Category Archives: Education

New Books Highlight the Value of Education Outside of School

It may seem counterintuitive to think that the most successful people are the ones that chose to forgo a formal education, but this has often been proved to be the case. Clearly after Steve Jobs died there was an increased interest in how he lived his life and became one of the most successful and innovative people in the world.

 

The new Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson has clearly gained a lot of attention. People just want to know the secret to this innovator’s success.

 

How is it that a man who dropped out of college after only one semester could achieve such spectacular success? The answer wasn’t that he ditched educating himself, he just ditched the institution.

 

What many students who enter institutions of higher learning often fail to do is understand that the education received in school is incomplete. To take advantage of an education one must go above and beyond what is learned in a classroom.

 

That is what makes the college dropouts turned billionaires successful. It’s not dropping out of school to have more leisure time and less work, but to work harder and pursue a passion beyond what can be taught in any school. You also can’t be afraid to fail.

 

A new book by Michael Ellsberg called, “The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late,” talks about how current college students are not getting enough out of their degrees and shoveling out money for an education that won’t serve their interests down the line.

 

The book talks about how schools train students for middle management jobs that are simply disappearing. The skills that are most important for a highly successful career in the future are in creating a small business, but how many people learn about that as an undergraduate in college?

 

While clearly colleges provide many opportunities for success, they rarely push students to take risks or be truly innovative. This task falls mostly on the individual. In a time of great economic stress and stagnation, it’s the risk-takers and the innovative that are most likely to pull the country out of it.

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The Student Loan Crisis on the Big Stage

Just last week I wrote on Pick Your Future about the growing and out of control student loan industry, and it seems like the issue has reached the highest levels of government.

The Obama Administration released a plan to deal with this problem and to set things right, but is it truly a solution? As with all contentious policy proposals by presidential administrations, there is always a deeply political element to every plan endorsed.

The politics behind the plan are far less important to regular people than what will actually happen with the policy.

All the way back in 2010, there was a massive federal intervention into the student loan industry. This was intended to get costs under control and ensure that the next generation has easy access to the highest levels of education in this country. Banks were given huge subsidies to lend money to students across the United States, even in situations where there is a high risk of default. The intent was to ensure access to education for student from low and middle income families.

There were certainly people who were critical of that plan at the time, but the opposition was only mild because it wasn’t seen to be the critical issue of the day.

Essentially the banks have no financial risk because the government will simply step in if a large amount of loan recipients default. In many regards the situation sounds similar to the housing bubble that burst in 2008, nearly bringing down the American economy. Obviously, nobody wants that to happen.

So the latest plan will cap student loan payment to give students a little more leeway and cash in their pockets. But an Atlantic article peeked into the numbers and showed that the money staying in student’s pockets remains rather miniscule. The savings would be around $10 a month. That’s not exactly a bonanza.

Simply pushing the loan industry to forgive unpaid student loans could make student debtors happy in the short term, but would be financially ruinous in the long term. An education requires money and someone, somewhere will have to pay for it.

The problem with what amounts to a bailout of students and the student loan industry, is that it merely tries to cure a symptom to a much larger and deeper problem. Unfortunately the “cure” might make the problem even worse than what we had before.

If there is a comparison it would be like how doctors in the 18th century used to bleed their patients and give them mercury to clear their system when they became sick. The result was usually that the patient became more sick or even died.

The costs of education for either students or other members of society are becoming prohibitive and that is the huge problem the nation is facing. The reason that so many students can’t pay back their loans right now is because they can’t find a job even after receiving a high priced degree.

There is sure to be much more information to come as the situation develops.


Get a World Class Education… In Rural Kansas

I have been focusing a great deal on the problems facing students and college graduates a lot lately and the news has mostly been depressing. So I want to write about a more positive story to show that it isn’t all doom and gloom in this country.

A story appeared on Yahoo.com about the remarkable success of a group of rural elementary schools in Kansas. Apparently, schools in the Waconda Lake area of North Central Kansas produce students that score better than 90 percent of student from developed countries. Across the board the students outperform most of their American peers.

The average student at the Waconda school district of 385 kids scores better than 90 percent of students in 20 developed countries on math and reading tests, according to The Global Report Card, published in the journal Education Next. In fact, Waconda is the second highest performing school district in math in the country, after Pelham, Massachusetts, an affluent community that is home to Amherst College.

That remarkable success comes in an area that is agricultural, rural, and fairly impoverished.

What I found interesting is that the success of these districts wasn’t linked to any specific reforms, unique testing methods or high teacher salaries. In fact the teacher’s salaries were amongst the lowest in the state.

The conclusion drawn from the story was that parent involvement, a tradition of success, and lack of a communication barrier were the main reasons that these schools have produced such successful students. It also couldn’t have hurt that the schools had tiny classroom sizes and a high level of direct teacher-student interaction.

I think that conclusion is correct and that those factors contribute the most to success of young students, leading them to greater success later in life. Money means a whole lot less than tradition, culture and ease of communication.