Friday, July 8, 2011

Words From a Weary Mind, Pt. 3

Cirque du Soleil: review cancelled.

It was awesome.

Enough has been said.

~Moving on.

In this final blog of my college comparison series, I would like to cover the final, fundamental aspect of educational institutions: logistics.

There are many important logistical concepts that are always applied to schools: money, prestige, selectivity, and location are all good examples. The difference between both college and high school here is greater than the previous two categories, academics and social atmosphere. A substantial amount changes in transition and comparison between the two. But, I'd like to make this about money.

First--money. The financial factor of colleges and universities alike is essentially a whole new world for public students. For private students, the concept of paying for your education does not change, but the details of the payment do. Even students who go to some of the most expensive high schools in the country may find themselves adding an additional zero to their college expense totals by comparison. Taking my high school, for example, I do not have to pay for any of the following: books, travel, physicals, health clinic availability, medical products, standardized testing (including A.P., S.A.T., A.C.T., and the like), college applications, food, and other things of which are absent from my mind. That's a lot of free stuff.

In college, for most students (especially from my high school), all of that changes—a financial 180. Every single thing I listed is most likely a paid for service or good, and for residents, movers, and general students, tuition, rooming, and extraordinary travel expenses (interstate train/airplane opposed to local commuting which was implied in the high school coverage) also become necessary financial duties of the student.

Now, there are scholarships, grants, financial aid opportunities, and family contributions that will pay your college expenses without requiring any sort-of return (presumably with the family contribution). Those are the primary means of paying college. But, in a nation struck by financial crisis, public and private universities are increasing their expenses. It's necessary to thrive in an area that comes to resist such success more and more. And, on the average, many students are going to have to take out loans to entirely pay off college. Students that may not be above average, as deemed by colleges around the nation, may not get the best financial deal, let alone acceptance to the college of their choice.

So for the average student, some money is going to come with the assumption that it will be paid back. And, that's okay, assuming a sustainable job is available after college. Back to my point, money is an ever-recurrent motif of college life, which is a good thing, because it is a basic theme of life after college as well. Now, money is an explicit aspect of college life, and in high school, it's almost non-existent. I mean, of course, we know what money is, as teenagers. And, certainly, we know how to spend it. And, we know how to solicit from our parents pretty well, too.

But, we don't know money. We don't know the impact it does have in our life. Well, that's what were told, and subsequently what we think.

But, I would venture to argue that we, as high schoolers, and even as elementary students, do understand the gravity of money, in a subconscious way, almost, unless you think perpetually like me, in which case thoughts tend to surface.

I would claim that from first grade, we know what money is, and how money is weighed. We don't quite understand the context yet, and we definitely don't know the details, but we do know it, and we do know of it.

Why do I say this? I say this because, in an extremely implicit manner, we are taught, as Americans, that education comes first. We are taught that education is what matters most. Education is the beginning to the rest of your life. Education is life. That's what we come to learn.

From such knowledge, we derive an uncanny instinct, and certainly an instinct native to the U.S. It's an instinct to expand one's knowledge. It's actually pretty primal, too. Case-in-point, when the U.S.—as it still is today—was undergoing heavy job losses, the average American that did not have a back-up plan and could not find a suitable job thought first to attain higher education—to pursue higher education. It's certainly reasonable. A job applicant with a high school degree vs. a bachelor's is a no-brainer. Similarly, a bachelor's candidate vs. a master's candidate vs. a doctoral candidate is just as easy a decision to make. So, naturally, when times get rough, we strive for expansion of the mind. Because, we think, and to some degree know, that it will fix everything. Or, at least, it will fix more than what could be repaired at that very moment in time.

So, parents who understand that educational philosophy push students from day one to achieve excellence in school. In fact, the goal of high school—the absolute aim—isn't to enjoy it. It isn't to "do your best" or "find your identity." It isn't even to get your high school degree, though that comes as a necessary and convenient supplement. No, the goal of high school is to get you into a great college. Because, the better the college, the better the education, the better chance you will succeed in life.

That is what we know, and that is what we are taught from our first day in school.

And, there's nothing wrong with that. Again, it's all very logical. But, to claim that we do not understand the significance of currency and of money is an ignorant claim.

Just to further my point, tons of "college preparatory" high schools have sprouted around the nation within the last decade. And, they continue to populate themselves. Why? Because, they promise to (and often do) increase the chances of your child gaining acceptance to college.

So, in a way, I guess I can refute my own point from the beginning. I can even reverse it. Money, a logistic of college, compared to high school, is not all that different in terms of understanding, though a whole new entity in application, to be fair.

And, for the last time, unless I change my mind, these are my disorganized, rambled thoughts for the day.

P.S. I hope you find them useful! I kind of learned something myself in writing it. That goes to show my point of subconscious understanding and the surfacing thereof, huh?


  1. Whoa, Will. That's one long blog. Cool your jets, kid.

  2. Will,

    A common mistake made by “educators” is that everyone who attends high school is college bound r even college material.

    Another mistake often made is that if you don’t have a college degree you’ll never have the kind of job that pays worth a darn.

    I’m here to tell you, Will, that in both cases it just isn’t so.

    First off, you have enough first hand experience that at some schools—yours included—most of the students there are not college bound students. For that matter, a great many of them aren’t even good candidates for a high school diploma.

    In many communities the public education system has failed many of the students and they won’t get the education they deserve.

    Then there those poor souls who earn their college degree and end up with jobs that don’t pay the rent, that don’t put food on the table and don’t allow the degree holder to get ahead. A college degree is a great thing to have but for a great many degree holders there’s little correlation between the degree and a decent paying job.

    On the other hand, there are a great many people who never earned that college sheepskin yet hold very good paying jobs.

    Because so many of our public schools are failing, charter schools and private schools are popping up all over. Please keep in mind that many of these are “for profit” enterprises.

    If you’re going to name your new school, which name do you think would make it more successful: “Bright New Days College Preparatory School” or “The Ajax School of Industrial Arts”?

    The fact that these are often private schools usually means that the students come from families with enough disposable income to pay for a private school. Most private schools can be almost as expensive as a decent private college. As an example, University High school in San Francisco cost just under $33,000 per year plus supplies. For many people this means that before taxes the parent needs to make approximately $44,000.

    Most students coming from families with this kind of money have the support network necessary to succeed in most arenas. Chances are that the parents are college educated, private tutors and advisors are at the ready and parents even get involved.

    Even with charter schools they’re set up to cherry pick their students so they have a better chance of showing results. And if the students don’t perform to the standards of the school, they can simply send them back to regular public schools.

    Of course, charter and private schools are going to have a better success rate than regular public schools—especially in depressed areas like the WCCUSD.

    My suggestion, Will, is to do the best with what’s available to you. Take every advantage that’s offered and seize the day. Nothing ever just happens, Will. Somebody has to make it happen. What are you going to make happen today?

    My apologies for the use of so many words here. A set of comments to a blog shouldn’t take up as much space as the blog itself.