Home entrepreneur Rethinking Education: The Overrated College Degree Drives the System…& Apprenticeship (Part 3)

Rethinking Education: The Overrated College Degree Drives the System…& Apprenticeship (Part 3)

by Kelly Crawford

Rethinking Education: The Overrated College Degree & Apprenticeship

Listen to this as a podcast on Spotify.

“I don’t think we’ll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we’re going to change what’s rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution “schools” very well, but it does not “educate”; that’s inherent in the design of the thing. It’s not the fault of bad teachers or too little money spent. It’s just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.”John Taylor Gatto

Part 1: Are School Subjects Necessary?

Part 2: Schools Kill Creativity

Changing the way we think about education is probably one of the most difficult feats for educational “reformers” like some we’ve read in the last posts. Primarily because we have been conditioned to FEAR.

The whole chain of education is linked with fear. We want our kids to have a “good education” but we’ve let big business define what that means. Because we don’t really mean a “good education” or we would all oppose the current system. What we really mean is “a good-paying job” and the system was created, from the top down, to function the way it does to lock us in by fear.

“…students hear again and again that a degree from a special college is such a powerful advantage in later life that the quarter-million dollar cost is fully justified…if you are one of the lucky ones who can afford it.

Skip over the morality of this contention. As a statement of fact, it’s a masterpiece of fabrication – scientifically speaking on par with the medieval theory of four humors. If it appears true, it’s a tribute to ceaseless propaganda because the employment game has been heavily rigged to make it seem so and because critics of the enchantment are marginalized as screwballs….A degree from a highly ranked school hardly matters at all in the real world; it only matters to people who believe the lie…” John Taylor Gatto, Don’t Worry About College, A Letter to My Granddaughter (I highly recommend this brilliant piece.)

To get a “good job”, a student needs a college degree (so we think). To get a college degree he needs good ACT scores. To get those, he needs good test scores in school. That’s really what the majority of parents care about.

And so the system is increasingly loyal to a test, betraying the individual student’s passion and need for learning what matters.

(And I interject, again, that those of us who homeschool have the tremendous opportunity to escape this hamster wheel, and yet all too often I see frazzled moms desperately trying to recreate the broken model at home.)


The good news is, there are new (but actually not new) possibilities on the horizon and FINALLY,  employers are beginning to seek out employees with skills they don’t necessarily learn in college.

Apprenticeships are making a big comeback and this is GREAT news if you are opposed to the assembly-line education like we’ve been discussing.

A UK publication reports:

“Apprenticeships have changed. From the days of a novice learning his trade at the side of a master craftsman, they have evolved to include high-tech specialised programmes in nuclear physics and high-end training with bespoke designer fashion labels.

They should no longer be considered the poor relation of university study or the last resort for those not cut out for formal education.

Big businesses look to them as key to developing the expertise and skills needed to grow their workforce…” The Raconteur

Now we get back to the real basics of an education:

  • an eager learner
  • a good communicator
  • problem-solver
  • critical thinker
  • analytical
  • motivated self-learner

“Apprenticeships have gotten a new lease on life,” said Anthony Carnevale, chief economist of the American Society for Training and Development in Alexandria, Va. “They’re extending beyond white males with calluses on their hands to a variety of people and occupations. We need more highly skilled workers.” The Seattle Times

Please don’t misunderstand me. There is a place for a traditional college degree. If one of my children *needs* a college degree, we would not be opposed to that route. The aim here is to overturn the general, damaging mindset that “everyone must get a college degree”.

Besides the tremendous debt students often find themselves in, a large percentage of kids have no reason for attending college besides “my parents want me to” or “that’s what everybody does”.

I debated about doing a whole post devoted to “the problem with college” but I’ll let you investigate more on that subject if you wish. This article in the Wall Street was quite practical with lots of good examples: College is a Scam

Suffice it to say, until we destroy the myth that “college is the answer for everyone”, we will continue to let fear drive our methods, largely robbing our of a potentially better education.

An Example: My brother

There have been several excellent examples in the comment sections (on the first two parts of this series) of people whose skills won out over a missing college degree in the work force. Another such one is my brother, who is the perfect example in this discussion…

Had Chris not been squeezed into the mold, it’s hard to say where his interests and gifts would have taken him. He is an artist, but “art isn’t a very practical skill” so he wasn’t encouraged much. He got through high school, rather hating academics but enduring them like everyone else, far more concerned with his peers and weekend activities than his homework.

