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Attending College IS a Right. Enrich the person & the future (theirs & ours) via Mandatory 4 yr Higher Ed in the US or Compulsory K - 16

The purpose of education is to provide for the whole child - mind, body and spirit. Yet maturation from child to adult takes longer than we've previously recognized. 18 yrs may be the age of emancipation, but 23 - 25 yrs is when our brains reach maturity.

Now is a time of unpresidented technological enlightenment. A time when boundaries and borders are lifted, virtually and otherwise. We enjoy medical and scientific advancements, extreme activities and ideals to match, diversity and more equality than ever before. Certainly there is much to change yet - and with all our forward movement, there remain many injustices to right, discoveries to be made, theories to prove and even worlds to explore beyond what we know right now.

I propose that we take the steps needed to match this Enlightened Era of Advancments - by fostering what could become a true Renaissance in Education. I believe youth of today should receive the full benefit of a K - 16 compulsary education.

It is wrong to limit potential based upon income. Should people who will ultimately shape our world be told our belief in their potential is up. Expired? at 17?

Yet that is what we are doing. We limit their viability, their potential and waste opportunity for national growth and positive change when we allow the atrophy of educational opportunity based on age, not maturity. We discriminate based on income, penalize middle class families with extraordinary debt.

Instead, Imagine a nation of Renaissance Men & Women; Educated, Active, Aesthetically minded, but for the first time in Western civilization, this balance of person and intellect also carries the torch of Equality, Diversity, Innovation.
Because all they gained they were GIVEN, freely - regardless of race, creed or color, blind to gender or sexual preference or religious affiliation. Without the weight of debt. No longer are the benefits of Higher Education a privilege, but instead a Right. To benefit the individual, & strengthen the nation.

  • Dec 7 2011: Hi Libby,

    I'll leave the "how are we going to pay for it" for someone else

    Making any kind of service mandatory for 20 and 21 years olds is going to be a very tough sell. We can't even get better than 70% of our youth to graduate from High School. I don't see very many of these kids thinking that another 4 years is a great idea.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
    • Dec 7 2011: Hi Doug - When we look at why kids drop out, much of it has to do with with socio-economic factors that require change. In order to be a catalyst for change - where do we start? The country remains so divided among political lines for instance. To be without an education that allows you to compete - one that teaches language, real world skills, aesthetics, global diversity, just as an example. I know it's Utopian at best - and unrealistic - for now. But if Vocational schools and Colleges were merged - if value and merit was given to (just as an example) workforce and labor development, farming and agriculture, in the same manner it is to liberal arts and fine arts - I think we might actually give our young people more hope for the future. I think there is much for everyone to learn - and to be quite honest - the amount of young people who graduate college without a real skill - is astounding. And out of balance. That we view each other still as Blue Collar, White Collar, etc - speaks to the fact that as a society - we with-hold education, the beauty of it, the fun of it, from so many. Some education at a higher level really is about maintaining wonder, curiosity and a healthy respect for how much there s to learn. Further - maybe much of the problems we see in 20 - 21 yr olds is due to what we give them - way too soon. For all the kids who turn away from furthering their education, how many would actually jump at the chance? Would the vision of life beyond high school become less unrealistic if there was still a path to direct them? Would more time to teach and learn make a difference in the quality of education?
      It wouldn't be easy - for sure. And it might not be a good idea. But once we become to used to the way things ARE, it's harder to imagine what COULD BE. How would this be funded, hopefully with money. ;) JK Like I said - this is about suspending disbelief - and bringing up the pro's and cons. (and yes - there are many hurdles)
      • Dec 10 2011: Hi Libbey, who will pay for it? First, we have the problem, of getting children to live. To live to the age of college. It is not a right. It is earned. :)
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    Dec 8 2011: I appreciate your eagerness to spread higher education around, but considering it a "right" granted to all would be a hard sell. Enormously expensive, of course, and not doable in the current economic environment.

    Some countries, more socialized than the U.S., do offer free higher education, e.g., Norway, where I'm writing from. But there's a limited number of seats, and while the education is free the applicants must compete for the seats with grades and entrance exam results. A minority of the applicants actually get in.

