What is the purpose of college?

I like this Twitter thread. Wanted to share here (below the divider).

It’s the easiest thing in the world to criticize a big institution like this. I get that. It’s imperfect, like all institutions—complaining like this doesn’t accomplish anything.

But the average person (who is the most harmed by prevailing misconceptions on this subject) still doesn’t think correctly about college. The average parent stresses for a decade about financing their kids’ college, confuses the purpose of education in light of college admissions pressure, and ends up thinking that overwhelming debt is the only way for their kids to find happiness and success.

Most parents still see college—any college at any cost—as the key to happiness. They’ll say that trade school is “the right choice” for lots of people, but never for their own kids.

It amazes me how far awry this has gone.

But note: The question that kicks this off is an answerable question. There is a purpose for college. I’ll give my answer in another post, maybe. The problem, though, is that most people attending college—or paying for their kids’ college, or pushing hard for their kids to attend college no matter what—don’t have a good answer.

What is the purpose of college?

To educate? None take this seriously now, and the notion that the best way to achieve this end is to warehouse horny young adults together for four years at exorbitant costs while encouraging them to drink is a bad joke in a #metoo Internet age.

To train them for jobs? Perhaps, in some majors, for some students. But any program aimed at this end could be done far more efficiently and on far more equal lines if purpose-built, shorn of the ga-ga of The College Experience and placed in partnership with employers.

To allow our youth to find themselves, develop their potential, discover their place in the world? It’s a lot easier to do that if you aren’t $100,000+ in debt at age 22. I’ll be damned if I can see why encouraging our current cultural bent towards extended adolescence has merit.

To develop an elite class? This used to be the formal purpose, became the sub rosa purpose, and has now entered a strange twilight where measures like this appear seeking to equalize access, even as ever more students attend college and “free college for all” rises as a slogan. Indeed, the fear that this is all about constructing the elite—about gate-keeping access to power and wealth—hamstrings any attempt to address any other concerns. Any call for change appears to be an attempt to wrest power on racial or gender lines, a tribal coup.

In sum, we don’t know what we’re doing, nor do we know what we want. We are stuck attempting to figure out those answers while constrained by the crumbling edifice of a fundamentally medieval institution.

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