This article about not sending your kids to an Ivy League school caught my eye on Google News. I contains a lot of questions about the purpose and usefulness of college that I had when I was IN college in the late 1970s. Alas, you get no credit at all for being decades ahead of your time.
"The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That
doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to
individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the
world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the
exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance."
When I read that I remembered my own thoughtful childhood. It wasn't quality thought, but thinking was habitual. Indeed, it was almost a disorder. What might be mistaken for attention deficit disorder can really be a swirl of thought triggered by something an instructor said that we were meant to gloss over and move on. Significant concepts go unrecognized all the time. To the thoughtful, nearly everything is thought provoking.
Over the years I have met a large number of people who seem to do very well without thinking too much at all. Some of them are successful business owners. Thoughtfulness does not necessarily correspond directly to education level or commercial success.
I'm all in favor of anything that helps people to be more thoughtful and more interested in reconciling concepts intellectually rather than confrontationally. I just don't know if college can create a quality in a student that was not already latent.
I did learn to think better in college, but that process was already underway and continues to this day.
My ability to observe and analyze on sight has helped me to survive more than any rote fact I ever absorbed. I may not be able to spout Latin or quote the classics, by I can figure shit out. Do I wish I had paid a bit more attention in school? Certainly. But the ability to extract basic principles from a situation and apply them to future and more complicated situations is more important than a brain full of Jeopardy-winning factoids. If I was as ignorant as I am AND less capable of thought I would be truly and deeply screwed. As it is, I can cling by a fingernail for a while longer.