It’s Getting Hot In Here

This week has been a hot one, not only temperature-wise but take-wise. On Sunday, Twitter lit up a bit with a tweet that said you can’t be a well-functioning citizen without data literacy, a hot take. This point of view created a firestorm of responses, some from your Be Data Lit team. Snippets like this have increased as political unrest grows in the US – a dangerous mindset. Throughout recent months, there has been a switch to a gatekeeping, elitist attitude toward education and subsequent skills. This type of thinking is harmful and should not continue.

What is Gatekeeping?

when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity“.

 Urban Dictionary

Acenda Health further clarifies:

“For example, if a person mentions that they love a particular music artist, a gatekeeper may retort with “Oh yeah? Name five of their albums”. This line of questioning leads to feeling inferior and unwelcome.”

https://acendahealth.org/blog/gaslight-gatekeep-girlboss

First, I want to acknowledge I’m a fan of education. Big fan, huge fan. That’s me. I am a big fan of education and will always promote the NEED for schooling. So let’s be clear that when people tie outcomes to specific types of education, these individuals become gatekeepers by saying you are only valuable if you have a certain kind of education.

Having a degree doesn’t mean you are better functioning, have increased critical thinking skills, or are more educated.

Full stop.

End of story.

Move along; nothing to see here.

There are two issues with that narrow thinking:

First, traditional academia is inaccessible to a large swath of the US population. Time-wise and cost-wise, it’s an incredible commitment beyond the years spent in school, primarily due to the cost of education. Even external of the US, the price is high for US citizens if you are an international student, though some countries offer reduced tuition if you are a citizen.

Second, there are a lot of emerging alternatives to traditional academia. There are still barriers to entry, but their cost is significantly lower and less time-bound.

Hanson, Melanie. “Average Cost of College By Country” EducationData.org, August 9, 2021,
https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college-by-country

Ok – but people can take out student loans, right? To afford college, most people don’t have a spare $20K sitting around; people need loans or grants. What happens if you are estranged from your family or they refuse to fill out the forms? Many people are estranged from their families but cannot get the necessary financial aid for college. Students need to be 24 to be considered independent before they can apply for financial assistance on their own (this should be a whole other discussion). Then, let’s talk about the crippling debt many find themselves in after completing school.

Today’s traditional education is not sustainable for the majority of college-age individuals. Additionally, college students must reskill soon after graduation because their skills are already outdated.

This is a vicious cycle, and one that is saying traditional education is a requirement for well-functioning citizens.

Alright, so I told you all about how this is dangerous thinking and the high barriers to education access for people; now what?

We at Be Data Lit, Allen and Sarah, will continue to bring you stories of people who change careers, find success in non-traditional ways, and advocate for people to lower barriers so we can ALL have access. Everyone, not just an elite group of people who can afford it – but everyone.

Have a non-traditional education story or an education story you want to share with others? Reach out to sarah@bedatalit.com and let’s start talking!

Let’s light it up and BE DATA LIT!

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