I'll start with a disclaimer: I'm a university professor, so personally, I highly value college education. Furthermore, I have a 'useless' BA (German). I started off in a 'useful' degree track (biomedical engineering) and switched majors twice -- once to biology (pre-med) and once to German. I wasn't truly happy until I found German linguistics. So even if your child starts off in a practical field, they might not stay there. However, I teach at a 'non-traditional' university. Many of our students have tried other career paths and are coming back for the 4 year degree because they can't get where they want without it. And some are coming back for the sheer love of learning. I really like teaching this type of student because they're motivated and really interesting.
Originally Posted by Lisa1970
Do you think I should just not worry about it and if music is her passion, tell her to go for it?
A quick answer to your question: Yes. This was my parents' philosophy and it worked well. The way my mom framed it was "You could be pursuing your passion and looking for a job that meets your passion, or you could be competing for a job in accounting against people who actually want to be accountants. Which would you rather do?" I have a brother in law who is a master carpenter (his work is brilliant) who found his passion when on a service project for college. He went to help restore old houses for low income people and found a passion for carpentry. He never got a 4 year degree and never missed it. A good friend of mine wanted to be a pilot, but her parents wouldn't pay for her to go to school someplace where she could pursue that. So, she ended up being miserable for 2 years at another school and then transferring and paying for it on her own. However, it took her 10 years to get enough flying time to become a commercial pilot (and by that time the bottom had fallen out of the airline industry) and she was never able to pursue her dream. I'm still mad at her parents for that!
Personally, I'd rather have my children puruse their dream and fail than to not try.
Now on to the more abstract debate:
First-- we need to distinguish several types of education. A general liberal arts education, a professional degree (such as education, engineering or music school) and trade school (plumbing, mechanic, cooking school). The value of a general liberal arts education is there, but it's sometimes hard to pinpoint. Ideally, a good liberal arts education will teach you to think well and critically, to write well, and how to learn new information. It should, ideally, teach you how to be more than just an employee, but to seek out good answers, think about what you're asked to do and to think creatively. Alas, not all institutions achieve this, especially in a day of a growing sense of entitlement among students (and their parents -- I've had parents contact me because their student got a bad grade!).
A general liberal arts education is one that someone can achieve on their own through deep reading, thinking and talking to others. It's rare, but it can be done. (Abraham Lincoln was self educated as were many great women thinkers because they didn't have access to higher education.)
I think a lot of HR departments use the 4 year degree as a (not very effective) screening tool. I'd just as soon see them give a test of general knowledge and writing, but the truth of the matter is that it's easier to accept someone else's judgment that this person can write and think.
Professional degrees such as engineering or business prepare you to work in a specific field. They're not as broad as a liberal arts degree, but there's more of a sense of what you'll do when you're done. The 'problem' is that if you end up not wanting to do that thing, then what? I think that a lot of students who don't know what they want to do end up in a professional degree and don't get much out of it (if you hate marketing and you're stuck in an business degree, what are you learning?) But they stay because they think it'll earn them money. Those are the students I worry about the most, because I find them jaded and disinterested.
Finally, there are the trades. I really wish that a lot of students who aren't academically inclined but are good with their hands and quick with their minds would consider the trades. There's a difference between getting a $12 an hour job in construction that won't go much of any place and becoming a skilled carpenter or mechanic. There are good stable jobs around for people in the trades, if they've got training and persistence. A college degree isn't the only path to a stable income. While I've seen a lot of non-traditional students come back to college and succeed, I've also seen some students who I know could succeed in other environtments and are really taking a blow to their self-esteem by being in college. They're not stupid. They're just not academic. But there's no way that I, as a professor, can look at them and say "have you considered becoming an electrician?"
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom
Dh will make sure our children get some kind of post-highschool education. That is an unquestioned mandate in our house. But it will probably look very different than what most people think of when they think "college". Hopefully in 10 or so years as they get to that age, the opportunities for alternative and distance learning will be much greater.
That, I think, is a sound way to look at it. They need post-highschool education. They may or may not need college. Given who my children are, college is the most likely path for them. Let's face it, my 6 year old who has earnest discussions about whether it's better to learn what a noun is before you learn what an adjective is, or vice versa, is probably not going to be happy in a trade. But you never know.
Originally Posted by Lisa1970
With the PSATs in the fall, they have to put down, I think, a selection of colleges to send their scores to. I know they can add more later (for an extra cost) so I wanted the to at least think about colleges and maybe places they might want to look at closer. They have gotten a lot of college materials in the mail this year. My son has a very reasonable college with a variety of majors available. My daughter only wants to apply to Julliard. She is very smart and makes good grades, but Julliard is a hard one to get in to. Plus, if she goes there and decides later she does not want to major in music, she will sort of be out of luck.
She's a high school freshman or sophomore, right? This isn't an age group known for realistic plans. I take everything a 15 year old says with a grain of salt. Or maybe a shaker of salt.
My response to this would be "Julliard would be really cool! What about Julliard do you think you'd like?" At another time I'd raise the question "Do any other schools have those characteristics?" If I remember correctly, this is also the child who is deeply unhappy in her current school. I wouldn't push the issue too much. Let her dream. Look up some music schools together. Plan a trip to make a few college visits in her junior year. Have her talk to the people who teach her music and performers that she's around. Let THEM tell her that Julliard is a stretch!
Edited to remove random quotes
Edited by LynnS6 - 5/6/11 at 12:45pm