    There's no reason to believe that everyone would be better off with a college degree. And if everyone had a college degree, lots of needed jobs would go unfilled. Where would you find a mechanic or a bus driver? I think the essential problem is that of leveling the playing field and removing handicaps: motivating and assisting children from homes where education is not a priority to get excited about learning, and later to assure that motivated but underfunded youths can get the education they seek, whether academic or in the trades.

    And by the way, I'd say age 35 is closer to the age of maturity. (When you're 35 you won't think you were mature at 25.)
  • Dec 7 2011: Libby,
    Speaking as someone who wanted out of school as soon as possible, I would have hated to have been obligated to attend an additional four years. Nor am I convinced that doing so would have 'helped' at all. What type of curriculum are you proposing for the additional four years? It seems to me that you should instead seek to teach more in the time already allotted than to request the taxpayer fund an additional four years of someone's education.
    Are you anticipating the 13th grader to live at home, or will the taxpayer pay for his dorm room/K13 apartment in addition to his schooling?
    How will the teachers of these 'higher' grades be compensated? Will the taxpayer provide tenure and multiple teaching assistants?
    Is this secretly a ploy to greatly increase membership in public education teacher unions? That's is the only reason I can imagine for such a proposal.
    When you say education is a right, what do you mean?
    Human beings have a fundamental right to learn _ what?

    • Dec 7 2011: Hi Seth ~
      It's a weird concept right? I agree. My thinking was, this is a total paradigm shift. But if we look at learning, and the way the world has changed, I think we should assume that "College" as we know it today would have to change if we took this proposal - just for sake of argument - and really thought about it.
      That said - yes - I am asking you to suspend your disbelief here. And I agree - if this was met with the feeling that it was forced upon young people - well, that would NOT be the goal.
      Starting with the institutions themselves... I can imagine most Colleges would be totally against this. But I wonder what the benefits of publically funded college would be? Would athletics find better balance with academics? Would the decrease in borrowed money from banks be replaced with people investing earned income and actually using credit (if at all) in the way it was intended?
      As for who would pay for this. Yes. Publically funded. But what if College was actually more directed toward the future and still put everyone on a level playing field? What if it afforded you a chance to really take stock of yourself and your interests, helped you direct those things into a career you'd actually enjoy - or help you make informed choices about your future. When I say "education" I mean - somewhere along the lines, the love of learning is lost to rigorous and often ineffective method. If education is to change - then it should change in a manner that addresses things like you are talking about - I don't mean people who don't currently have a college education are less than - not in any way. In fact - the smartest people I know personally didn't go to or finish college. The way we view learning can be drastically different. I see this as a chance to give a chance - to kids. 17 year olds are just that - kids. What I hate to see, is wonderful minds and ambition, shot down. That's all. I guess what I mean is: Everyone has a right to the opportunity. Regardless of means.
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    Dec 10 2011: Libby, universal education is a nice sentiment with which it is hard to argue. (but I'll try anyway). I am afraid "compulsory education" as you seem to suggest qualifies as an oxymoron in my experience. They used to sell sweatshirts at the ASU bookstore with a cartoon horse stating "they can send me to college but they can't make me think". The stellar failure of western education in most instances begins with this fallacy of requirements and quotas. Surveys recently have shown that the retention level one year later of the "good " students who graduate from high school is about 20% of the sacred cow curriculum. This is a farce which no one should find amusing. Now if what you meant to suggest is that we support a persons efforts to learn till age 25 I will give you my full support.They have this in varying degrees (no pun intended) in most of northern Europe. There if you show reasonable aptitude and desire you can follow any course for an average of $1000 a year. Education in America and the West in general is unfortunately still predominately 19 century in its goals and concepts. Sending everyone, not just our best and brightest to the existing intellectual abattoirs that are basically nicely landscaped concentration campuses will not save us, since so few get out alive now(with a fully functioning brain). What we need is Ken Robinsons revolution in mode and method, conception and content and then make it available to all at an affordable price.
  • Dec 7 2011: Hi Libby,

    It's obvious that you are passionate about education and have a love of learning. I do too. That does not mean that everyone shares our feelings.

    I feel strongly that a person at the college level needs to have a stake in their education. That it can't be given to them, or however gently, pushed upon them. It's their life, and although there are economic contstraints for some, only they can be responsible for their choices.

