Monday, October 31, 2011

Is College for Everyone?

Disclaimer: I don't think college is for everyone. However, I do think people overuse the "college isn't for everyone" mantra. This post expounds more.

I don’t ever remember thinking “What will I do after high school?” As early as I can remember, it was inevitable that I was going to a four year university or college afterwards. All that was left to figure out was which one would it be and who was going to ante up the funds. Considering that neither of my parents graduated from college (they opted for the military) - it’s actually pretty impressive that college attendance was so ingrained in me.

Now that I’ve been out of college for a few years, I wonder if I would have chosen to go to if the decision hadn’t been made for me. I’d like to think the answer is yes, primarily because college was one of the greatest experiences of my life (in and out of the classroom). You may be thinking, “Well it worked out for you, smarty pants, but what about people who weren’t meant to go to college? College isn’t for everyone.” I can agree that college isn’t a purse full of rainbows and Hello Kitty smiles for everyone. Nevertheless, I think this College Isn’t For Everyone (CIFE) theory is overstated, and I’m here to refute 3 pillars that the CIFE argument stands on.

  • “I hate the classroom setting; I learn better when I’m actually practicing my craft/talent/passion.” So lectures/taking notes/taking tests/etc  isn’t your cup of tea. You prefer to make pottery, rap over beats, portray Othello, etc. Duh, everyone prefers that. However, taking some time to really sit down and study something gives you the opportunity to learn from people’s mistakes without having to make them yourself. You aren’t the first person who wanted to paint for a living. Why not learn the history and nuances of your field alongside future colleagues versus out on the streets? If you’re going to be stuck eating Cup O Noodles anyway, why not at least be learning at the same time?

  • “College is for people that know what they want to do. I’m not sure yet and want to try out some other stuff first.” Most people enter college at the age of seventeen or eighteen. Very few people know exactly what they want to do and even fewer end up doing what they set out to do. I know many prospective doctors/lawyers/teachers turned IT analysts/marketing consultants/fundraisers. Does this mean it was a lost cause? No! The great thing about college is that it gives you four years to be in a setting where your job is to learn not only about your chosen major, but also to learn about yourself! In college, you learn what you don’t like, what the competition is like in your field, and about more careers that you may have never considered prior to.

    Two great schools. :)
  • “I don’t want to waste money paying for a degree I probably won’t even use.” This might be the easiest argument to defeat. College is more than 4 years spent studying communications or liberal arts. It’s an opportunity to meet people from different walks of life. It’s an opportunity to network with folks who may end up being your future bridesmaids or physician or psychologist. It’s one of the few places for adults where your job is to learn. Eventually, most of us will have to get a formal full-time job. So why start earlier than you have to? I went to school for psychology and theater. I didn’t end up becoming a psychologist or an actress, both career goals I thought I wanted when I enrolled at Howard U. But I use my degree every day. When talking to potential funders or angry parents, I’m using my acting and psychology skills. When volunteering with kids, or attempting to understand how I can best market to folks, I’m using my psychology degree. An infamous requirement to graduate from the College of Arts & Sciences is the swimming course. And yep, I’ve certainly used that skill. Most of the jobs I’m interested don’t care about the specifics of my college degree; they just care that I got one. While it’s not necessarily fair, a college degree in just about anything says a lot to a potential employer. It says that you dedicated four (or five) years to your education and that you’re invested in your future. Even for folks that want to be an auto mechanic or cosmetologist, college has a business class for you. Maybe eventually, you’ll want to own your own body shop or salon. Maybe you’ll create a hair product that you’ve fine-tuned over the years and you need some marketing classes to show you how to get it out there. College has a little something for everyone.