But Chris did have a head start, thanks to some of the early experiences we had as children, including learning to communicate well.  Our Dad, who is very wise and discerning, also passed that down to my brother and made quite a critical thinker out of him. And work ethic…if there’s one thing my Dad believes is important…

Chris didn’t go to college. He did apprentice under a Civil Engineer for a while and then decided he wanted to get his pilot license. He learned all he needed for that because it interested him and he was motivated.

Later, he applied for a highly-specialized job at an aviation navigation company in CO. He trained first as a data analyst, beating dozens of applicants more “qualified” with degrees, because the employer saw skills in him that were valued above a piece of paper. Later he was promoted to supervisor in Navigation Data Extract, involving global communications and the coordinating of teams world-wide.

Now he owns his own, highly successful real estate company, and several other companies as well, again out-performing many of his more “qualified” colleagues. He had skills that set him up for success and we need to foster those in our kids more than worry weather they can ace a standardized test.

When I asked my brother about his journey he said, “You know, it really does boil down to a few things…if you can think, if you know how to learn, and if you can communicate well and (he emphasized this one), know how to relate to people with integrity, there’s not much you can’t do that you want.”

I think he’s right.

And let’s not forget the new, incredibly wide world the internet has opened for entrepreneurs and people who simply don’t want to punch a clock. College is such a tiny part of the narrative now. Let’s not let our fear of college drive the way we think about education. There is so much more!

Next post: Making it all practical: Breaking the mold of “doing school”

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Laura September 21, 2012 - 1:22 am

You post late at night, and I will comment late at night! I understand what you have been talking about, Kelly, as I work to homeschool my 2 oldest children. I was public schooled, mostly, with brief blips into private/home school options, and really struggle to see education apart from compartmentalized times in which we review categorized concepts(reading, math etc). THe difficulty is that we in our state have to offer proof to our district that we are indeed “doing school”, which is hard to do unless you follow some kind of “curriculum” or “text”. The other thing is, as a mommy-teacher, I have to be purposeful about exposing my children to different aspects of education. I need to have them try different things to gauge their preferences/natural abilities. As an artsy/musical person, my preference for art and music might drive a detailed, math genius crazy, but we may not know he’s a math genius if I don’t give him exposure to that, regardless of my own personal preference or understanding. Also, I think children are more contented when we follow a more regimented plan for each day. So we spend about 2-3 hours on actual documented “school” and the rest of the day is spent in chores, playtime, reading together, and answering tons of questions about everything from worms to the water cycle…And there are things that you only learn by repitition–like times tables, money values, measurement values(cup/pint etc). Another thought, too, is that our sanctification is being WORKED out in us. That means that sometimes being Christlike is simply work that we choose to put our hand to or not…whether we like it or not. Every good thing in life(more than likely) will require some kind of effort, be it mental or physical. I think that requiring some things to be pursued after like tradional subject matter isn’t a bad thing, as it can teach discipline. One homeschool family I knew when I was younger took forever to finish their “formal” education as satellite students. THey were forever applying for extensions on deadlines. I thought this was very bad, as it seemed to reinforce laziness, rather than teach the harder principle about meeting deadlines and the consequences of lateness(and even in business there ARE deadlines!). Overall, I’d say it’s a hard balance to walk, but to moms out there, unless you have more than 6 kids, school time should only take maybe 3 hours/day…not 8am-3pm…and remember, you can educate on nights and weekends!

Word Warrior September 21, 2012 - 8:45 am


I understand what you’re saying and agree with you about certain things that need to be studied regardless of interests…I can’t wait to talk about all this in the next post!

Jennifer September 21, 2012 - 7:25 am

Loving this series!! I’m very anxious for the next post. My hearts cry is to break the mold, do it differently, have children that LOVE learning and seek to learn things on their own. However, with many littles underfoot, and the demands of crying babies, laundry, etc. I find that I end up just wanting to “do school” so that it seems we got something accomplished. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

Amanda September 21, 2012 - 8:10 am

“Christ didn’t go to college ”
Haha I think you mean Chris 🙂
This has been a great series!

Word Warrior September 21, 2012 - 8:42 am

LOL! I don’t know why, but almost every time I type “Chris” I spell “Christ”. I know I respect my brother and all, but geesh….

Jasmine September 21, 2012 - 10:19 am

I agree, Kelly. Good job.

