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Penny and Rich, our beloved cousin-bloggers, do not see eye to eye on whether or not parents should pay for their kids’ college. In Rich’s Plan To Build A Generational Family Legacy. Uh, Yeah, In 3 Easy Steps!, he asserted that higher education is the key to a family’s long term stability, and it creates a positive feedback loop for the future.
Rich noted, as a bonus, that people with a high education level tend to marry other people with a high education level, they tend to have friends with high education levels, and they have kids who are more likely to attain high education levels. It’s a positive generational feedback loop.
Penny, on the other hand, Thinks Paying For Your Kid’s College Is Helicopter Parenting. She opined that paying for a kid’s college education is one of the biggest forms of helicopter parenting out there, and Rich’s plan seemed a bit (how did she say this in a nice way?) … controlling.
She noted the importance of children developing autonomy, and thought paying for their own education encourages children to take responsibility for their own lives. If parents are funding their education, they are taking all of that away from them.
Considering this wide divergence in views, our venerable blogger-cousins decided to hash this out in a virtual cage match, otherwise known as a blogchat debate. What you see below is their chat, possibly with poor grammar, improper capitalization, and strange slashes /// (which they used to keep track of thoughts for some reason).
Readers, think of yourselves as flies on the wall during an awkward family dinner, and feel free to chime in with comments. Now, into the cousin cage!
RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.
Hi Penny! I’m here in blue ready and waiting. Just finished putting the kids to bed. They like a good espresso and a cigarette before turning in. They’re autonomous that way.
How are you?
I’m here! Yeah, this is weird.
Hi! Well isn’t this funny? So maybe the biggest difference off the bat is the idea of control vs. planning. Is this semantics or a real difference?
CONTROL VS. PLAN
I don’t see my family legacy plan (in 3 easy steps!) as controlling as much as planning. I can’t control what they will do or what they will think, but i want to plan so they can do whatever they want to do up to their potential. This is about options.
Yes, you’re “planning”, but YOU’RE the one planning their lives, not them. That’s the part I have trouble with. And your “plan” seems a little bit too controlling for my tastes… down to the making sure that they attend college, to wanting to influence the type of person that they’ll marry.
Well according to child labor laws, they can’t work and save for college on their own just yet. They are 5. Hardy har.
I never said they could not choose their college or their course of study. If they have an incredible plan at age 18 for starting a business without going to college, I would strongly advise that a business degree would help. Because it would.
THE CAR ANALOGY
Here’s an analogy. It’s like buying a car so your kid can get to school. You are not telling them what to do when they arrive, you are simply providing the means of travel. Sure, you could tell them to walk, but in practical terms that just doesn’t work, because walking 30 miles each day is cost prohibitive and limits their options. In practical terms, you’re holding them back.
As far as the type of person they’ll marry, if you mean marrying an educated person … uh, yeah, that would be nice. But I don’t see how this is any different from taking a kid to church or encouraging them to read books.
And, I truly don’t understand how you equate “plan” with “control”. The opposite of a plan is not autonomy, the opposite of a plan is to be unprepared.
Okay, this is a long one. Where do I start?
Start at birth. ///
COLLEGE OR TRADE SCHOOL OR WHAT?
You said, “I never said they could not choose their course of study”… How would you feel about them wanting to go to a trade school or do manual labor? Become an electrician or carpenter or something? Would you steer them away from that? ///
It would be a challenge for them to convince me it was a good idea, but if it’s their idea and their passion, I’ll help them get on that path. But like, to me some of this is about health and well being. Manual labor takes a physical toll — I know, I grew up working on a farm. Other jobs can be worse. If my kids really wants to smoke cigarettes, I’m not going to just say hey it’s your life. ///
But it sounds like it would be quite the challenge for them to convince you to let them go to a trade school or do manual labor. Would you steer them away from that? ///
Doesn’t it depend on HOW we do it? I’m not going to tie them up and force them to study what I say. And if they insist on not going, they won’t get college money. I agree it’s a conversation about what they enjoy, what they’re good at, etc. the part I can help with (that I didn’t know anything about at age 18), is what it means in practice. Remember my friend Bob? [ed. note: name changed to protect the innocent.] He got a trade — air conditioning repair. He is almost homeless. He had no idea how to run a business.
Yes, it’s tricky. Mr. Penny’s brother got a trade – lineman (electrician), two years of schooling, and he is now making 6 figures. Mr. Penny had 8 years of training, and, well, you know what he makes. Ha ha. /
I admit I have a bias away from blue collar work because it’s a harder road. If someone has that aptitude, they can be an engineer and have many career options.
But is it a harder road? Who are we to say. In that happiness book that we’re reading [ed. note: Stumbling on Happiness], he talks about how everybody thinks that conjoined twins should be unhappy, when in reality, they are quite happy, but nobody can accept that because it seems crazy.
