Creating Hype in Higher Ed

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The Apple announcement made me do some thinking. We wait, we buy tickets, we speculate about the newest iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, new iOS, and pine away as each detail is announced via live blog, feed, or better yet: we get one of those coveted tickets to the events that only happen twice a year.  How come higher education can’t be more like an Apple event?

You may be thinking that it sort of is and you’re right.  But let me go on this tyrade for a few minutes while I scarf my lunch before my next set of mtgs/student things….

College and a higher education used to be this sacred, amazing thing.  Now we’ve gone online, offline, asynchronous, synchronous, MOOC, Kahn Academy, rolling admissions, summer sessions, part time, full time, no time for any of it in the whole grand scheme of things.  The prestige of education has been sucked out due to a lot of factors, politics included.  If we want an educated workforce, that’s great, but what about the trades that don’t necessarily require an M.D. in order to fix my toilet but trade training in plumbing instead? Why aren’t apprenticeships and admissions to trades and other occupations kept under lock and key like the newest iPhone?  Why are these jobs looked down upon in many circles? I know I certainly can appreciate and will compensate whoever can cut my hair because I know I’d look like a fool if I tried to do it myself. That person did get special training and had to pay for it, so why do we marginalize their worth because they didn’t get their phd?

In order to create hype in higher education, it’s time to take a good and hard look at what we value.  Yes, we value an educated workforce, but no one is saying what kind of education.  I know that I value my ‘arsenal’ of people who I depend on to keep my life moving: the mechanic who works on my car, the stylist who keeps my ever curling/waving hair in check, the teachers who I work with, the students whose parents all did NOT go to college but wanted the best for their children, the dentist who keeps my pearly whites just that, and the folks who offer me service at my favorite grocery stores, restaurants, who brew my beer, make my wine, cut my cheese (hahahah-sorry), and all the folks who get my goods and service to me and ship them to others from me.  A whole plethora of people with different educations ranging from drop outs to advanced degrees keep each of us moving at the speed of business.  I value them equally so why can’t the rest of society?  Some of the smartest dumb people I know have advanced degrees and some of the dumbest smart people I know deliver my pizza.  I put equal value on them because I want my chiropractor to re-align my vertebrae and I like my pizza hot and fresh with the cheese evenly distributed.

Our education system needs to be like the newest Apple event: hyped up!  Instead of assuming everyone is going to college, it’s time to take a good, hard look at why we go to college.  Is it to ‘find ourselves’ by learning how to do a keg stand or is it to identify with our own identity in order to find something we are truly passionate about?  More and more, I hear students outside my window, on the bus, in line at the eateries, and everywhere bitching about their professor, their lack of funds from mom and dad, or the car that someone else bought them and I can’t help but think that this sense of entitlement that our society has come to know is becoming engrained in our children and will sadly trickle down.

Education is not a right past the 12th grade. The strike in Chicago is a whole other ball of wax, but it’s time we value those who educate us and the education system.  Creating hype might be the answer. It should be a big deal to get into college, much like the Target ad that ran during the Olympics and while we can joke about #ivykidproblems or #firstworldproblems, the bottom line is that education is a great gateway and instead of keg standing our way through four years, we should be taking it more seriously. Instead of opening access to everyone, making higher education more private (not privatized) might bring back some of that prestige to an education.  It breaks my heart to hear these entitled kids piss and moan about how mom/dad won’t drop another $200 into their bank account so they can buy liquor for the home game weekend while I know other students who are scraping every nickel they have to pay their own way. Trades could do the same thing.  I want my electrician to be certified, I want them to earn a fair wage, and I’m happy to pay it.  Something like my home should not be a highly negotiated thing if I’m getting electrocuted when I plug in my coffee maker.

If we continue to marginalize our education by dumping all over it, our future students will do the same.  Instead of this fantastic experience, it’s become this thing that ‘we HAVE to do’ instead of a privilege that we WANT to do. It’s no longer an honor to go to college, it’s turned into this spoiled child syndrome thing. Some may say I can stand on my little soapbox and say these things because I do have my college degrees, but hear me out. I was raised (very well I might add) by parents who did not both contain college degrees, so when did a degree become a measure of any kind of intelligence of gauge of future success?  Standardized testing has done much the same thing in our country and quite frankly, I hate standardized tests.

As a new faculty, it’s sometimes really tough to get my students excited about the fact that they are and will earn their degree because they see the world as a place where you have to have it, not as a privilege to earn it. It’s difficult to communicate the ideals that education is something special because society, employers, media, and everything else has watered it down.  I wouldn’t mind bringing some of the hype and prestige back into higher education so when I have kids in a billion years, a university education can be something so coveted and special that they think twice before ripping off their clothes, taking a bunch of photos, and posting them to whatever Facebook is in 2035.

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One thought on “Creating Hype in Higher Ed

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