Keri September 21, 2012 - 10:44 am

I have been wanting to comment on this since you have started this series. Like Laura, we also have to “prove” that we are using a grade appropriate curriculum at the end of the year when we do evaluations or testing.I choose a Christian curriculum for that and it is acceptable. I don’t want my kids to “just do school”. I want them to enjoy it and get something from it.Our curriculum is good and yes I kind of do it the standard old way.One of the things I try to do is “engage them in conversation” about what they are learning. They really like this and they really do learn alot.They also have opportunities to do other things. They have moments when they wonder why they have to study something..but in life..you have to do things you don’t always “feel” like doing.I agree that in public school that there is lots of time wasted..time in between classes that is to long or some classes we would all be thinking..why? I will also go through the science and history books and get videos on certain chapters they are going through..I cannot believe the conversations they have with each other.I also don’t think you can really be finished in 3 hours unless you are doing the very early years like preschool. I have four older children in their 20’s now and they have a very strong work ethic. Character training when they are young is so important. It pays off when they get older.My oldest daughter has had two years of college and is taking online classes to finish her degree.She already works at a Christian School.She did not go into debt for college.There are so many Christian young people even who get into such debt.We know of one homeschool young lady who went on to become a dentist.(her dad is also a dentist)She had over $300,000 in debt(yes-you read that right) and joined the Army to get rid of debt.She’s in for five years.Not only do these loans pay for school but many times pay for living expenses..rent..furniture..food..while they are in school.She is in no danger thankfully but is a dentist in the army for five years. It is a trap that is easy to fall into even in Christian Circles.The discipline of school is good for our kids.We want them to be disciplined in life as they become adults.It will not always go perfectly every day but if we go before the Lord and ask him to show us..he will!! Have a Great Weekend everyone!

Word Warrior September 21, 2012 - 12:28 pm

Keri–good reminders to address how one might approach a more relaxed homeschool environment and still meet state requirements.

Rosann September 21, 2012 - 11:30 am

Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject. My husband and I are exact opposites with regard to education. He is highly educated and an extremely smart, very analytical, always has his nose in a book kind of guy. He excelled all the way through school and loved every moment of it.

Me? I hated school. I had a broken family which was an obstacle for me to deal with growing up. I lived in a community predominantly one particular religion and at the time my family wasn’t religious in any way. So I struggled with lack of friendships because everyone I went to school with was part of this particular religion. These circumstances only fueled my lack of desire to even step foot on school property. My grades suffered. It was by the grace of God I graduated from high school. Rather than go off to college, I entered into the military for a short time. Then I went straight into the corporate world. I learned so much from those experiences that I then started to crave getting a college education. So I would take classes whenever I could fit them into my schedule. Then I got married and had kids. It became harder and harder to keep up with work, life, and college courses.

After talking with my husband a lot about the topic, we narrowed it down to the reality that my only real drive for a college degree was because I was worried about what other people who had a degree thought of me. I thought in order to be worthy, accepted, and loved by others, I had to have that piece of paper. My husband is book smart. He tells me all the time I have offered him incredibly wise counsel on real life scenarios time and time again over the years. I am finally realizing my worth comes only from who I am in Christ. That’s it! When I meet Jesus in heaven, He’s not going to ask to see my college degree. He’s going to want to talk about how I served His purposes and what’s going on in my heart.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on. I just really loved this post. 🙂

Carolina September 22, 2012 - 7:43 am

I think that the question college vs. no college is quite simple: it depends of what one is going to do later in life.
For certain jobs you need a degree and for others you don;t.
It also depends on where you live. Contries like Germany have many options for whoever does not go to college. They offer the so called Ausbildung, that is an aapprenticeship very well organized and where kids are learning and working at the same time and also making money.
But many other countries do not have that option.
Also, in the USA it is over expensive to go to college, so it is not worth doing it if you are not going to need the degree. That is not the case in other countries where you study almost for free or for a very reasonable fee. When my mother was in her 40’s, and being already a school teacher, she went to law school just for the love of it. At no cost.
So, circumstances vary.
I agree thougt that college degrees are overrated.

Word Warrior September 22, 2012 - 7:03 pm

It *might* be that simple except for a couple of pervasive things…

First, a college degree has come to be the status quo, regardless of whether a student even has a clue what he wants to do. Which brings up the second problem:

Most kids do not know what they want to do when they graduate because so little time/thought/experience has been given to it.

So you have kids spending thousands of dollars just to meet parental expectations…one expensive party, in a nutshell.

