College Can Wait

Ed Zimmerman opined that kids should stay in college if they can. Zimmerman laudably wants students to remain in college to study the classics, history, literature, and economics; he condemns a “monomaniacal” focus on computer science and, barring that, dropping out to be the next Bill Gates.

There may be some world (or some university, perhaps Zimmerman’s alma mater, Haverford), wherein students are almost guaranteed to leave college with more education than they entered it.  However, it is ironic to pen such a missive only weeks after the now-infamous Bowdoin report was released. From Breitbart:

The Klingenstein report reveals some ugly truths: Bowdoin has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” There is no requirement for history majors to take even one course in American history. There is no class available in the history department about American political, military, diplomatic, or intellectual history. There are, however, classes in that department revolving around race, class, gender, and sexuality.

Bowdoin is one of about three thousand universities; however, if a top 10 liberal arts school is not requiring courses in American history, nor are many even offered, it’s hard to say how remaining in college would lead one to better understand civics or be more politically informed.

Zimmerman eloquently stated that computer science students benefit from studying economics and finance, to understand how their products will succeed (or fail) in the marketplace.  Yet the proposed solution – “stay in school!” is only effective for those who would actually sign up for an econ course or two; few universities make it a requirement of graduation.

Absent a culture (or school requirements) that encourages college students to study the classics, economics, literature, and history, there’s not much intellectual value for a student in school.  Besides, school can wait: there’s nothing stopping any entrepreneur, successful or not, from finishing his degree.  Students in other countries take gap years to hike around Europe; why shouldn’t some of ours take gap years to found companies, then return in triumph (and in a sweet car), or, having gotten their ears pinned back, to learn what they need to learn?  Returning students are more mature, focused, and driven. Perhaps our problem is really that we see college only as something worth doing, and the only thing worth doing, between the ages of 18 and 22.

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