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Let high school graduates pursue their full range of dreams

Let high school graduates pursue their full range of dreams

Wayne Hoffman
June 10, 2016
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June 10, 2016

I learned a few things the other day watching my daughter graduate from high school. First, the family of the graduating students are supposed to stand and cheer when the spotlighted offspring’s name is called. Sorry, Kira. I was too busy trying to take pictures to realize the rule.

Second, when your daughter is graduating from an arts-themed charter school, there’s a lot of singing and dancing involved. I suspect part of it was to keep the graduation of 40 students from taking all of 10 minutes to complete.

Third, and this is the message for the day, there’s too much emphasis on college in our schools and culture. One of the hardest conversations parents should have with their children — and they’re not having — goes back to the basic, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, with lots of government groupthink -- which influences our culture -- about what’s right for young adults, plenty are being pressured into pursuing careers they neither need nor want.

Parents should comfortably and proudly say these words: You don’t have to go to college. It is perfectly OK to choose a career that doesn’t require a degree. Want to be a welder instead of a doctor? Terrific! You want to drive a truck instead of practice law? Wonderful! Many people have happy, productive, successful lives without spending four years and thousands of dollars on higher education. There are tons of honorable, wonderful, joyful and meaningful professions and trades filled with people who don’t have, and don’t need, a college degree to hang on their wall.

Too many parents don’t say that. Frankly, many are embarrassed to say it. There’s an enormous amount of pressure on parents, as much as on kids, to have children apply to various colleges, receive scholarships, grants and loans and pursue degrees their kids will never receive for a career they’ll never get into.

The printed program for my daughter’s high school graduation class listed each student and the amount of college scholarship money each has been awarded. The program didn’t list the amount of money they’ll need to pay to attend the college of their choice, or the odds that a degree in art history will yield meaningful employment somewhere other than Starbucks.

College is the right choice for some. But it’s doubtful that it is the right choice for 95 percent of the graduating students at every high school. Undoubtedly, there is an oversized demand placed on young adults today to attend college, even if it is not for everyone. The result surrounds us: Annual insufferable increases in tuition are the direct result of artificially increased demand for college. This is leading to a national debt epidemic worse than that of the housing bubble because it’s stifling economic opportunity for people in the prime of their lives.

So parents (and politicians) be aware: A child who doesn’t go to college is worthy of praise the same as one who chooses to go to University of Idaho. It’s past time to lighten up on young adults. Let graduation day be a time to celebrate the limitless possibilities that the exodus from high school should represent.  

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