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Is There Hope for Our Graduates?

Trends show that the culture of education is in need of a top to bottom overhaul

Dear Dr. Fournier:

I am concerned about my son’s chances for survival in the workforce when he graduates from college. He is only a freshman right now, but I am constantly encountering horror stories from friends and colleagues of their children who have moved back home after graduating college because they don’t know what to do with themselves, or because of the financial burdens he will absorb. What can he do so that this doesn’t happen to him? What can the country do to deal with this problem?

Becky L.

Jackson, MS

Dear Becky:


Matthew Segal, president and co-founder of OUR TIME, a leading youth membership organization for Americans under the age of 30, recently got the nations attention when he delivered some startling statistics that pointed to the reasoning for the formation of his organization. “With 85 % of college graduates moving back home and an average debt of $22,900 per student, thousands of college graduates face a stark economic future.  New college graduates are entering an economy with an almost 17% unemployment rate for Americans under the age of 30.”

Unfortunately, this is not the only place you can expect to find numbers like these. I too have run into alarming statistics over the years when examining demographic trends on the future, and sadly both the trend projections and the current national economic climate in the United States have both contributed to our present circumstances. I began to keep an eye on this phenomenon when the average age of financial dependency in this country began to rise. At present, the average twenty-five year old is still financially dependent, and it can be seen in the passing of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that insurers are now required to offer coverage to children under twenty-six on their parents’ policies. This age number produced quite a few head scratches at the time, but for demographers this was just the reality of the situation.

When I began searching for the root cause of the burgeoning trend of graduates who were unprepared for the workforce, I found that time and time again the fault lay with the model of education that is being used in our school systems. We are still using the model of the Industrial Era – the model that was used to prepare workers for the Industrial Era workforce. In short, the majority of the blame for this development lies in the teaching of the basic skills of the past instead of expanding them to include the basic skills of the future.

The basic skills of the past were reading, writing, and arithmetic, speaking and listening. Before you pull out those mental tomatoes, let me be the first to say that these are indeed important, but it is not the whole picture. When I work with students, mastery of these basic skills of the past is a cause for celebration, but it a celebration over the fact that he or she is halfway home. My basic skills for the future – the ones that will prepare the child for the workforce of today – are thinking, learning creating, collaborating, caring, and finally doing.

When a premium is placed on developing workers’ skills for a world that has less and less use for them, should we be surprised when all our children can do when they graduate from college is to move back home? No. Is there something that we can do about it? Yes.

As for addressing the financial side of things, a good basic guide can be found here (Forbes). Both of these problems are tremendous challenges. All we can do right now is to prepare for each as best we can NOW so that the burden will be lessened in for the future.


Your son must make a choice based on where he will best develop his mind wealth, so that his degree opens doors to positions that are relevant and accessible to his generation. Those who do not develop mind wealth and major in the skills of the past are the many that graduate college without a plan. These graduates are not able to find a job that offers them any hope of financial independence, which as you stated is only compounded by skyrocketing student debt. He must be able to:

1. Think – Be able to participate in discussions, ask questions, explain and answer questions on the assignment or topic.

2. Learn – The ability to take information or data that is given to you, and paraphrase it to make it your own. Note that this differs wildly from memorization, which is merely regurgitation and is ultimately not sustainable.

3. Create – something that’s all yours from your own ideas (or what you learned).

4. Collaborate – work with someone else or even several people -- to get things completed.

5. Caring – show you care about the person you work with and together you will be able to develop ideas neither one could do alone.

6. Doing – Demonstration of what you have already learned, like reciting your times tables.

Remember, the key is Taking data that is given, demonstrating ownership of the concepts, ideas and or theories through personally paraphrasing the information, then using the learning to create new knowledge. Notice that ‘Think’, ‘Learn’ and ‘Do’ are more personal manifestations of the future skills. However, we aren’t alone! According to the basic skills of the past, ‘Collaboration,’ ‘Caring’ and sometimes ‘Creating’ were called “cheating.” Today, they are essential skills! These lead to innovation. These lead to paradigm shifting. These skills are what employers are looking for. Making the cultivation of these primary and the focusing on Names of colleges, post graduate credentials, and the like secondary will increase the chances for your son’s success.


Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at [email protected].


More Stories By Dr. Yvonne Fournier

Dr. Yvonne Fournier is Founder and President of Fournier Learning Strategies. Her column, "Hassle-Free Homework" was published by the Scripps Howard News Service for 20 years. She has been a pharmacist, public health administrator, demographer and entrepreneur. Dr. Fournier, arguably one of the most prolific of educators and child advocates in America today, has followed her own roadmap, calling not just for change or improvement in education but for an entirely new model.

She remains one of the most controversial opponents of the current education system in America.