Monday, August 04, 2014

College: Not the Be All, End All We’re Led to Believe

Ways to Skip the Years Lost, Crippling Debts

EspañolThe average starting salary for the class of 2013 was $45,259 a year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. While such earnings are certainly enough to get by, a graduating member of the class of 2013 also owed an average of US$35,200 in student loans. Meanwhile, salary growth is only at 2.4 percent and barely keeping up with annual inflation of 2.1 percent. With these deflating facts in mind, young people need to start looking at themselves in the mirror and asking if college is what’s truly right for them.

Parents have been preaching to their children for decades that college is the key to success. However, this truism is more nuanced in our new global economic order that rewards entrepreneurship and people who take risks. This new age of entrepreneurship has inspired many young people to become business owners. Some millennials are being offered billions for their businesses, such as 23-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, both of whom were college dropouts. Another terrifying fact to keep in mind is that half of college graduates end up working in jobs that don’t even require a college degree, wasting years and thousands of dollars in debt for nothing. There are better alternatives.

Organizations like Praxis, an alternative education program to a college degree that teaches young people entrepreneurial skills, has seen massive demand from young people and business partners alike. Praxis connects young, motivated, entrepreneurial millennials with businesses looking for young talent — not necessarily with a degree — for a 10-month apprenticeship. It should come as no surprise that this model works. Employers cite experience as being a far more valuable and important resume selling point than a degree, even from an elite school.

Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. But those less inclined need not be doomed to college and crippling debt. There are many careers that don’t require a college degree but still earn attractive salaries. Claims appraisers, examiners, and investigators, for example, don’t require a degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the three occupations’ mean annual income is $59,850, and the top 10 percent can earn up to $89,810. These are not rare or unique jobs that only a handful of individuals without a college degree can get. Power plant operators earn a mean income of $67,230, while shift supervisors earn an average of $85,785 and up to $103,399 a year. There are dozens of examples of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree to earn more than $58,000 per year or more.

Debt can take years and even decades to pay off. Work experience only grows more lucrative and valuable with time. If a young person decides to go into the workforce immediately, instead of college, and is smart about investing his money, he can take advantage of several extra years of compound interest. Learning how to invest money and actually having money to invest at 20, instead of 30, can be a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meaning, even in the long run, not going to college can be the smarter decision.

The choice that millennials face is a tough one. On one hand, they can take the advice of their parents and be just another young person with a piece of paper in his hands, a hope for a job, and a stressful amount of debt. On the other, they can go against the social expectation of going to college and take those four or more years and instead actually earn money while gaining years of real job experience. A third option is to take a risk and become an entrepreneur or take advantage of alternative education programs like Praxis.

Parents of millennials need to understand that the modern economy is not what it used to be. Going to college promises little in today’s job market. If you want to standout, do as Robert Frost once penned and take the road less traveled. Because the main road is full of debt, stress, and empty promises.


What’s Obama’s Problem With School Choice?


Why would the federal Department of Justice cite the Civil Rights Act and the specter of segregation to try and block a school choice program where more than nine in 10 participants come from racial minority groups? Or use the Americans with Disabilities Act to claim another school voucher program discriminates against individuals with disabilities, without so much as a single complaint from a student or parent to prove their case?

Yet that’s exactly what the Obama administration’s Justice Department is doing—taking actions designed to stifle, and even block outright, programs that give children and parents more educational choices. Ironically enough, the DOJ even cited civil rights laws in attempting to deny parents the opportunity to move their children from failing schools—one of the foremost civil rights challenges of our time.

Legal arguments aside, the basic problem is this: Eric Holder, the Obama administration, and vast swathes of the left have forgotten the basic premise of education policy: It’s all about the children.

Or at least it should be. In both our states, we’ve maintained a relentless focus on making sure that children and parents have the best educational options they choose regardless of income. That’s why we support our states’ school choice initiatives.

In Wisconsin, more than 25,000 students took advantage of our choice initiative this past school year to study at a school of their choosing.

In Louisiana, we will offer spots to nearly 9,000 students in private school choice programs this coming academic year, roughly 7,000 more students than in 2011-12. Thirteen thousand applied this year, which shows how many parents in failing schools want an opportunity to explore other options for their children. They’re seeking out these opportunities because school choice works: More than nine in 10 parents are satisfied with the program—and they’re satisfied with their children’s academic progress because of it.

