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the purpose of college (6-14-1)
The primary purpose of college, at least in the past, arguably was to educate. In that past, often this education was not even associated with a student's future career but rather just a method for bettering that individual as a person. No matter what career a person may have intended to have, a college education was something valuable, something that arguably made that person more valuable. Strangely, though a college "education" has now taken on an entirely different societal and cultural purpose, it has come back in many cases to being ineffective and unimportant when it comes down to a particular student's future career.
There are of course exceptions to every rule. While it is possible to pass the bar and work as an attorney without a formal college education, that formal education, excepting the general education courses that seem inexplicably to still be required for even specialized degrees, is quite helpful, and it could be argued that it is necessary while not required (if you can see the difference there). Similarly, a person could feasibly work successfully (depending of course on your definition) as a medical doctor (albeit unlicensed) without any formal medical education or degree. Of course, even I would argue that that medical education, the degree attained thereby, and any certification or licensure would be vital, in modern society with our massive, constantly expanding population, and necessary for insuring the availability of safe and secure medical treatment for anyone needing it. There are many other examples, careers that would be much easier after completing a formal education. And, of course, in many cases, like medicine, it certainly raises the general public's comfort level knowing their treating physician has been formally tested and passed. Certification is always good for comfort, even if a person could realistically be more skilled and knowledgeable in the practice of medicine without any formal education or training, as unlikely as that may sound.
Aside from careers in law--a field that arguably is unnecessary if not for many other unnecessary complexities in our society, but of course that's an argument for another day--or medicine or engineering or various other specialized fields, what then is the purpose of college? Keep in mind that no matter how many people go through college, how many get degrees each year, the majority of our workforce is not made up of people with specialized careers. People work in offices in cubicles, behind counters in fast food restaurants or clothing stores or various commercial establishments. People perform manual labor on farms, in factories, at construction sites. The greater part of our workforce consists of people working in jobs that require no formal education, many of which require no real education at all, excepting social skills and the basic ability to communicate. So, why is it, then, that high school students all across our country--let's focus on the united states exclusively, for the purposes of this argument--are inundated with the idea that they must go to college, that a college education, not to mention a degree, are necessary to make it in the "real world?" Why do we force--that is what we do, even if only through subtle manipulation , hints, and peer pressure--them to continue an education that was arguably unnecessary for several years before they even received their high school diploma? Why do we still insist that everyone have the same education, no matter their background, no matter their future? Why are those four (previously) extra years now generally considered to no longer be optional?
Is it because people really need such an education, even those (the majority, mind you) who will not work in specialized fields?
Or, is it because our workforce, the very thing that demonstrates constantly how so many could get by without a college education, has grown so large, with no signs of stopping, that we need to hold people back from entering it as long as we can, giving us time to create new jobs for them? Is college just a pseudo daycare, intent only on slowing the entrance into the greater workforce? And, if so, is it not conceivable that, with out population still growing, our workforce growing along with it, we will very soon be treating not just four year college degrees but masters, doctorates, etc. (plus any further degrees we will of course invent for this sole purpose) as something required for everyone coming out of high school?