In closing, the biggest problem I have with this argument is the following:
  • It typically comes from people with hindsight vision: those who have already attended college. It’s easy to say that college was a waste of time if you got the chance to experience it. It’s not fair though to decide for someone else that it would be. It’s almost like you’re stunting their potential.
  • My other issue is… the CIFE theory is probably most harmful to minority males, who already don’t seem to be sold on the idea of pursuing a higher education. Despite the well-known fact that college graduates earn on average, a million more over their lifetime than high school graduates, only 10% of Latino males have earned their bachelor’s degree and less than 3% of students at large public universities are Black men. I’m not sure that the minority community is in a position to act as if “too many of us are unnecessarily going to college all willy nilly.”
The stories of people who don’t attend college and go on to be lucratively successful are few and far between. Attending college is simply a smarter gamble. I’m not suggesting that you’re a failure if you don’t attend. Nevertheless, the CIFE is an overstated and somewhat dangerous argument to toss out there. Consider what I’ve suggested before you decide it’s a lost cause. Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Feel free to read these articles for Even More Words:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Let History Pass You By!

Mad cool points if you know where this picture came from.

On December 13, 1945, a cleaning woman and part-time janitor/barber welcomed a smiling brown boy with the odds already stacked against him to Memphis, Tennessee, a proud part of the Jim Crow South. His parents moved to Georgia and he grew up on a farm there where he lived a poor but happy life. His father worked three jobs to keep the family clothed and fed and encouraged him to get a college education. Just three years after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, this young man went on to attend the prestigious Morehouse College and graduate with a degree in mathematics. From there he started working for the military while pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. After earning his master’s, this enterprising young African-American went on to work for Coca-Cola, Pillsbury, and then Burger King, each time gaining in status and acclaim. While at Burger King his division went from the least profitable to the most profitable. From there, this baby boomer was appointed CEO of a Pillsbury’s rapidly declining pizza chain. Under his leadership, the company did a complete 180 and became a profitable chain again. He gained national acclaim when he challenged then-President Clinton’s health care reform bill which, according to the now seasoned businessman, would force business owners to “lay off hundreds of folks.” In 2006, he battled Stage IV cancer with a 30% chance of survival and emerged victorious. In 2009, this industrious man founded the “Intelligent Thinkers Movement” with the intent of organizing activists in every congressional district.

And now, this man is poised to make history as the first Black man to win the Republican nomination, ensuring that 2012 would be the first presidential election virtually guaranteed to produce a Black winner. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about Herman Cain. Herman Cain… the man who might be in the Top 10 for People Blacks Would Like to Auction Off in a Racial Draft a la Chappelle. Why the hate?

Ever since prejudiced Southerners hijacked the Republican party in the 1940’s, African-Americans have generally voted for the Democratic Party. According to, over 88% of Black Americans voted for a Democratic president in 2004. Black conservatives such as Supreme Court Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, and now Herman Cain are often considered sell-outs and called Uncle Toms. By and large, many Blacks believe that black conservatives have turned their back on their community, by voting for measures and legislation that harms low-income and usually minority citizens. I tend to agree.

Nevertheless… in our haste to castigate Herman Cain and his “9-9-9 Plan”, many folks have missed what may be a monumental historical moment. Whether we agree with Mr. Godfather Pizza or not, we cannot negate that his rise in the Republican Party is something no one could have anticipated. The polls in Florida, South Carolina and other places show Herman Cain is outpacing Mitt Romney and even the handsome governor from Texas, Rick Perry. About 4 years ago, many people said they thought would never see the day when we would have a Black man running for president. If you had told me then, even while watching coverage of our newly elected “post-racial” president, when the world briefly believed in unicorns and fairy dust and miracles, I wouldn’t have believed that a Black Republican, particularly one who had no real political experience before, would be Obama’s most competitive opponent in 2012. Colin Powell? Maybe. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza? Nahhhhh. Creator of a tax plan that sounds like some type of low-end retail store sale? Not a chance in hell. Even if he doesn't win the nomination, he’s already achieved more than can be expected. While I strongly disagree with the notion that America is post-racial, I do believe Cain’s seemingly vast acceptance by conservatives -black and white alike- is a positive marker of race relations for America.