/// one point i liked from that book. When he talked about measuring happiness with thousands of people. So if one person says i’m happy living in a slum, ok. But 99% of people are happier not living in a slum. So yes, many blue collar workers are happy, bully for them. But I think a higher % of people who don’t have long term back pain from construction and so on are happier with their careers. I’m biased, I’ve experienced both.
/// Touche. ///
/// bottom line yes i would give advice away from manual labor.
WHAT ABOUT DEGREES THAT GET PEOPLE NOWHERE?
Just curious about this idea: What about the arts? Like, if they wanted to pursue a career as an artist, or get a degree in Art (which won’t necessarily translate into anything)?
That’s a good question. But it is, in fact, a degree. ///
/// A degree that will get them nowhere. ///
I studied theology!
It seems to me a trade school would be worth more than an Art degree, in terms of getting a job. Good point about your degree, though. ///
/// Well now we are talking about degrees, but I’m the one saying college is important here. ///
I think I have a bit of a bias against college because it is such a dumb system now. I’m not a fan of playing the game just to play it, especially within a broken system. ///
you didn’t go? ///
I got a technical degree in Desktop Publishing.
LEARNING FOR THE SAKE OF LEARNING
/// ok, well that makes me think — from your helicopter post, you seem to say opposite things. You say college should be LEARNING FOR THE SAKE OF LEARNING but isn’t that the exact opposite of an apprenticeship, which is training for a specific job?
/// Wait, what? ///
In your article you say people used to learn for the sake of learning. But a trade school is not like that at all. It’s specifically for a job.
What is opposite, though? ///
// A trade school they are not learning for the sake of learning, like studying art and poetry. ///
Ohh… I see. Yes, I like learning for the sake of learning. I’m all on board for studying art and whatever is your fancy. That’s what I think colleges should be made for, instead of these places Where People Go to Get a Job. That’s why getting an Art degree to get a job, doesn’t make sense, but getting an Art degree for the joy of learning art is a good thing. ///
// wellllll, ok, i think you are maybe making a straw man here. At a 4 year college you learn a bunch of dribble drabble that you don’t need and often it’s quite interesting. ///
Yes, but people aren’t doing that because they necessarily want to learn it, they’re learning it because they have to in order to get the degree to get the job. ///
can’t they do it for both reasons? ///
Yes, if they are special human beings. ///
nonsense! Most people i know with masters degrees (and i work with many) are interested in a wide range of subjects and enjoyed school.
I don’t think most people go into it that way. ///
People who don’t like learning are the ones who don’t go to college.
I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t like learning go to college. ///
DO COLLEGE DEGREES CORRELATE WITH MORE THAN JOBS?
/// ok. And i’d say both types of people probably need college to get a job. What about my section on all those various things that correlate with a college degree? ///
I’m not arguing that people need college to get a job. As you know, we played the game. I just don’t like it. I think it’s dumb. ///
What about my section on all those various things that correlate with a college degree? [better health (higher exercise rates; lower smoking and obesity rates), lower crime rates, and lower divorce rates.] ///
I don’t think that college is the be all end all of getting those things? ///
From my post: You might say that if people are intelligent, they don’t need a certificate to prove it. Sure, you can be super smart without going to college. But I should note that none of these studies were based on a person’s intelligence. These studies were based on the level of degree attained. Yes, the piece of paper. It doesn’t matter if someone is a knucklehead with a Master’s — that knucklehead still has a better chance at a positive outcome. //
Do you think that’s hooey? ///
Those correlations might be found in people not because they went to college, but because they are the *type* of person who would go to college.
Yes so that’s a good thing so I’d want my kids to go to college 🙂
Again, I don’t think that is a requirement for positive correlations in life. ///
Think of the opposite. Of all my younger relatives, there are only a few who didn’t finish college. Guess which relatives are not autonomous? Yep, them. Living at home. Kinda pathetic.
But I think that is true for young adults who HAVE finished college. Sometimes they move back home and are pathetic too.
/// At some point there is a general trend. Show me 100 people who have gone to college and 100 people who haven’t. I know which group has people with more satisfying lives, statistically. //
maybe as a last thought, we could say the best part about each other’s ideas. Like, well, the best part about your idea is your kids will need to be resourceful. Did you like my car analogy? I rather like that. /
///Yes, good analogy, I forgot to say that. ///
/what do you think is a positive of my approach?
Well, what you said in the car analogy makes sense, and is positive. I mean, I don’t agree with all you say, but I can definitely see the positive side to pretty much anything you write. ///
/// yes, my main thing is i want them to know they have choices — not limited by it’s too expensive. a commonality is that we both want our kids to find their thing. i might steer them a bit toward what i think (ahem, and statistics show) is a better outcome, but when they are adults they are adults. i think you are talking about process and i’m talking about the result.
Readers … stay tuned for Part 2 … in the meantime, which cousin-blogger is scoring more points in the blogchat cage???