Why The American Dream Needs to Come Back to Reality In Our School System

Published on April 3, 2019

It is no secret that thousands of students across the nation have a student loan to some degree.

The New American Dream: Colossal Debt?

The rising cost of higher education worsens every year, while the number of students committing to an unbearable amount of debt is not improving. The unfortunate reality of achieving the American dream has a darker realization—our school systems have convinced our youth that the only way to achieve the “American Dream” is to go to college and incur a colossal amount of debt.

We have become so fixated on “being college educated” that we have lost sight of common-sense financing skills and what it actually means to be successful.

So, how can the public-school system across the U.S. protect our youth from enslaving themselves with an extraordinary amount of debt, unlikely to be repaid in this lifetime?

#1—The Public School “Brainwash”

As high school graduation approached, one question lurked through the hallways—”where are you going to college next year?”

Just as the sky is blue, the assumption is that everyone in the graduating class would be continuing their pursuit of a next-level degree at another educational institution. And of course, you would hear then-former classmates list off universities ranging from Harvard University all the way down to Wright State University.

Yet, not one person would ever (at least out loud) profess they would be taking time off from school to figure out what their next move would be. Unquestionably, nobody would suggest they were going to be attending a trade school.

So, this begs the question—why do our public schools push our youth to attend universities, when other non-collegiate degrees employment opportunities are available?

Society’s “self-fulfilling” prophecy is that we have convinced our young students, that the only way to be “successful” in life, is to obtain a collegiate and graduate degree. What’s even more damaging is that most students are then convinced (or forcibly) that taking out a colossal amount of money to obtain that degree, is worth it, without understanding why.

By changing this perspective and introducing non-collegiate required jobs to our students, this would perhaps be the beginning to a new pathway to success and the 21st century “American Dream.”

#2—Understanding “Finance-101” Today

While high school does instill certain values in our educational journey, there are more important skills that need to be identified, exploited, and applied, before entering into the “real-world.” For example, basic fiscal management. How to run your own budget can save you alot of headache when it comes time to manage your own debit and/or credit card(s).

While there are of course exceptions, most students during their public-school journey, have never been tasked with paying their own bills, supporting a family, or maintaining a job (not an internship). In other words, the level of real-world experience at that point in time is extremely minimal.

This is where the school system has failed us. Instead of offering art classes or physical education, we need to invest their time on how to balance a budget—what does a student loan repayment program actually look like? What degrees yield salaries that are most beneficial to mirror the type of lifestyle you so desperately desire?

#3—Making “Career Day” Great Again

While this isn’t a deterrence from pursuing a college or post-graduate degree, but believe it or not, there are well-paying opportunities out there that don’t always require a college education.

You don’t know what you don’t know. By researching all the trade positions available within your geographic area, you’d be amazed at what you could find. However, most students are oblivious to this fact because they just don’t know.Obviously, we need people to continue to go to college. But believe it or not, there are other well-paying jobs out there that do not require a college education.

Remember “Career Day” at school? Implementing a MANDATORY career day, where individuals from both college-required jobs and non-college required jobs, will help provide students with a neutral, yet responsible mindset of thinking about what’s next in their journey.

If we want our youth to invest more intelligently in their futures, then we need to stop convincing them that not having a college degree does not equal success, and instead:

  1. Implement common sense,
  2. Require students enroll in modernized finance courses, and
  3. Restructure “career days” to represent both college-required jobs and non-college required jobs.

Jeff Wren is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2018 and currently consults at LexisNexis. He has worked in criminal defense, landlord tenant, real property, copyright, and trademark law. He plans on practicing law on the side specializing in criminal defense and eventually patent law.

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