Category Archives: college

Whatever you do, don’t go into debt for college

Excerpt from an interview with Ran Prieur at Boing Boing:

Avi: What advice would you give to a smart kid in high school right now?

Ran: My first advice would be: Whatever you do, don’t go into debt for college. This is a point about college that some people don’t understand. And that is, the main thing you learn in college is how to think and act like an educated person.

If your parents both went to college, then they raised you, then you already know how to think and act like an educated person. You don’t need to go to college to learn that. If you come from a lower class family and your parents did not go to college, then college is much more beneficial to you.

People who’ve been to college and learn to think and act that way get a lot more respect in the dominant society. Just the way you say words, the way you carry yourself. So that’s a big benefit of college. You don’t necessarily have to pay tuition to do that. You could learn that by osmosis. Hanging out in a college campus.

When I was in high school, I was completely unmotivated. I did not know how to motivate myself at all. I was just going through the motions. So I went to college because college was the thing to do. It was a lot cheaper back then in the late 80’s when I went to college. My parents had some money saved up so I didn’t have to go on debt for college.

But, boy, I would not want to be a smart kid in high school right now because unless you’re tremendously good at self motivating, it can be hard for you to quit high school and not go to college and find something to do and not just crash and burn.

Maybe I would say go to community college to get your basic stuff out of the way or hang out at a college campus. If you could get a staff job at a college campus, then you can kind of get the college experience, and even take a few classes.

I don’t know. I would not want to be a kid in high school right now. The generation that is coming up now is going to have a really tough time. Be adaptable, that’s the advice I’d give.

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Filed under advice, alternative education, college, person: Ran Prieur, raising kids / parenting, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Sad college kids

Another sad book that could surely be a long NYer article instead, but still.

At Stanford: “Often brilliant, always accomplished, these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives.”

Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out
Recent studies suggests that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.

Seems to me this approach to kids is going about things backwards and also forgetting that kids are fully human people. So I say something more like this…

1. Start with unconditional love.

2. Next add exploration, conversation, art, moving your body. Personal freedom and responsibility. Pursuit of happiness.

3. Then, maybe when you are 14 or 16 or later, add in thinking about adulthood. Maybe this will include college, maybe not. Who cares! Life is both too long and too short to be miserable as a kid.

Sounds kinda like Sudbury Valley School.

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Filed under attachment parenting, college, depression, happiness, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

open badges (open source credentialing)

Sudbury Valley School has a system of certifications. Generally not age-based, simply based on showing you know how to do something and then given permission to use said thing (microwave, grand piano, certain computers, etc)

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Filed under certification / credentials, college, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

John Taylor Gatto: “What part of the resume [college applicaton] submitted do you look at first?”

The Princeton admissions guy: “Hobbies… it’s the only honest information you’re likely to get. How does someone spend their time when it’s their free choice to spend. It’s a window into their mind and their heart.” (at 51:40)


“What matters more than any academic pedigree is that your children pursue their passions outside the classroom.”
from: Does It Matter Which College Your Child Chooses? Probably Not

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Filed under college, hobbies, person: John Taylor Gatto, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School


“We all know that robots are making it impossible for people without a college degree to get jobs. That’s a basic fact about the economy known to all right-thinking people. And, just like most of the other “facts” about the economy known by right-thinking people, it happens not to be true.”

Data Refuses to Cooperate with Mainstream Education Story
Dean Baker
Sunday, 08 March 2015 07:52

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Filed under college, contrarian, future, person: Dean Baker, work

Just depends…

4 Reasons You Should Not Send Your Child to College


An aside: Everything I’ve heard on college “yes/no” or college “which one?”

1. Incomes are correlated not caused by people who get into fancy schools
2. Incomes are correlated with STEM sorts of careers
3. Happiness is not caused by incomes, beyond a certain base level which is needed to not be poor
4. This base level for income might be affected SERIOUSLY by student loans.
5. Lots of careers which pay well have nothing to do with college
6. Many careers which do pay well also have other entry points (programming/software engineers)
7. For jobs requiring certification, all the employers typically care about is the cert (not the school). And sometimes state schools are favored.
8. Not everyone is a “book smarts” kind of person. Who the heck cares. There are about a million types of smarts in the world.

