Opinion
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor

College Completion vs. Critics’ ‘Condescension’

December 10, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The premise of your front-page article “‘Soft Skills’ Seen as Key Element for Higher Ed.” (Nov. 14, 2012) is that today’s teenagers lack the life skills and resiliency that their counterparts in earlier generations possessed and therefore must be trained to be resourceful and self-sufficient. This premise is framed by a college counselor whom you quote (in the second paragraph) as follows: “Millennials have had helicopter parents who have protected them,” so they “haven’t had the opportunity to struggle.”

This sweeping assertion reflects a point of view that has already calcified into the conventional wisdom even though it’s based mostly on anecdote and, insofar as struggle is assumed to be beneficial, ideology. Fortunately, the broader argument of your article contains one key proposition that can easily be tested: “Many teenagers lack [crucial life skills], and that’s hurting college-completion rates.”

Hmm. How might we substantiate the claim that fewer students these days are finishing college? Well, we might turn from Page 1 of this issue to Page 5, which features a short article with the headline: “K-12 and College Completion Rates Set Record.” Here we read that 33 percent of the population now graduates from college, as compared with 12 percent in the 1970s, with “record levels of college completion among all groups: men and women; blacks, whites, and Hispanics; and foreign- and native-born Americans.”

Perhaps the problem isn’t too little competence on the part of students, but too much condescension and overgeneralization on the part of some adults.

Alfie Kohn

Belmont, Mass.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 12, 2012 edition of Education Week as College Completion vs. Critics’ ‘Condescension’


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion Can College-Going Be Less Risky Without Being 'Free'?
Rick Hess speaks with Peter Samuelson, president of Ardeo Education Solutions, about Ardeo's approach to make paying for college less risky.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
Marchmeena29/iStock/Getty