top of page

Why IS College so Cruel?

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

A recent piece by Frank Bruni in the New York Times examined this question in terms of the social and financial pressures on young people (and their families) - especially as they relate to the chances of being admitted into the Ivy leagues. This problem, of course, is related to the increasing crush of urgencies on young people growing up in a digitized social network, and also to the devastating impacts on opportunities and a sense of future in an economy becoming ever more unequal. Still, as Bruni points out, in the past we have turned to educational institutions (high schools) to, at least partially, address scarring perplexities involving inequity and status.

At this point, it’s unavoidable that AT LEAST two years of very affordable post-secondary education/training be made available to everyone. But that’s only a start. We need to continue to develop creative ways to ensure that everyone also has affordable, broadly based, LIFE LONG educational and training opportunities.

One of the pitfalls to avoid is profiteering and price gauging from educational institutions, new or established, ostensibly non profit or not.

The most important pitfall is the idea that such education and training is primarily for “the job market” as it is projected in then near or even long term.

Citizenship and especially the associated habits of mind should always be the focus. (Most employers already agree in confidential surveys where they repeatedly say most of what they looking for are certain “soft skills” along with more measurable abilities to communicate and analyze.) These habits of mind, including more nuanced abilities to think systematically, abstractly, and critically, are more likely to be developed in humane environments where efforts are made to differentially balance the need for Challenge & Standards on one side with the equally important need for support and nurture on the other. The need for such a balance is even critical in the many individualized online learning environments epitomized right now by DuoLingo and Kahn Academy.

Life-Long Educational Opportunities FOR ALL delivered via many types of technology and varieties of non profit institutions is possible with guidance, support, and informative promotion from federal and state departments of education, and local school districts (which would still be primary), public & private universities — as well as by many independent (community or expert based) supporters and evaluators. It is not only possible but is even being developed all around us even now.

Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass.  He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil.

17 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All


College is different for everyone.
bottom of page