    Best wishes,
    Doug Bell
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    Dec 7 2011: Libby,

    I think that the impetus is now upon us to take advantage of the education free to us. College, though valuable in its education, has already been rendered virtually useless (see the current amount of college grads that can't get work.) On top of that place the insurmountable debt.

    I would fully agree that the Level of Education should be free and available (which it currently is for those with access to the internet.) It is in need of individuals willing to create valid curriculum.

    But the brick and mortar college is falling to the wayside in irrelevance. Perhaps an overhaul of the education system would make it more appealing to me.
    • Dec 7 2011: Hi Grant,

      I agree that it's quite possible to spend $250,000 on a college degree that doesn't get you a job. I would disagree that this is the only outcome. I know several recent graduates who spent $80,000 for a Bachelors degree and had multiple offers for professional positions. Jobs that are 1) important to them and society, 2) cannot be performed without college training, and are 3) well paid. Now, they did "settle" for a well respected state university whose tuition, room and fees are less than $20,000 / yr. And they also studied things like calculus and organic chemistry.

      Frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy for someone who complains that their $60,000 /yr private college gives them a degree in a field that does not have $100,000 / yr jobs (or even $40,000/yr jobs).

      There is a broad spectrum of higher education. Some is very expensive, some less so, and some is pretty reasonable. From what I've seen, new options are constantly coming available and new ideas are welcome.

      Best wishes,
      Doug Bell
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      Dec 8 2011: "But the brick and mortar college is falling to the wayside in irrelevance."

      That's news to me. And apparently to many others, since "brick and mortar college" enrollment (in the U.S.) is higher than ever, and continues to rise, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
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        Dec 9 2011: Paul, though no one can argue that enrollment is up for many reasons, high enrollment does not imply it as relevant or useful.

        For example, I manage a branch of a Fortune 500 business. In recent job interviews I was interview PhD and MBA graduates who were far less capable of the job than the "uneducated" individuals and entrepreneurs who came through my doors.

        Further, to Libby's point that it should be a human right is taking it a step too far. Watching Sir Ken Robert's TED talk on the state of education reveals a need for a major overhaul in the education model. This is true, and especially true in the developed world. But when speaking of human rights, we must look at the broad spectrum of the human race.

        I therefore look to our work in Haiti over the last 4 years to consider if the brick and mortar, debt-ridden model of education would work for them. Most of my Haitian friends want the education, the ideas, the resources that is available to the rest of the world. They just could neither imagine a) where to even find a brick and mortar college, nor b) taking something that they could not obtain debt free. Borrowing that much money is not an acceptable paradigm in the least.

        The level of education, the access to information I agree is relevant and useful; it could be a human right.

        The Americana college experience should not.
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          Dec 9 2011: You're right that my comment doesn't suggest that traditional education is relevant, it just suggests than many people think it is. I happen to think it is, since it normally instills a degree of rigor and care in thought and research that is hard to cultivate otherwise.

          Like you, I've had the experience of hiring and working with people where the level of formal education was no indication of their fitness for the job. But of course that depends on the circumstance. For the same reason I don't think that employees (e.g., teachers) should be paid extra for additional degrees, as they often are. Frequently the extra degree is indeed irrelevant. (I must say that some of the least relevant degrees come from non-traditional institutions, like web-based colleges.)

          Clearly Haiti's approach to education and its funding needs a different model from that which may work in the U.S. What they do have is available manpower, if that can be put to productive use. Best of luck with your work there.
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    Dec 7 2011: In my opinion, this topic has little to do with education, and more to do with the function of capitalism and competition in our education system at the collegiate level.

    You can find quite a bit of compelling discussion relating to this topic here:

    Grants, scholarships, and military service are all viable options for high school graduates to pursue higher education. The motivation to pursue higher education is not limited by income.

    Secondary and primary schools are already expected to 'turn out' students who are actually prepared by measurable means for college, and this happens annually, by the millions, to better success than any other country in the world. This is not only measured by through testing but also through observation of the multitude of students who go directly from high school to 4 year colleges and graduate with degrees in their chosen field.

