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Whoa! Mr Gemin, you left out 2 important aspects of higher education in the U.S. that is very different from that in Europe.

1. Community Colleges (sometimes called 'commuter' colleges)
All over the country, state gov'ts have developed a network of local community colleges. Here in Virgina, one network is called NOVA (Norhtern Virginia) that has lots of campuses all over the place. They are inexpensive, they have 2-yr and 4-yr cirriculums, they have 'continuing education' programs for people who want to 'add on' to the academic work or job-related experience they already have.

2. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Europe if you don't start your university-level education right out of high school, that's it.

Here in the U.S., anyone can start the university level at any time in their life, assuming of course they have the time, money and meet the academic requirements.

Just for context. I enrolled at a German university at the age of 34, and went through the program to acquire my Masters and PhD. The price tag was less than 150 Euros per semester. Moreover, I was employed full-time at the university while working on my PhD. The U.S. system is more effective and offers more choices in my estimation, but one certainly gets a lot more bang for the buck from a German university.

Actually, Bill Clinton went to Georgetown, not Harvard (and he also did law school at Yale). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_clinton#Early_life

Community colleges are truly important - they're crucial for getting immigrants on their feet. The first stop for many immigrants - especially legal ones - to the US is to enroll in junior college and start taking classes in English and other subjects. Many of them go on to state universities - typically while working - and end up using their education in numerous ways. My immigrant wife ended up getting a real-estate license, which requires a few college courses, and is now doing very well as a "business broker" (meaning she helps people buy and sell small businesses).

For my part, after lazing through high school, I went to community college for two years, cleaned up my grades, and ultimately transferred to UC Berkeley. There were several other students who went to Stanford and other schools.

PS: Bill Gates went to Harvard, but dropped out...

anyone who wants to place bets on how many typos I can get in one post..........

Actually, although the German Universities are in theory cost free, they are available to graduates of the so called Gymnasium, the entrance to which is decided on merit, for all intent and purpose decided at about the age of 10. So basically a, less than motivated 10 year old's fate is sealed, no university, unless you can pay to a private school. You will go to trade school (realschule) and be a laboror......decided at the age of 10. No community college, no free university.

"It boasts 43 Nobel Prize winners "

The University of Chicago boasts 73, more than any other school. (...as of October 11, 2000, I count at least seven more since then) Twenty-three in economics alone. How do you win a Nobel Prize in economics? You prove the obvious with statistics. (yeah, I stole that quote from one of them)

Sooooo many problems in this world related to j-school graduates having no fucking clue about economics. Go ahead Europe, keep pushing your socialist utopia...and keep wondering why your unemployment rates are so high...keep wondering why so many "youths" are so belligerant because (acording to you) your states keep fucking your populations over.

Start reading Adam Smith when you want to stop digging that hole you're in. Or are you looking toward some committee or some elected representative to solve all your problems? ...Or perhaps you prefer the dysfunctional reality you're brainwashed with?

How many of those winners know *you* by *your* name?

(oh...for me...just a few)

glk,

Absolutely true, and that makes the system deeply unfair. The winners and losers are sorted out already at the age of about ten (a major source of stress for parents of six to ten-year-olds), with the winners getting a near free ride (but complaining bitterly about their situation along the way) and the losers forced to work practically for free in a "Lehre", if they are lucky enough to find one. Technically of course, one can pay for additional schooling after "Hauptschule" or "Realschule" to obtain the "Abitur", but the obstacles are enormous.

On the other hand, academically talented students with limited financial resources do not face the same hurdles as do their American counterparts.

One other thing which sets apart the German and US systems. If an individual thought that the US could do better adopting the German system, he would be relatively free to set up universities along the German model. There is a relatively open standard of voluntary accreditation and, if you have the cash, you can pay from your own pocket and operate without accreditation. How easy would it be to open a parallel system in the FRG? Would you even be permitted to on your own dime?

Hi -

Well, as someone who did his BA in the US and his MA in Germany, as well as having two teenage daughters in the German school system, I *think* I'm rather uniquely qualified to make a couple of generalizations here. :-)

First of all, yes, the kids get screwed over when they're ten years old and make the transition from basic schooling to their future careers. While the parents can overrule what the teachers decide, the teachers have it down pat around 90% of the time: not because they are so brilliant, but rather because the system backs up the teachers.

Second, the German university system is fantastic IF you know what you want. There is little structure beyond the set requirements, and you get to concentrate on becoming an academic expert on your field of study. I know that I had a lot more structure in the US and a lot more requirements that were aimed at giving me a broader education but were ultimately a distraction. Now, of course, if you are going to college and aren't sure what you want to do, you are lost in the German system, and if you have a moderate source of income, it's really easy to waste literally years of your life in the academic world.

