Posted by: stiltsville | July 22, 2012

Response to Will Weatherford’s “Taking Florida’s Higher Education System Online”

“Our nation’s unemployment rate for Americans with less than a high school diploma is 12.6 percent.  For high school graduates with no college education, it’s 8 percent.  And for college graduates, it’s 4.2 percent. That means college graduates are more than twice as likely to find a job in today’s economy than non-high school graduates”

So said Will Weatherford in his Florida Voices editorial.

It’s been more than 20 years since I struggled through college statistics, but something strikes me as wrong about Weatherford’s math. And if Weatherford can’t get the math right, can we trust his other conclusions?

Nobody would disagree that a college education makes it easier to find a job in this day and age. But Weatherford’s vision of a virtual utopia misses the point of higher education.

Both my daughters have taken Florida Virtual Schools online courses. Both took their Restricted Driver’s License test online. I’m a big supporter of FVS, but we need to recognize that just because a tool is good for one thing, does not make it good for everything. And this is where Weatherford’s reasoning goes off the rails.

Online courses are great when you can devote an afternoon to taking your driver license test, or for high school spanish. It may even be useful for adults seeking CEUs or an advanced degree. But online courses will never be able to duplicate the college experience.

A student does not move out on their own for the first time to take online courses. An 18-year-old does not learn how to coordinate their own grocery shopping, laundry and daily schedule by taking online courses. A young adult does not learn independence, judgement and self control by sitting on mom’s couch and hitting the “submit” button.

The college experience is not just about delivering facts to students in the fastest, most efficient way possible. Florida colleges are supposed to provide a safe, enriching  environment for our kids to launch into adulthood. Florida’s leaders should be focused on delivering resources to ensure the highest quality educational experience for Florida’s children, not figuring out another way to cut corners.

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