Phi Beta Cons

Higher Education is Not One-Size-Fits-All

I’m always happy to recognize when I agree with someone with whom I usually differ. On Sunday, Thomas Friedman offered the following statement in his column, “Serious in Singapore”:

Singapore copied the German model that strives to put everyone who graduates from high school on a track for higher education, but only about 40 percent go to universities. Others are tracked to polytechnics or vocational institutes, so the vast majority graduate with the skills to get a job, whether it be as a plumber or a scientist.

Mr. Friedman offers plenty of fodder for disagreement, including in this column. Yet the idea that higher education involves more than just college is one where I have seen both sides of the aisle agree, but never advance — that Paul Goodman article from the 1964 New Republic that George Leef cited even argued for other options besides “bookish” learning. 

I enjoy a good “college is bad/college is good” debate as much as anyone, but to ever move beyond that debate, higher education needs to be talked about as “higher-education options.” Jane Shaw’s essay “Build Your Own College” is one step in that direction.

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