Third, the German system is set up based on ideals, the Humboldt'ian ideals of knowledge for knowledge's sake. That is a very nice idea.

And it doesn't work in reality. The sheer hostility that anyone recieves when they go out and get private-company funding for a project in the sciences is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The basic idea is that any sort of funding has to be spread around, sorta kinda making the idea of going out and getting funding like you do in the US to be a pretty stupid idea, since the lazy bastard next to you will get the benefits, not you.

And that is where the crux of the problem lies. I think the number of true-believer socialists is probably the highest in academia in Germany than in any other sector of the economy, outside, of course, of the government (but then again I said "of the economy": the government is the proverbial 500-pound gorilla that is connected with a transfusion tube to you, the taxpayer...). I decided not to become an academic beccause of German academic life: a life of frustration. I don't know of anyone in academia in Germany who is really happy, unless they went to the private sector first and then decided they really did prefer academia and the associated freedom from commercial pressures and customer deadlines. Several colleagues of mine did that, and they're happy, but do indeed complain, at great length (OK, not all of them...) that they are overpaid and underworked. HAH!

Finally, the entire German academic system, from Kindergarten to Habilitation (a kind of second PhD), is aimed at providing the German state with trained professionals. It also means that unless you enter and pass through this system, you have all the chips stacked against you: your only way out is to be a really great businessman. And this has led to the sort of class consciousness that permeates German society on a very deep level.

And while the German system largely works, it does lead to situations where people study for literally a decade, are very good academics, and cannot for their lives find a job because no one told them that they are in a field with maybe 30 jobs/year and there are 500 people/year graduating with that degree, or that they can only get the job they thought they were training for if they have political connections, which they don't have. In other words, there is no system of checks and balances or connection with market demand, since German students aren't consumers of education (and I was pilloried for suggesting such a notion in a graduate seminar) but rather priviledged members of society.

Their arrogance at times can be amazing, as well as their ignorance. But more often than not they really are good within their specialty.

And what Germans really need to work on is inculcating the idea that learning is a lifetime thing. Generally speaking it isn't considered to be that, instead you went to university and what you learned is what you'll always have. Given that personnel offices are usually oriented towards this, it means that it's a lot harder to change fields or diversify what you do when you're out in the workforce. And that's where a lot of the problems lie. I don't work in my academic field - my BA was in philosophy/pychology, while my MA was in PoliSci - but that is largely because when I finished my MA, I went back to the States and almost immediately found work. Ultiamtely, experience trumps academics.

John

@beimami Absolutely true, and that makes the system deeply unfair. The winners and losers are sorted out already at the age of about ten (a major source of stress for parents of six to ten-year-olds),

Wow... I can't imagine that kind of pressure at age 10 and younger. Yeesh... I did my degree work in anthropology, have a lifetime of practical work experience in computer science, am 58 years old... and STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up! :D

The poor German kids are all sorted out by age 10? God forbid! I cruised along with minimal-effort B's in high school, flunked out as an undergraduate (but got readmitted after getting straight A's in a community college), and didn't really hit my stride until my second master's degree (high honors). Most of this was done while working full time.

One of my brothers went to work as a draftsman, went to college, then back to work as an engineer, then back to college, then back to work... He didn't finish his baccalaureate until age 40, then got his master's 18 months later. Finally, he changed his mind altogether and went to teach math and physics in a high school.

Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in America. He could not have been more wrong. We have more second chances available to us than any other country can provide.

@LCMPJ -
and STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

If it hasn't happened yet, you're one of the lucky ones. You can stop worrying about it already!

"...Just for context. I enrolled at a German university at the age of 34, and went through the program to acquire my Masters and PhD. The price tag was less than 150 Euros per semester...."

I daresay the pricetag for YOU was 150 Euros per semester, but for German society at large it was a good deal higher...

"I daresay the pricetag for YOU was 150 Euros per semester, but for German society at large it was a good deal higher..."

I agree in principle, though one could argue that every course I participated in would have taken place with or without my presence, the cost to German society thus being nothing. Note also that there are very few Americans in the German university system, so I added some much needed diversity.

"I agree in principle, though one could argue that every course I participated in would have taken place with or without my presence, the cost to German society thus being nothing."

Well no, the cost is still the cost. It doesn't make any difference if the nation was footing the bill for your education or somebody else's. There ain't no free lunch, not even in a socialist state.

And all of this goes to the point of the article... it's apples and oranges :).

We've each got a system that works for us. So be it :D.

@beimami
though one could argue that every course I participated in would have taken place with or without my presence, the cost to German society thus being nothing

'One' could indeed make the argument, but as it would expose 'one' as 'one' who has zero understanding of economics, the argument wouldn't have much credibility.

Well, that'll teach me to type without thinking. Thank you rightwingprof and Pamela for the much-needed spanking.

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