But in both states, Holder and the Justice Department have built roadblocks, undermining our efforts by attempting to sow dissension where none existed. The department’s attempted enforcement actions in Wisconsin violate past Supreme Court precedent and Education Department policy. In Louisiana, the Justice Department resurrected a nearly 40-year old de-segregation case, initially asking a federal court to block the choice program entirely.

The blind obeisance of President Obama and Attorney General Holder to the educational-industrial complex might seem like a game to federal bureaucrats in far-away Washington. But to a struggling single mother in inner-city Milwaukee, or a precocious young child in New Orleans, access to a good school means the difference between whether a child can live up to her full skills and potential—or will fall through the cracks to become another statistic.

It is our understanding the president and attorney general send their children to private schools. There is nothing wrong with doing that, just as there is nothing wrong with other children in families with less means having the same option and opportunities to learn.

And that’s really what this debate is about. It’s about putting parents and children ahead of government special interests. It’s about ensuring that all children have an opportunity to grow and learn—not those whose parents can afford to leave failing schools. And it’s about empowering parents to pick the school and method of learning that can best meet their child’s needs.

We hope that President Obama and Attorney General Holder will work with us to expand educational opportunities to students—particularly students in failing schools who desperately need other options. America’s future depends on it


Australia: Victoria bans religious groups from running prayer groups, handing out Bibles in state schools

Victoria has banned religious organisations from running prayer groups, handing out Bibles and delivering other unauthorised information sessions in state schools during school hours.

The directive has been issued by the Education Department under recent changes to the delivery of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) to students in public schools.

A government spokeswoman said the directive only affected religious activities that were run by unaccredited teachers or external groups.

But Dan Flynn from the Australian Christian Lobby said the guidelines appeared to cover all activities by students.

"In the SRI policy, the formal wording appears to ban prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, info sessions or workshops," Mr Flynn said.

"It says that those forums or the events constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI and are not permitted.

"It's one thing to say that education in state schools should be secular - we agree with that - but it's quite another step to drive any religion out of schools, particularly at lunch time when the children are free to form their own clubs and do their own activities.

"This is a serious limitation on freedom of association, freedom of religion for high school students and state school students."

Parent Lara Wood from Fairness In Religions In Schools (FIRIS) said the claim that students' rights were being infringed was "absurd".

"It's not against any individual students of faith expressing their faith or bringing a Bible into school and praying," Ms Wood said.

"These new clarifications of the law are saying that religious groups and corporations can not use our schools as mission fields to come in and use the schools as an extension to operate their youth ministry.

"This is really no different then if the Minister of Education said to the Liberal or Labor Party that you can't go into schools at lunch time and hold political rallies."

Distributing Bibles to students banned in schools

The changes to the religious instruction policy were prompted by a report that found the state's key provider Access Ministries had breached its guidelines by handing out a so-called "Biblezine" containing homophobic material.

Under the guidelines, which came into effect this month, accredited instructors are permitted to teach a maximum of 30 minutes religious instruction per week, as part of the scheduled curriculum.

But the Government's School Policy Advisory Guide stated that religious instruction could not be taught in schools outside of these approved classes.

    SRI cannot and does not take the form of prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, information sessions, or workshops... Any other forums or activities as noted above, would constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI, and are not permitted.

It would also be against the guidelines for anyone, including approved providers, to distribute "religious texts (e.g. Bibles)".

However the rules would not stop students from learning about religious celebrations, such as Christmas, Eid or Hanukkah.

    Students may be taught about a religious celebration, festival, special event etc., as part of the general religious education curriculum at a school by government school teachers.

    This may include recognition of and educational activities relating to key religious celebrations such as Christmas, Eid, Hanukkah and others.

And students would not be prevented from praying.

    For the avoidance of doubt, students engaging in prayer in observation of their religion at lunchtimes is not SRI as there is no element of "instruction".

    Such prayer cannot be led, conducted by or at the instruction of staff or parents/visitors/volunteers.

Ms Wood said under the new guidelines, parents must also now give their written consent for their children to attend SRI via a new government-approved form.

She said that while religious instruction had been opt-in in Victoria since 2011, the new forms would make it clear to parents the difference between religious education and instruction.

"Many parents have been under the false impression that it's education about many religions, and we've always believed that once parents know the facts they'll make an informed choice," Ms Wood said.

"It does give informed consent now to parents and lets them know that it is instruction in how to live according to that particular faith that they're learning about, not education."


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