We’ve all heard rich people tell poor people money isn’t everything. It’s always someone with a great salary, some benefits, property, a 401K and enough miles on their credit card to hop a flight to a different country. My response to that as a kid was always, “Well, let me have your dough then!” The same thing happens in education today. You’ll hear privileged folks with degrees say this to young minority kids. It gives them an excuse to not educate everyone as well as we should. It’s peculiar because
it is so rare that these same folks apply this to their own children. This is not to say that folks can’t be successful without college. I’m not saying that at all. My best friend, the guy that’s like a brother to me didn’t go to college. He took an alternate route, did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, came home and built a career. He has done better than me financially, at times, with my multiple degrees. But that’s not the point. Privileged people shouldn’t be making these decisions for other people and their children.
We are required to prepare each child for college and career by the time they leave high school. If a child or family decides on a different path, then all power to them. Our job as a country, a public school system and an education community is to ensure that our young people are leaving school with the proper tools to be able to make a decision for themselves. Let them decide they don’t want college while at the same time know they are fully prepared to take on college. Now let me be clear here. I have my own issues with college as it is a flawed system at times. I have debt and I learned the hard way that it guarantees you nothing. I’m not delusional about these things. However, what it did do was allow me to enter a market with less barriers, I learned more about the man I wanted to be and I learned how to make choices for myself. A person with a college degree still makes far more than a person with no degree on average. Don’t let these folks out here tell you or your child they aren’t college material when they are supposed to be the very people making your child college material. Don’t let these folks lower the expectations for
your child. These same people are supposed to ensure that our kids are ready to hold down a career that they can grow in—not be at the whim of whatever level minimum wage happens to be that year. Even with my woes, I wouldn’t trade in my experience or degrees. I get personally offended when I see privileged people in power tell a child this foolishness. If you know me, you know I love Steve Jobs. I love Michael Jordan. LeBron James is a beast on the court.
These are not regular people. These folks are savants, physical specimens, or in Jordan’s case, both! For every Steve Jobs that left college early and changed the world (he was obviously career ready when he did) there are hundreds of thousands of folks that failed miserably. People, go for your dreams. I’m not going to stop you. If you don’t want to go to college, that’s completely fine by me. However, it doesn’t absolve us from our obligation to ensure that you are adequately prepared for life after high school. You deserve more from us as educators. You deserve to have the proper tools at your disposal so you can make the best decision. You deserve educators that won’t hide behind this notion that college isn’t for everyone as a way to deliver a subpar education product. Demand better. Privileged folks do it all the time. You’re worth our best.
Charles Cole, III is an educator focused on the advancement of all youth of color but more specifically black males. The passion comes from his own experiences growing up without proper support. His life’s goal is to better the communities he grew up in through his work. An earlier version of this post appeared on Citizen Education.
Charles Cole III is an educator and media producer focused on the advancement of all youth of color, but more specifically Black males. The passion comes from his own experiences growing up without proper support. His life’s goal is to better the communities he grew up in through his work. He has served as a social worker, a director for Teach For America, the vice chair of the ...