Let me be clear: unless Herman Cain completely changed his views on tax cuts, proper government spending, health care reform, energy independence, and just about every other political stance, I wouldn’t vote for him to be president of a book club, much less a country. But that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge his intelligence or rightful place in the history books. He received a lot of flak for a CNN interview where he stated, “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.” Well, besides the fact that that’s not a fact, I don’t even think he believes that. He was born in 1945, almost a decade prior to Brown vs Board of Education; he knows better. I certainly wouldn't underestimate the tenacity of the Southern Black son of a janitor and maid who ascended to immense success in the restaurant industry, a world typically run by old White well-connected men. Whether you plan to support the Pizza Peddler turned Politician or not, it makes sense to take note of Herman Cain.

He’s making history, one debate at a time. No need to be surprised. I warned you.

What are your thoughts? Anyone voting for Mr. Cain? Do you believe he deserves a respectful place in history?

Other good reads on Herman Cain:
1. The Post-Racial Tipping Point by Panama Jackson of
3. Did Someone Just Say the Same Number Three Times?... Do it Again! in The Onion

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grocery Shopping for Scriptures

One of the things I’d miss if I traveled several decades back would be grocery stores. If you live in a suburb like myself, or even a newly gentrified neighborhood, you have access to fresh produce  flown from orchards in Florida and California, more spaghetti sauce brands than you’d ever thought imaginable and the whole gamut of paper towel options (thick and soft or rough but economically priced!)

Prior to the massive grocery stores with bright, welcoming aisles, most people had access to what was immediately available like Neighbor Jones’ potatoes, and Sister Smith’s homemade solution for warts. It was pretty much an all or nothing deal. Either you got the sugar made in your backyard or you just didn’t get anything.

Our society has been spoiled. Just the way we pick some brands of peanut butter (Choosy moms choose JIF!) and leave others on the shelf, we often choose to do the same with our morality. Specifically, I’m speaking of the so-called Moral Majority, who quote scripture to justify legislation or ideals, but ignore other scriptures when it doesn’t fit their agenda. The notorious example is capital punishment and abortion. The “religious right” argues for the protection of life citing that it’s a “gift from God”, yet most fail to be concerned about this protection of life when discussing capital punishment. One of the best arguments I’ve ever heard in opposition to capital punishment was a Christian one. A dear friend of mine said, “At every opportunity that Christ had to legally exact capital punishment on a sinner, He chose mercy. Who are we to choose death?”

Another inconsistency is on the issue of appropriate sexual behavior; for the moral majority only some of the scriptures seem to be put into the grocery basket of political ideals. Many opponents to gay marriage weakly claim they are opposed to the redefinition of “Biblical marriage.” According to these folks, marriage is a religious institution, Biblically defined as between a man and a woman. But we know the truth. Gay marriage opponents are really against homosexuality, which the Bible does decree as sinful (here, here, and several other places.) However these folks are grocery store shopping again. In the same book, often right before or after the verses on homosexuality, there are passages that extol the impiety of premarital sex, adultery, and sometimes even divorce. (Examples here and here.) Jesus himself stated in Luke 16, “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” Has anyone put forth an amendment to the definition of marriage that includes making heterosexual remarriages illegal? Of course not; that’s not the brand of sin that politicians care about. Just the ones that make people afraid their sons will like other boys.

*For the record, I don’t support creating any laws governing sexuality, largely because I think that’s none of the government’s business. Furthermore, with so many varying beliefs about what’s morally or ethically acceptable when it comes to sexuality, I’m not sure the government should be in the business of making bedroom decisions for such a diverse group of people as Americans.

I’m all about consistency. This doesn’t mean I think in black and white; but it does mean that I don’t think truths, moralities, values, ethics, etc can be called upon when convenient to your existence, political policies or practices. While I’m a liberal, I believe that both the Democratic and the Republican party are full of inconsistencies. I’m all about meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  

How do you feel about the “Moral Majority” and our overall society? Do we shop for scriptures as we see fit? Thoughts?