I did well in school, graduating from a selective, top-tier research university, and a T-14 law school. The message going through high school was something like you have to keep your grades up so that you can go to college so you can be successful. Just look at the stats, foolish children. Then they would roll out something like a Bureau of Labor Statistics chart that they claimed proved their point:
So I generally did, and generally didn’t question this philosophy. There was a point during freshman year when I thought the whole exercise was somewhat pointless, but I focused my energy on a side-project that, coupled with my pointless 101 studies, occupied my time sufficiently to keep me happy enough in school. But overall, I was still probably operating under the theory that I had to graduate not to be a failure.
The New York girl that was recently written up for getting accepted to all of the Ivy League schools reminded me of this time in teenagers’ lives. It’s stressful trying to ensure that you won’t be a failure in life, which you obviously will be if you’re not accepted into whatever U. Right?
Of course not. This mantra that we all have to stay in school for as long as possible is ridiculous. The BLS chart shows aggregates, not individuals. The Ivy League overachiever demonstrates that with a thought experiment. Imagine that she decides against college entirely. What would she going to be doing in five or ten years? Because she would fall into the “High school diploma” category, does anybody think that her income would be anywhere near the $678 that the median of all such persons apparently earn? I sure don’t. She’s obviously brilliant. She’ll provide tremendous value to people even if she skips college, and will be well-compensated because of that value that she delivers.
There’s a lesson there for those with the courage to put the pieces together.
Maybe it’s because so many of us are inundated with these pro-schooling messages for so long that we go along with it at such alarming rates. Don’t get me wrong: I really loved much of my formal education. However, there are many activities that we could be doing with our time rather than sitting in front of a professor and essentially prolonging the time that we are children.