Last week, public policy think tank New America Foundation hosted a conversation between tech industry leaders on issues of innovation, technology, the economy, and education. During that discussion, one of those leaders offered this critique of the recent college graduates who come to his company seeking jobs:
“What would you do to prepare your child best for a world in which they come out with a lot of debt and not necessarily a skill set. My leaning is I don’t want my children to go to college unless they desperately are scholars and they want to learn and that’s important. I much prefer them to do an internship.”
That deserves a response. So with this week’s letter, I’d like to remind the president of BuzzFeed of the relevance of a college education by borrowing from BuzzFeed’s preferred educational model–the list.
Dear Jon Steinberg,
If there is one thing we all have learned from the success of Buzzfeed, it’s that everybody loves a list. Who can help but devour all those fluffy morsels of information. This week alone, your readers got their random facts fix with 25 Things You Had No Idea There Were Words For, 14 Ways Sugar Is Secretly Evil–and, since no visit to BuzzFeed would be complete without a little furry four-legged porn–21 Cutest Reasons Why This Cat Is So Sad.
Which brings me to my list of the Top 5 Reasons Why College Still Matters. (And just to be sure we keep your attention, we’re going to run video of pandas in this Cute Animal cam in the corner.)
Reason #1: It still makes financial sense.
Graduating from college is one of the few rungs left on the ladder to the middle class. A recent report from the New America Foundation says that at least 65% of new job openings in the U.S. require education beyond high school and as much as 35% will require that you have a B.A. before you even apply. And lifetime earnings for college grads are about 66% higher than for high school grads. Which might not matter for kids of millionaires, but for everyone else, is still a big deal.
Reason #2: It’s good for democracy.
People with college educations are more likely to vote. More likely to be informed about politics. And more likely to run for office. A college education is a better predictor than income or wealth in determining who is informed and engaged. So Jon, BuzzFeed might get more clicks when the government is at a standstill and thanks to kindergarten hijinks, but if you want a healthy, functioning democracy, you should root for kids to go to college.
Reason #3: It’s good for society.
People with college degrees donate more time to local charities. In part it’s because they have more time and money, but it’s also because college is when young people encounter meaningful diversity and think seriously about their commitments. This translates into adult lives marked by concern for the greater good.
Reason #4: It’s good for innovation.
You said, “Recent college grads come in with no skills that are usable to us, with the exception of programmers.” Come on Jon! You know better. A skill that’s relevant today, can be obsolete tomorrow. Adaptability is the key to survival. We don’t need an army of people trained to manipulate today’s technology. We need legions who will innovate tomorrow’s. And where do you think they get a chance to play with new ideas? College.
Finally, reason #5: It’s good for your mind.
The Internet is full of information. You can Google the answer to almost anything. But higher education gives students more than answers to their questions. It teaches them how, when, and why to question the answers. Because the education that happens in a college classroom isn’t simply about encountering knowledge. It’s learning to be suspicious of sources, to analyze data, to consider context.
So Jon, feel free to keep your little ones far from higher education. But the issue for our country is not how to keep young people out of college classrooms, it is how to provide them with resources and access to get in.