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I have chronicled my son’s graduation from high school, his opting to not go to college, his struggles to find work with no job history and no university diploma. But the decision he’s made for “what next” — he enlisted in the U.S. Army today — feels too personal and my reactions too raw for me to write about here on this site. I have a longer story over on my personal blog.

I do want to say this:

I think that we are making a grave mistake by corralling all our children into college. It’s not good for our kids. It’s not good for the institution of higher ed.

And while I do believe that every kid who wants to attend should have the opportunity to do so — whether that means financial or academic support in getting them there — I simply do not think that college is the right choice for everyone. I think we need to keep other doors open, again with the right funding and the right programs throughout K–12.

We need to give kids the opportunity to learn a trade (that means offering not axing shop classes, for example). We need to encourage apprenticeships and mentorships. We need to encourage service — and by that I don’t mean just military service.

We need to encourage children to take the reins of their own learning and recognize that it needn’t happen in a classroom. We need to provide a host of options for them to find their voice, to follow their dreams, to learn (a) discipline (with all the definitions that word can mean), and to learn to resist in turn the very forces that expect certain choices, paths, and disciplines.

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Audrey Watters


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