Conversations about college

My daughter is 15 and thinking about college.

It was inevitable that this conversation would come up, as her schooled friends and many homeschooled friends as well are on the “college is necessary for a successful life” track.  Luckily my kids don’t buy in to that argument; they have too many examples in their everyday lives to the contrary.

I don’t sit around the house bashing college – I really don’t – but I am open about my dislike of the idea of going to college just because that’s what others are doing or because you don’t know what else to do.   There are many good reasons to attend college or university, and also many good reasons not to.   As with everything in life and learning, it depends on the individual, their interests, motivations and life situation.

Recently a Q&A was held for local homeschoolers with questions about college, and when my daughter came home and her Dad asked her why she thinks college might be a good thing, she said in an “I’m quoting something I heard at the meeting” voice, “To make the transition to adulthood…”    And ok, I couldn’t help it, I laughed a little.

I laughed because at 15, my unschooled daughter is already more capable in the world than many people I meet in their mid-20’s who are just getting out of school.  If anything, it seems to me that college and university is often a way for young people to put off “adulthood” in the way it was meant at this meeting i.e. being responsible for your own schedule, money, living situation, a job, etc etc.    More and more I would say universities are all about shielding young people from everyday realities of the real world = ideas they don’t agree with, conflict among people of different social and political backgrounds, racism, sexism, poverty.  The list goes on and on.   These subjects are talked about only in theory or not at all for fear of offending.

I hate to tell everyone, but that’s not the real world, and spending four years in that kind of environment is not going to help anyone transition to anything.

Of course, living on your own but in a somewhat controlled environment can be transitional; shopping for one’s own groceries, doing one’s own laundry….  But those things are not exclusive to college.   Blake Boles is running a program right now in Colorado for self directed teens called “Adventure Semester”.  His program, in my view, will do much more to help teens transition to adulthood than most 4 year university programs.  He has some other ideas along those lines as well that I  hope come to fruition in the near future.

But right now, in our house, as college ideas get tossed around, the one that is the forerunner is studying abroad.  Specifically in Germany, where tuition for Americans is free.

Living in Germany, working, speaking the language and oh yeah, studying without going into debt?   Yes, I’m all for that.

I’m all for it because any extended time living in a different culture, speaking a different language is invaluable.  I’m all for it because in my experience, Germans do not shy away from talking about tough subjects; in fact their entire history for the past 70+ years has had at its center their willingness to deal with the toughest subject of all, and they’ve come out the other side as one of the most free, open and welcoming countries in Europe.   I’m all for it because even if university is the motivation for making that leap, it won’t be a financial disaster if she decides to work in a field unrelated to her studies.

Personally I’m all for it because that would mean I’d get to visit Germany on a regular basis for a few years, and since my closest friend is German, it’s a win-win!

Practically speaking this is still over 2 years away and a lot can change in two years.  The conversations will continue, as will the growth, and I have a feeling the person who leaves to live on her own in a few years will be well on her way down path to transition,  with or without college.

One comment on “Conversations about college

  1. M says:

    What a super, super commentary. In the 1800’s people were assuming adult responsibilities some times as young as 14 or so. There are some who consider the phrase “teenager” to be a mid to late 20th century thing. And that our schools now do not prepare students to be adults, with which I totally agree. And it is rather frightening to know students are not taught critical thinking, but are taught by repetition, what to regurgitate.

Leave a Comment

*