Open Letter to an Angry Reader

A comment received at 1:22 a.m. Central Standard Time on Nov. 16 through the contact form on the Career College Central website:

"I have been reading your articles and clearly you have not work at the schools that you are writing for. If you have worked at a for-profit school you must be the most naive person around. Wake up and get a clue. I have only been working for a for-profit school for less than a year and every day they take advantage of students. — Jim"

Dear Jim:

You will probably consider this response long-winded and not entirely relevant to your comment, but if you can indulge me for a few paragraphs, I promise you will be enlightened on a number of matters, including why I love what I do, and why you are miserable.

About a year ago, I inexplicably began listening to AM radio.

At first, I thought it was a change related to my age. I’d always assumed there would come a time in my life, like most adults I know, when I traded out actual music for spoken words. I always saw the progression taking me from serious contemplation of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again to something like All Things Considered. Instead, I made the odd transition to the most ancient of entertainment options. While the rest of the world was embracing iPhones, iPads, and iPods, I crossed over into static-filled, Nikola-Tesla-fashioned radio.

As if this wasn’t odd enough, at the same time I took to eating my lunch in a grocery store parking lot almost every day and listening to sports talk shows. This might seem like a lonely way to live a life, but the time alone refocuses me. During the commercial breaks, I change the station to hear religious programs, financial advice or Rush Limbaugh only to avoid hearing the annoying locally-produced spots. I’ve begun to enjoy Limbaugh’s program – in limited doses – not because I believe in his political philosophy, but because he is entertaining. I am an independent, politically, so his shots at the liberal media are not injurious to me and his conservative views yield an interesting perspective from time to time. But after a few minutes, I put the sports channels back on and let the heated debates of the day vanish from my thoughts.

If I was ever angered by what heard – or if any of the conversations ever elicited any real contempt from me – I doubt I would listen anymore. I wouldn’t tune back in day after day and let the talk put a stain on my day. Talk radio is 80 percent opinion, 15 percent news, and five percent agricultural predictions. At some point, you are going to be subjected to a perspective with which you don’t agree. That is the nature of the ratings beast, I suppose, and a common aspect to interacting and listening to other people. We don’t always agree.

With today’s higher education landscape, there are all kinds of opinions – about what’s wrong with the K-12 system or with higher education in general, what seems to be working, whether or not online education is as solid as traditional learning, the vehement debate over student loan debt and the protests that have spurred jobless graduates to take to the streets, and a list of countless other topics. I point this out because with all these heated, diverse debates, it’s not likely that everyone will agree. And divergent viewpoints are not only common, but they also bring new perspectives to the conversation and sometimes take us a few steps closer to finding solutions.

Given the territory, I expected some negative responses to my/our work along the way. You can not scan the news about “for-profit” schools today and realistically expect anything different. Over the last few weeks, you’ve been reading my work, but I wonder if you’ve truly understood it.

My blog posts are my opinions on the issues impacting our schools, students, and our country. The for-profit education sector is in the midst of change as it adjusts its practices to correspond with regulations that were unfairly leveled solely against it by the Department of Education. I would encourage you to read through the archive of articles on our website about the DOE’s “gainful employment” rule. That alone should be enough to temper your opinions of our sector.

Our schools continue their mission of turning out qualified graduates in today’s trade careers while traditional colleges and universities face the same struggles in placing students and refuse to change an antiquated approach to teaching. Students are continuing to graduate off a cliff – expensive, general degrees, and no prospects. I’ve simply tried to tell the other side of these stories in the face of a news media and government intent on crushing these schools.

Readers, like you, are free to disagree and we leave the statements they make in our comments sections beneath our articles as long as the language is decent (and I commend you from leaving profanity out of our discourse here.) You don’t have to agree with me to follow my work. After a few posts, it seems you might have realized I’m not your man and simply moved on.

The timing of your message told me all I needed to know. If you were up at 1 or 2 a.m. leaving comments about your employer, your problems go well beyond what I’m writing. If you feel your school is violating rules established by the DOE or Federal Trade Commission, then you have a bigger issue to deal with than what I write. Since you chose to contact me than take another form of action, I’m thinking you’re simply not comfortable in this field.

Our students need committed people who understand they often face more challenges than other types of students, and need someone encouraging them to change their lives. Most do not believe in themselves. In many cases, neither do their families or anyone else in their lives. Someone in your position needs to be a positive influence. Clearly, you are not.

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