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Filed under college, contrarian, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere
“…the demand for well-educated workers in the United States seems to have peaked around 2000 and fallen since. But the supply of well-educated workers has continued to grow.”

My comment: It’s true that it is rough out there, but it is also true that you can’t really make a personal decision like this based on aggregate data of the kind that produces such articles. I mean, for instance, I really think it depends greatly on what you are studying. Wanna be a teacher or professional engineer, or doctor, or any of a number of things which require both a particular degree and a certification exam? Well, you gotta go to college. Only a certificate exam needed? Well, there you go. Neither needed? (Like most software development jobs…) Well… you might consider taking your chances and make an effort:

“We find no evidence that employers prefer applicants with resumes listing a for-profit college relative to those whose resumes list either a community college or no college at all.”
Callback rates for resumes posted on — public vs private colleges (especially for jobs requiring a certification… the school doesn’t matter) (which links to another similar study:

Click to access resumeauditstudy_final_092114_dd.pdf

The coming Higher Ed crash – Mark Cuban

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Filed under college, person: Robert Reich

Shimer College AND Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet”

Shimer College: the worst school in America?

This tiny, eccentric institution in Chicago was just voted the worst place to study in America. But does Shimer, which shuns lectures and has no societies or clubs, deserve such an accolade? Jon Ronson went there to investigate


Why I Am Teaching a Course Called “Wasting Time on the Internet”

“The idea for this class arose from my frustration with reading endless indictments of the Web for making us dumber. I’ve been feeling just the opposite. We’re reading and writing more than we have in a generation, but we are reading and writing differently—skimming, parsing, grazing, bookmarking, forwarding, retweeting, reblogging, and spamming language—in ways that aren’t yet recognized as literary.”

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Filed under college, consumer society, contrarian, creativity, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Counterpoint: Don’t Go To College (?)

Here is a very successful software engineer (Instapaper founder) with his thoughts on college:
“In The Talk Show Live at WWDC 2014, I joked about college not being necessary if you thought you didn’t need it.
Attempts at humor are often missed. In this case, a lot of people missed it, which was my fault. To clarify, I was joking.”

“I was a C student because I was (and am) a slacker and lacked the self-discipline to do better, not because it’s the smartest path to take. Performing better opens more doors.”
[snip… read on]

The funny thing about these two snips is that they are contradictory… On the one hand, he says go to college, on the other hand, he says that he personally was a lazy/slacker C student and sorta wasted his opportunity. My guess is that hie figures he would have been EVEN WORSE off hand he not gone to college. Perhaps he feels that he got a lot out of college in the non-academic realm. Great!

My current thinking is that these posts/articles where people argue about whether or not college is “worth it” are moot because really, if you are a privileged teenager trying to decide one way or the other, it is likely pretty clear which way to go.


1. time
2. money
3. opportunity cost of the time/money (IOW, it’s not only the money spent, it’s that if doing something else, you might be MAKING money)
4. what you want to learn about – outside of concerns for employment. (college doesn’t HAVE to be only about career prep!)
5. On the other hand… it reasonable to also think about future work – depends a lot on what kind of work/life you want. Obviously if you think you might be seriously interested in becoming a doctor or structural engineer or ____ then certain degrees will be required. But that’s no different than the certifications/licenses needed to do all different types of work… dentist, plumber, electrician, etc.
6. Your personality
7. Other options for learning/doing the same things (e.g. many things can be learned on one’s own if you are the sort of person who is self-directed especially if you have thought through #1-#6)

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The Case for Working With Your Hands

“A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this.”

General comments about this issue…

1. can’t outsource trades and people-oriented professions (dentists, lawyers, doctors, etc)

2. grounded in real world and communities

3. some people working in the trades I talk with wish they had taken the “college” route.  but it is a bit of the grass is always greener I think.  And it’s never too late if there was something in particular they wanted to study.

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Filed under college, futuresafe, work