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  • A Dialogue: Uncollege? The Five Minute College? Or a Traditional Liberal Arts Education
A Dialogue: Uncollege? The Five Minute College? Or a Traditional Liberal Arts Education
Written by
Meryl Jaffe
June 2011
Written by
Meryl Jaffe
June 2011

My hu sba nd jo kes about college being the best seven years of his life despite the fact that he graduated in four years.  And, while he and I strongly advocate for liberal arts college education and are the proud parent of two college  graduates with a third on his way, there is much to be said about the Uncollege social movement founded by Dale Stephens and recently posted by CNN: (http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/03/stephens.college/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn)


 In the article, Stevens makes the following points:

  1. "[College] rewards conformity rather than independence, competition rather than collaboration, regurgitation rather than learning and theory rather than application..."
  2. "...Failure is punished instead of seen as a learning opportunity...College fails to empower us with the skills necessary to become productive members of today's global entrepreneurial economy."
  3. "College is expensive..."

Dale Stephens advocates "taking education beyond the classroom through self directed learning with real world experience and self-designed projects:


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Father Guido Sarducci similarly advocated the "Five Minute University" - to simply teach what the average 1970's or 1980's graduate knows five years after graduation... all in five minutes.



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All joking aside:

  • TRUE: many students get 'lost' in college, and it is the highly motivated student who will get the research assistant positions and special attention and that many must compete for one or two coveted spots.  That said, isn't that true of just about anything we want?  Isn't this in itself a learning opportunity?  
  • TRUE: failure is punished rather than embraced and learned from and this is something we all need to reconsider and change.
  • Not all competition is unhealthy.  It pushes us to be better and in many cases teaches us that collaboration can provide a competitive edge.
  • TRUE: college is expensive both for families, cities and states.
  • TRUE: college is not for everyone.  Some young adults may do better in an UNCOLLEGE environment with mentors or direct learning/working experiences to help them attain their goals.  
  • TRUE: MOST SCHOOLS - from elementary through college often teach for tests and not to critically think, understand, and apply old and new concepts to real life problems.  This IS A SERIOUS ISSUE that ALL SCHOOLS MUST ADDRESS.  In the meantime, we as parents can help model creative thinking and real life applications of often dry school materials - see the following blog posts:
  • While liberal arts college may not directly teach entrepreneurial skills they advocate critical thinking and practical applications of theory. 
  • Good liberal arts colleges provide students with a breadth of knowledge which allows them to interact socially, at cocktail parties for example, and mingle with just about anyone for at least five minutes.  And, while I joke about this, being well-read is a vital networking skill. 

While in college I learned about myself and what I could accomplish, I learned to live on my own, and I learned about Rousseau, Lincoln, Stalin, Machiavelli, Victor Hugo, Margaret Mead, Jean Piaget and Modest Mussorgsky - all of whom I have incorporated into 3-8 grade curricula and I am grateful to all those who believed in me.


Most high school seniors are not ready for college.  They are still figuring out who and what they are, many have little direction, and many are burned out from the pressure of high school and looming college acceptance.  MY ALTERNATIVE: mandatory one or two year "community service" BEFORE college that would enable those with entrepreneurial skills to work at developing them while other young adults can gain personal growth and direction by building, clerking, interning, volunteering in community and/or private institutions, hospitals, museums, courts.  With this real life experience and growth opportunities they can then more clearly decide whether college is right for them, and if it is, they can more maturely approach the application and the learning processes college offers.


Those are my two-cents... what are yours?  Is college for everyone?  Did you/do you find a benefit to a liberal arts college education?

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