A college education has value

In this edition of Coffee House Ramblings, I thought I would tackle the age-old question about education. This is a follow-up to my last column, “Bureaucracy.” Unfortunately bureaucracy is rampant in our educational system, in America today.

A lot of modern jargon talks about privilege. I prefer to call it opportunity. I came from an average middle class family. I grew up in the Fountain Square area of Indianapolis. College was just not a topic at our breakfast table. My dad was a tradesman. He was a type-setter. He helped in the printing of newspapers.

My dad worked at many places, primarily due to his union card. Even though he had no college education, he was successful. He was able to rear, feed and educate four children. My parents’ goal for all of us was to get a secondary education. My dad never graduated from a secondary school. Mom did.

This is why I do not refer to myself as privileged. I simply believe one should take the opportunities God affords you.

Unfortunately, my parents’ marriage ended in divorce. I sort of lost my father figure, but the Lord sent others into my life, most of which were my teachers: Mac, Bob Gallamore, Dale Reid, Duke Herring. Others saw something in me that I did not see. They all helped me navigate my way through Ball State University. They impressed upon me the fact that perhaps I could go further in life if I had a good education.

I did go to Ball State, then Indiana University, and finally wound up with thirty hours more than a master’s degree. Does this make me smarter than a person who did not go to college? No, but it gave me opportunities I would not have otherwise had.

Education in America is a fascinating study. To our founding fathers, its purpose was to teach young people to become good citizens, to instill within them such virtues as moral responsibility.

Education in America essentially set up in this manner: primary, middle and high schools. Colleges were intended for the study of law, science, religion and languages. Interestingly enough, the primary schools were to focus on reading, writing, government/civics, mathematics, history, geography and the priority of religion.

Wow, we have certainly deviated from this early model. Some would say for the better; some would say to the detriment of education in America.

I would be in the latter category. I am less than thrilled when I look at today’s curricula, from pre-K through our universities. Would someone please tell me why today’s universities offer the courses they offer? All one needs to do is scan the current list of courses from our institutions of higher learning.

Do I really care about taking a course in Human Sexuality at IU? Or writing a doctoral thesis about the difference between vinyl records and iPods? I do not.

Is higher education for everyone? I submit that it is not. However, some sort of post-secondary education is necessary. This could be an apprenticeship program. It could be a vocational school or one of our many fine two-year programs.

Does having a post-secondary education provide you with a higher lifetime earning, a better standard of living? Yes, it does. According to U.S. governmental studies, a person with a Ph.D. averages $3.4 million more than a person with only a secondary education. If one has a professional degree such as in medicine, law or engineering, one would earn almost $4.4 million more. I would like to quickly add that money should not be the motivating factor for your education.

But going back to my question, does one need to obtain a degree to be successful? I submit they do not.

I have counseled many students during my lifetime. My admonition? Find out what you like to do. If it is to work on cars, do it. If it is to be a cartoonist, do it. If it is to design web pages, do it.

However, no matter what you decide to do, always do it to the best of your ability. If your boss asks that you give 100 percent to the job, give it 110 percent. If you do, I guarantee you will always be gainfully employed. Do it.

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.