When I was in high school, I had one goal. Get into a good college so that I can get a good job and support myself in the future. But now as I have finished my bachelor’s degree I am looking back on what decisions led me to decide to go to a traditional university; however, that’s the weird bit. I don’t remember making any decisions about my future…. Almost as if going to college was the only option and was what was expected. But was it the best option? And have other people in my life had the same experiences? And why has going to a traditional four year university become the only acceptable option after high school?
Stress of STEM
I am a liberal arts kid all the way, but I do understand that in our current society and world that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs are incredibly important, but I do not approve of what I have experienced because of this stress on STEM. When I was in high school (2010-2014) was when the STEM surge first occurred. But I went to public school and everyone in America knows that there is only so much money to go around; and what is the first thing to get cut? Anything in the humanities. Because why should we understand the ethical implications or the critical thinking aspects of whatever we are inventing or creating - we’ve all seen the robot movies where the technology becomes sentient right? I don’t think I need say more than that.
Okay, I realize that that sounds incredibly immature, but to give an accurate account of the feelings of many teens who are now being stifled, I feel as though I must use language in this way. Because of the push for STEM classes and STEM guided curriculum, the money for humanities and fine arts is slowly dwindling away. So what does this do the self esteem of those kids who are losing the only thing that kept them in school? I asked my younger sister this question when she found out the end of the last school term that the art program was completely defunded in order to pay for the new STEM electives in her high school. She wanted to quit school right then and there - and so did many of her school mates. However, they banded together to create an art club so they still had a creative outlet though they no longer have a designated space or a teacher to learn from.
However, what do I still hear on TV? That children can be whatever they want if they put their minds to it. I would like to add a caveat to this however; you can be whatever you want as long as it is this, this, or this because those things are the only things that are seen as worthwhile or have any value in society at large.
Job Scarcity and Cost of Living
This is something I as a freshly graduated college student am very aware of. Finding jobs in any field unless you are the top of the top can seem virtually impossible because of ridiculous requirements such as experience longer than our time as adults or education that is currently unattainable. Whenever someone tells me to get an internship I tell them I have tried but I cannot afford to give up my two other jobs to work an unpaid internship that won’t lead directly to secure employment. And then I get the usual “all you millennials complain too much, you can live off of minimum wage” which nowadays simply is not the case. Between rent, utilities, and gas so I can get to work, I barely break even.
Seriously, someone do the math to compare living costs today to then and you will see even on the minimum wage today it is impossible to stay afloat and keep up with societal standards oppressed upon us at times.
Vocational School and Trade School
“Only go to trade school if you want to give up on your life.” This is a real thing, I heard a real high school teacher tell my graduating class. This made my blood boil. Something we seem to have forgotten in our country is that a doing hard days work at times is so much more impressive than sitting behind a desk. There is nothing wrong with blue collar jobs, but the way we treat those professions in society is.
From people who work on cars, do construction, metalwork, woodworking, all of those jobs are not just important, but crazy impressive. My brain doesn’t work like that and I am sure all of the people who criticize those who pursue those jobs utilize the people who do them because they don’t know how to do those things on their own either. Trade school is not a lesser option because university is "too difficult"; trade school is just a different path that deserves equal amount of respect in the realm of higher education.
If you have a child, don’t force them into a program they don’t want to be in because you think it will secure their future. Because no future is secure if it is an unhappy one. And certainly, never stand by and watch while your child’s passion is ripped away because schools have lost track of what is really important.
If you are still in school and struggling to find your place, know that that is okay. Having to pick something you will stick with for the rest of your life at 18 is an absolutely insane idea. So try things, make mistakes, find what makes you happy and find a way to make that, or incorporate aspects of that into a career.
College is not for everyone, and don’t let them shame you because you picked another path. Make them sorry they ever doubted you by conquering your passion.