College is a viable option for some who do, indeed, need a degree for a specialized field. But it should hardly be expected for the majority of the population.

In my estimation, it should be the “last resort”, given the inflated price and exposure to so much objectionable worldview. Thus the post about how apprenticeships and other options are becoming more popular. We’ve created this “product” out of a college degree that is hardly sensible in its current inflation.

Melissa September 24, 2012 - 6:59 am

Halfway through college I realized that I thought I had always wanted to go to college but in reality it was my parents who wanted me to go to college and I just went because it was expected of me. At that point I finished because I was closer to be done than I was to being started and I waned to follow through with what I started. But since then I have always wondered if that was the right choice. I hope things have changed by the tome my son is college aged.

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Julie September 26, 2012 - 8:27 am

Kelly, this series is exactly what I’ve needed. My husband and I are similar to another post. My husband and I are exact opposites with regard to education. He is highly educated and an extremely smart, very analytical, self-employed composite materials engineer. I have a college degree as well, but in graphic design which isn’t looked upon as highly…like the TED video stated. He is fully supportive of our home educating at this stage, but does believe the kids need to go to “real” school later. He is highly educated so he believes they should be as well. I give this to the Lord daily trusting Him alone. I am very involved in our business as well and struggling to keep up with the many jobs I have. The “book” school tends to go on the back burner sometimes and I’m feeling horribly guilty about it…as if I have to keep up with the gov’t school. A friend said to me just the other day, “You know…they’re still learning!” WOW! That really was so helpful. Reading your posts have been as well. Just wanted to say thank you for allowing the Lord to use you to bless me!

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Responding to the comments by Laura and Keri regarding state homeschooling requirements and having to “prove” certain things to the state or school district in which you live:

A few things come to my mind about this issue (and perhaps you ladies have already researched what I’m about to mention; forgive me if I’m not offering any new thoughts here 😉 )

The first thing I would say is to make sure you are well-versed in what your state homeschool law actually says, what requirements and freedoms are delineated therein. It is not unheard of that state departments of education and/or individual school districts sometimes fail to understand what they can and can’t legally require of homeschoolers. Know the law and stand your ground if these jurisdictions impose burdens on you that are outside the bounds established by the law(s) in your state. For more information on homeschooling in your state, go to Home School Legal Defense Association’s website, http://www.hslda.org/ and click on “My state”.

Second, if the requirements of the district and state are legitimate according to the terms of the law, then I would say, be creative within those terms, adapting to your children’s needs and the values you want to impart. Is there anything written into the law that says the times tables, or fractions, or what have you, need to be learned at a specific age? My daughter in college, who is studying to be a veterinarian technician, a field which requires a lot of math, has got a math class this term in which she is currently working on adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions! I kid you not. That’s what, 5th grade math? For Vet Tech majors. But I digress.

Obviously, the schools, with the way they do things, don’t prepare a lot of students very well for higher math, if colleges have to put something like that into their programs. Do we homeschoolers really need to answer to school districts or the state about what constitutes a proper education when they turn out students who can’t do the simplest math (or other basic academics)? And don’t get me started on how some of my husband’s crew at his workplace, often college students, can’t even figure out how to load pallets of beverages onto trucks in a way that keeps them from tipping over when the drivers round a corner on their routes the next day! If any of them studied physics, you wouldn’t know it by the way they apply it there!

OK, rant over 😉

The last thing I want to point out is that, no matter what the homeschool regulations are in our states, we always have the option to work to get the law changed. If the government is imposing restrictive measures on us as homeschooling parents, we have the right, indeed the duty, to step forward on behalf of our families. I can’t think of a better civics lesson for our kids to see us (and join us) in being active in getting restrictive laws changed. Does the government really have a right to tell us anything about how we raise our children, what we teach them about life, or when we teach it? Home educating is about teaching and preparing them for life, which is happening all the time, while they’re growing up, and after.

Just a few thoughts…excessively wordy as usual 😉 ~submitted by the wife of the man who said that if we ever named our homeschool, it would be called Leave Me Alone U. 😀

Word Warrior September 30, 2012 - 6:18 pm


Great thoughts…by a fellow “wordy woman”.

Jeana Pariente January 10, 2013 - 11:14 pm

college degrees are really necessary so that you can land a great job in the future..

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Lukas July 11, 2016 - 11:18 pm

Young nations like Indonesia have no tradition of apprenticeship, unfortunately.

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