College is only what you make of it
Editorial | Formal education system is not necessarily best option for everyone
Flynn McGarry is quickly rising up the ranks in the culinary world and becoming one of the most renowned chefs in the country. He’s been featured on the Food Network, he’s met the Obamas, he cooks $160 12-course meals and he’s currently working on a book about his work. And just as a side note, he’s 15 years old.
Not only is McGarry exceptionally talented, he is also growing up in an environment where his parents and family are incredibly supportive and encouraging of his passion for cooking. His prior experiences are worth so much more than anything he could have learned in a classroom. Although he is still continuing his education — after all, he is only in tenth grade — he has already made it a goal for himself to move to New York at 17 and work for a few years before opening up his own restaurant by the time he’s 19 years old.
We’re brainwashed into thinking that life has a set order: stay in school, apply to college, decide on a career goal and pick a major that will help you reach that goal, and finally, pursue that career. Sure, people protest this system and go as far as to say “pick a major that interests you” instead of “pick a major that makes you marketable” — but either way, going to college is a given.
But college really isn’t for everyone. It’s not so much the fault of colleges and universities themselves — it’s the fault of a public school system that places immense pressure on students to make college acceptance the end goal of their high school careers. The rates of “college-bound seniors” that a high school graduates hugely affect its image and perceived quality, which could impact the federal funding it receives. It’s in the system’s interest to push 17- and 18-year-olds to go to college right away, so very few students even get the chance to consider any other options.
But other options are out there. Many people go to vocational school or art school or join the military. Others take a gap year (or several years) to work, travel or just develop as a person. Some people have a natural talent for visual or performing arts and are forced to put it all on hold just to go through the expected four-year process of a college education. Getting an education is certainly important, but there is not just one way to be educated. Progressive educators and thinkers talk about the value of life experiences all the time, but apparently not a lot of people take that seriously at all. When it comes down to it, no one really cares how educated you actually are — it’s how educated you appear to be.
It shouldn’t matter whether you discover your passion when you’re 15 or when you’re 50. Everyone tells us it’s perfectly normal to be unsure of what you’re going to do with your life in your first or second or even third year of college — but then why necessarily have to go to college right away in the first place? McGarry is already working on his career as a professional chef, and while he can always go to college for a “formal education” (whatever that means) down the line, it obviously makes more sense for him to establish his career now. But there are also people who haven’t discovered their talents at such a young age, and it’s unfair that we seem to be tied to such a strictly established societal norm.