This morning the Today Show ran a segment entitled “Ten Things You’ll Pay More for in 2011.” I was disheartened, but not surprised, to hear that one of the costs that continues to rise is college tuition. That segment sparked a series of mental connections that sparked this blogpost:
- A discussion with my English teacher friend
- A conversation overhead recently
- A Sir Ken Robinson video I watched
- Leadership Iowa’s Higher Education panel discussion
One Saturday evening I was indulging in one of my favorite pastimes—discussing literature with my English teacher friend, Courtney. She was telling me about her classes’ work with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willie Loman, is an archetype for the guy who believed he was doing everything right, following all the “rules” of society in order to find happiness and success. However, in the end, it’s apparent that the rules have changed, and Willie has failed to change with them.
One of the major questions Courtney’s students were wrestling with was this: Who is today’s Willie Loman? Before sharing some of her students’ responses, she posed the question to me. I thought for a moment and responded, “the Boomerang Generation.” These are the people who followed all the rules—they went to college and got a degree because they were sold a story that promised a good job and a happy life with a degree. But, it appears, the rules changed. That degree did not equal self-sufficiency.
This thought was further underscored when I overheard a conversation in a booth next to me at Panera Bread one morning. The foursome looked to be in their thirties, and this snippet characterizes the content of their conversation: “I was told to go to school, get good grades, and get a good job because that would make me happy. I did all that, but I’m not happy.”
This relates to a Sir Ken Robinson video I watched a few months ago. He says that students used to go to school, do what they were told, and get good grades because they believed the same story as the foursome in the booth. Furthermore, he says millions of students today no longer believe that story—and they’re right not to. Unfortunately, our educational system depends upon this story that no longer holds true. In essence, what used to be a firm foundation for our schools has crumbled.
This morning’s Today Show segment prompted me to tweet the following “Today Show says college tuition on the rise again. This model has to change. The ROI has become a fiction for too many.” That made me think of a recent panel of higher education representatives speaking to this year’s Leadership Iowa class. The questions of those listening to the panel illuminated a related thought. Higher education, as an institution, is also rooted firmly in this story, but this story is no longer a work of nonfiction. Ask any member of the Boomerang Generation.
I’m not a fan of finger-pointing. My mom taught me that every time I point a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at me. K-12 has been as slow to respond to the evolution of the story as anyone. I, for one, am committed to changing that.