Davide Mastracci and I agree that post–secondary education should be accessible to all of those ready and willing to accept the challenges associated with higher learning. We also agree that all of society benefits when students learn. We seem to disagree, however, on how that learning takes place and on what constitutes evidence of success.
Mastracci is speaking from the heart. But when it comes to Canada’s future, we cannot afford to ignore the hard evidence. That evidence tells us that access to education, in the way that Mastracci defines it, does not automatically improve learning outcomes. And while faculties, administrators, parents and governments are all a part of the solution, students must be aware that they, too, will have to put in the effort; there is no way around it.
Many students already know that hard work matters, and the data suggest that their efforts are generally rewarded if not immediately, then over their lifetimes. But too many continue to think that if they just get a degree, everything will be okay. Unfortunately, in the 21st-century world, empty credentials are no longer enough, and if we are genuinely committed to helping the next generation navigate these difficult times, we must begin by telling them the truth.