well as prominent community leaders. I am often stunned by the ease in which formal education (K-12 and higher education) is often dismissed as an important path for successful students with some vague notion of “informal education.”
There is no denying there are a lot of great informal options if you want to make yourself smarter. However, there is a broad claim that formal school doesn’t matter in today’s world that I think lacks proof and data.
My favorite is when someone points out a company says… “Look… the people that run ____ didn’t go to college… now they are billionaires!” The last four times I have heard this claim, they were specifically calling out Google as run by rogue, education less do-it-yourselfers. That would be a great argument, except… 1.) Google was founded by Ph.D. students, both of which help run the company today. 2.) They are known for preferring not only college degrees, but those from elite universities. 3.) Even if it was true that X or Y leader didn’t go to college, my guess is that the engineers that make up the working part of Google are college degrees. Most importantly? We shouldn’t make policy or create schooling based solely on outliers.
This point can be frustrating to make to someone that honestly believes that every technology company was started by high school dropouts, but, it is important that teachers (from pre-school teachers to college professors) make it clear that schooling matters.
Last week’s Freakonomic radio podcast tackles just that… the value of the college degree. Give it a listen. It is worth it.