Saying no to college in the NYT: white boys have carte blance #highered #edreform

A piece ran in the NYT recently, in the Fashion & Style section, no less, which seems odd. What isn’t considered fashion?

In any case, Saying No to College. Wow, what a concept. In Russia, college says no to you. Anyone?

I get it. And to some extent, I’m on both sides of the fence. As a faculty member at a public university, I want people to go to college so that I can stay employed. I want more state funding to go to higher ed. But I also understand that this obsessive push for college readiness is misguided. Not everyone should go, we shouldn’t propagandize college for children as young as seven, and I can only assume that universal college participation is going to line the pockets of major online operators, who happen to largely run the USDE right now.

But this article oozes with white male privilege. I don’t want to burst anyone’s Internet bubble, that’s been done for me: not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or be the next Zuckerberg or whatever. Some people just want to get a paycheck to pay the bills so they can afford to do whatever the hell they like. And this doesn’t mean working a McJob. There’re numerous highly skilled and well-respected positions that are J-O-B-S. That’s it. Not everyone really cares about finding their life’s calling. They’ll work a steady job, or not, so they can go skiing on evenings and weekends.

So if you decide college isn’t for you, the message here is, well, you can always build an internet start-up. That’s it? Our heroes in this regard are Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg, all white men in the tech industry, which also happens to be more open to white males anyway.

I don’t mean to push the racial or gender issue here. These are my initial reactions and I’d have to think about this more to get a real handle on their significance. And one person mentioned in the article isn’t white, at the very least, but I’d be willing to argue that he’s of a certain economic class. Ultimately, not everyone has the means or access to treat the world as his or her own classroom. Hell, not everyone even has the desire, they’re not self-interested or self-important hacks who use volunteering as a means for social-climbing, and not an end in and of itself.

This article, even though it does profile one young woman, is a self-aggrandizing handjob for the tech industry, for those who work the TED circuit, and pat themselves on the back for programming an App. Not everyone’s going to play for the NBA, not everyone will invent the next big thing to steal our private information. The rest will end up on farm teams in Moldova with bad knees or in the basement of some IT firm updating bank software for the 2000 switch.

We live in a pretty messed up world where you have certain privileges to even attend college, and you must possess certain privileges to even reject it. Here’s the sad, cruel joke we play in our so-called meritocracy. Take your average low income individual. We pump them full of hype, name their classroom Princeton, and they have a small chance in Hell of getting into a place like Princeton. If they do, they’re so hopelessly out of place, in over their heads, that college is a traumatic experience. If they reject college, then there’s something wrong with them. “What gives, person of color? You’re from the streets, you have a young TFA person to inspire you? We can lead a horse to water I guess, but why won’t you drink?” Then, some young white amateur programmer “rejects” college and now he’s some kind of folk hero, sticking it to the man by going off and doing what millions of other little programmers are doing: selling their souls to Apple on the App market.

Well played.




  1. The paragraph starting with “We live in a pretty” succinctly says what the core problem with education is.

    The US education system is only a cover on an economic system that like all other economic systems wants to protect itself. Our economy has been hijacked by both capitalists and beurocrats alike, depriving regular people from the chance to make a living. No ammount of education will change that.


  2. Thanks for your response. We will still have a two-tiered eduction system with a two-tiered workforce. Those that get the CCSS and PARCC will be the good, obedient workers plugging away at small bits of programming while the visionaries, or whatever, like Gates reap all the rewards. Take what you need and leave the rest? Hardly. Everyone wants to be a billionaire.


  3. As my kids get closer to choosing “higher learning” or are in college, I am becoming acutely aware of what this “college and career ready” business is doing to them. I have son who has looked me in the eye and asked how disappointed I would be if he chose a Community College. WHAT?? Every one of my 3 kids is different – has a different drive or goal – and disappointment has never entered my thought process because honestly I want my kids to be HAPPY! As we wait for what we hope are more acceptance letters, my son who is a senior tells me he will base his decision on the place that will leave him in the least amount of debt. I can respect that, but even if he chooses a place where he will be in the least amount of debt and isn’t happy – what good will come of it?

    There is a strong push for “college” readiness in our high schools, and as you say, it isn’t for everyone – and for some it isn’t for them at age 17 or 18. We fought with our past Superintendent to include military service in our mission statement – it’s advancing an education. Truth be told, one of my most ‘financially successful’ relatives spent 4 years in the military and made more money working in the private sector after leaving than I make now as a 27 year veteran public school teacher.

    Of course, this thinking flies in the face of those who want to standardized everything – especially KIDS! Kids are not standardized and never will be. Their individual passions and interests should be honored and respected – not pushed aside because it doesn’t fit with a “college ready” ideal being pushed on them by educational “experts” looking to make a buck!


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