The Case Against College
Success Without College: Why Your Child May Not Have to Go to College
Right Now-and May Not Have to Go At All
By Linda Lee
All great truths begin as blasphemies.
— GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Here is who belongs in college: the high-achieving student who is interested in learning for
learning's sake, those who intend to become schoolteachers and those young people who seem
certain to go on to advanced degrees in law, medicine, architecture and the like.
Here is who actually goes to college: everyone. That everyone includes the learning disabled and
the fairly dumb, those who have trouble reading and writing and doing math, slackers who see
college as an opportunity to major in Beers of the World, burned-out book jockeys and the just
plain average student with not much interest in anything.
Think about your high school class. Now think about the 76 percent of those students (80 to 90
percent in middle-class suburbs) who
they expect to go to two-year or four-year colleges.
You begin to see the problem?
Pamela Gerhardt, who has been teaching advanced writing and editing at the University of
Maryland for six years, says she has seen a decline in her students' interest in the world of ideas.
In an article in the
on August 22,1999, she noted: "Last semester, many of my
students drifted in late, slumped into chairs, made excuses to leave early and surrounded my desk
when papers were due, clearly distraught over the looming deadline. 'I can't think of any
problems,' one told me. 'Nothing interests me.'"
Her students, she said, rejected the idea of writing about things like homelessness or AIDS. Five
male students, she said, wanted to write about the "problem" of the instant replay in televised
Ever since the Garden of Eden, people have been complaining that things used to be better, once
upon a time, back when. I suppose it is possible that, thirty years ago, students were just as
shallow and impatient with education as they are today. But I don't think so. It could be that a