Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Shoring Up Weaknesses
I’d like to see an economy robust enough that anyone who graduates college can get a good job, regardless of major; in that economy, we could restore some of those choices. But for students lacking a glass floor, right now advice like “give it the old college try” is somewhere between tone-deaf and malicious. I wish that weren’t true, but it is. And I think we show students more respect by confronting the reality of the situation than by treating everyone as if they have a trust fund. The first weakness to shore up is economic.
I think what's important is that taking certain kinds of risks (like joining an improv comedy club, or that acting class initially referred to, or grad school) can actually contribute to changing someone's mindset.
When in the K-12 environment we give disadvantaged students KIPP schools because "kids like that need more structure", we are both resigning ourselves to the relative flux in their lives outside of school AND robbing them of many opportunities to learn self-regulation that more affluent kids have by design (e.g. think the private Montessoris in the Bay Area).
When in the higher ed world we give students more structure, we are both resigning ourselves to a world in which each credit costs them dearly AND robbing them of many opportunities to deprogram the scarcity mindset that can entrench poverty.
You yourself advocate for Liberal Arts educations, knowing they are "wasteful" in the every-credit-is-dear mindset context.
In other words, you can't solve these problems with simple solutions. "More structure works" if more regimented programs graduate more students. But if those programs don't select for or provide the right mindset, they might not lead to as much long term economic and social wellbeing for former students.
On the other hand, you're probably quite right that I only had the freedom to do that because I had a safety net under me. If I took an extra year to graduate because I had to switch majors, my parents probably would have picked up the tab, and we probably could have afforded it.
But that doesn't mean it's bad advice. Like "contribute at least 10% of your income to your 401k" it's great advice, if you can afford to take it.