Like many parents today, I'm trying to let go of antiquated theories and ideas. I've listened to the experts and I know that college isn't for everybody. I've joined other parents in letting go of our intellectual snobbishness. It's taken a while, but we respect a kid's choice to not go to college. Except, of course, if it's our kid.
It may not be politically correct, but I still believe that people who can go to college should go. I still think there is a value to higher education and to the process of being in college. I don't think any kid should be discouraged from following his or her dream. If you want to be an artist, a construction worker, or a pastry chef, by all means go for it. But what's wrong with getting your degree first? What's so bad about that ancient concept of "having something to fall back on?" It's hard enough to get a job these days with a college degree, let alone without one.
I didn't just randomly choose "pastry chef" as an example. After completing two years, my son is not returning to college in the fall. Instead, he plans to go to cooking school to learn how to be a pastry chef. That's an honorable profession, certainly at least as respectable as that of a writer. And if he loves it, great. But my wife and I still want him to go back and finish college. Then he can pursue a career. (Of course, if he first feels like getting a Master's Degree, maybe in business, Russian literature, biochemistry, or whatever is fun for him, that would be okay, too).
He wanted to take a year off after high school, and delay starting college. We (okay, I admit it – not "we," but "I") discouraged it. I was afraid that if he didn't go to college right away, he'd never go. This feeling was based on my neuroses and ignorance. All the experts say that not only do most kids who take a year off usually return to school, but they do so with a revitalized attitude and vigor.
Still, it's one thing for parents to know this intellectually. It's much harder to get your kid to say that he knows he should get his degree someday. That is, it used to be hard. Now, Steven Spielberg has come to the aid of all parents of college-age children. This past May, 35 years after he dropped out of college, Steven Spielberg finally got his bachelor's degree.
Why is this so significant? The next time your kid says he doesn't need a college degree, just point to Mr. Spielberg. He finally came to his senses. He saw the handwriting on the wall. He knows how insecure the movie businesses is, and obviously realized he should have something to fall back on. Imagine the collective sigh of relief his family had when he finally had that piece of parchment in his hand. Finally, they don't have to worry about Steven anymore. He's a college graduate now. And if Steven Spielberg feels he needs a college degree to succeed in today's world, how can your kid think that he's above such a need?
I don't think it's a coincidence that the first two movies that Spielberg directed and produced after he got his degree -- "Minority Report" and "Men in Black 2" -- are huge hits. So, we can point to the millions of dollars that these films will earn as further proof to our children that after college comes success. I'm sure Spielberg is kicking himself that he delayed graduating for so long. Imagine how successful he might have been if he had just gotten his degree sooner.
E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from Sesame Street to Family Ties to Frasier. He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
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