    We live in a capitalist society yet your proposal is socialist in nature, and now is certainly not the time that our nation needs more socialism. You are correct that funding is a major issue in this concept. The best quality education costs the most- as is the nature with any product. If this wasn't the case than the United States would not be the leading developer of technology, medecine, and innovation worldwide. Socializing collegiate education would destroy the competitive nature that has made our collection of universities the best the world has ever seen.
  • Dec 7 2011: Let me add this - initially - if compulsory seems too crazy for most of us - then, what about just Free? Much like education now - but at the College level. There are schools of excellence - true excellence - that are public. And pretty lousy schools that are private. And vice versa. Would accountability improve if secondary and primary schools were EXPECTED to turn out students who were actually prepared, by measurable means for college? Not measurable only thru testing - but by realtime observation.
    Funding is certainly a gigantic issue - but it's not a deal breaker. Or is it? There are colleges now that offer free tuition - but not to everyone. That said - if not via enhanced education opportunity that is equitably available - recognizing we might need more than is offered right now - what might be another answer?
  • Dec 18 2011: Thanks Paul :) I think you hit on some critical points. My favorite: competition to be educated. That's at the heart of my topic. I think all people, regardless of station in life, or career path - should have the opportunity to learn. To formal education. The mechanic who is also a botany major might just be the person to engineer a plant based fuel that's better than what we have today. The bus driver who was a pysch major might propose changes to mass transportation that provide the passenger with therapeutic respite on their journey and so on.
    It's about loving to learn, and having real access to formal education, and educators, for the purpose of the enriching the whole person.
    It requires a paradigm shift in what we value. I think that to separate the trades from higher learning is a HUGE mistake in the first place. Being able to do more than one thing, well - gives our kids more choices. AND it encourages creative thinking, applied perhaps from what was learned in either discipline - to solve problems in a whole different field.
    A pipe dream maybe, but I guess we have to start somewhere.
    Everything you say though, especially in this economy, is true. Yet how can we turn things around if we do what we've always done - even in regard to education?
    Thanks so much! And you are right about 25 vs 35! LOL I myself have never minded getting older - but will say, I do at times miss the days when "ignorance" was bliss! ;)
  • Dec 10 2011: Hi Chad ~
    Thank you - and great comments. Yes - my proposal is intended to support the individual in their educational pursuits beyond the age of 17. (you hit the nail on the head!) What wonder about regarding current statistics, for all levels of education really - and especially pertaining to student apathy, is: WHY?
    I think to believe that all students are apathetic and unappreciative speaks to the survey, not the reality. Like you, I agree that to base education on grading systems and outdated methodology is ridiculous. But I think we need to dig deeper. Remember a time in your life when learning was about discovery, curiosity - to be really engaged in the pursuit of learning is quite different that being forced to learn. II see an immense amount of pressure in kids from age 13 yrs on about the rest of their lives, and I think in part - we can't judge outcomes by measuring faulty present day criteria. I think you are right about Mr. Robinson - in fact, one of his critical points in terms of what education can and should be, s all about removing any/all barriers that prevent young people from learning. I think stress, home, financial, environment - play a huge part in this. To assess an already burdened and even immature audience (immature meaning young and age appropriately so) by metrics pertaining to how they managed to make their way through the current system via outcomes is what I don't quite understand about how we look at enacting change. We impose undo rigor on students, and then ask them why they haven't learned. Weird. So in my mind, (and I LOVE your analogy) Lifting the barriers to going to college is about what students need to be viable in todays world. It isn't a reward. College shouldn't be thought of as a privilege. I certainly think my idea may be way too extreme. But sometimes the idea in the extreme is a great place to start conversation. I think your comments are just excellent. Much appreciated!
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    Dec 7 2011: Good clarity, Doug. Agreed.
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    Dec 7 2011: Hi Libbey, I like your proposal. The way I interpret it is: education is not a consumer product.

    Let me do a little thought experiment. Let's suppose that against all odds, a catastrophic event falls upon us. Either a comet hits the planet or someone decides to start a nuclear conflict.

    I see the purpose of our education as provide enough base that, in a scenario a dramatic as this, people would be able not only to survive, but to return to previous levels of advancement.

    What would a curriculum be in that case? With all the information available at your fingertips (via the internet), what skills should the curriculum focus on?