We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, September 27. 2012
Readers know that I have long rejected the notion of a college-level Liberal Arts-focused education as an economic investment. However, I have praised it as a potentially life-enhancing guided exploration more deeply into our culture and into current knowledge than secondary school can do (although good private schools can do it). "Cultivation of the mind" and all that.
In other words, do I do not think of it as utilitarian. (Colleges were designed for scholars and clery - for the cognitive and/ or financially elite.) I learned much in high school and in college which have never provided me with a penny of profit but which I believe have enhanced my life in countless ways: Geology, Statistics, Intro Music History, Ancient Greek History, Russian Lit, etc.
However, when I went to college the ways of learning these things outside college were not as accessible as they are today. The self-informed scholars of the past had to spend hours in libraries, after work, just to try to figure out where to start. Today, you can get the best Music History course in the world from the Teaching Company for $200. and enjoy it at leisure - with no exams.
So we return to my recurrent question: Is Liberal Arts college about job-preparation, for networking, is it a meaningless credential, is it a way to delay adulthood, or is it a guided exploration into our culture and knowledge for the deeply curious and scholarly with high IQ?
In Obama's economy, the reality hits. Plumbers making $70-150/hr make much more money than most recent college grads and lead more independent and entrepreneurial careers. In fact, more than many recently-graduated professionals.
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Coyote explains that employers use colleges as a free selection process.
And many insitutions use credentialism, many mandated by law.
So, once these come into play, then yes college is about job preparation. And the colleges themselves don't deny that, many are keen to boast about it.
And that's exactly why it's correct to say they're failing, b/c as the admin, admissions and PR departments are claiming it's about jobs, the faculty are resorting back to the ivory tower model.
Let colleges (especially liberal arts colleges) be honest about what they're providing, and we'll see how they fare.
Of course that's from me, who thought my alma mater was a big waste of time, and I learned far more in HS and even in a year at an unglamorous state university.
At lunch recently, a friend of mine shared an article about the "best" majors for the next 10 years.
They were all jobs-related. Things like computer science, medicine, etc.
I pointed out to him that may be 'true' if you want to get rich quick, but it won't help the nation as a whole and I think it's a terribly misguided POV.
My POV was that while people getting degrees like this will help industries which need those types of folk, but without a Liberal Arts focus, who will provide the perspective, the history, the ability to communicate properly?
These people will mostly be good at doing 'things', but will be terrible managers, and not have very good perspective or the ability to analyze structures or trends effectively.
We shall see - but I know the kids I work with already have no concept of history as a value.
To see how the Jesuits are changing (are they falling into step with the popular?) You can click here:
You can scroll down to "Professor of the Year" and click on the light print "full article" the first article. The second is just beneath that "Getting to the Core" again go to the light print and click on "Full article". From there you can scroll down the page to compare the core curriculum and intent from the past and compare it with the new "core". As for me--I am gonna go have a good cry !
This is how I think liberal arts colleges could improve based on my own experience:
1) Foreign language majors - Provide REAL WORLD use of the language. When you get into the 300 and 400 level courses of any foreign language, you do more reading of literature and actual use of the language for any practical purpose. What about providing foreign language instruction with a jobs focus? Translating either written or spoken word. Using foreign language in business settings. More reading of newspapers and less reading of Garcia Marquez.
2) English majors - how about some technical writing skills? I know there are colleges that offer technical writing as a degree...but shouldn't that be part of what an English major learns? How do you write instructions properly? How do you organize a document? How do you use the tools of the trade: InDesign, Publisher, Word?
These were my areas of study, and I was so disappointed that there was no career path help of any kind in class. Both of these areas of study provided a lot of literature analysis, but no practical training as to how to apply this in a real-world setting. Also, I was extremely disappointed to find that engineering and computer science majors had opportunities for summer internships or taking a year to work in a company. Should colleges be expanding those types of opportunities to the liberal arts majors???
Colleges and universities have never been vocational schools. They are manned by those who have PhDs in something or other rather than real world experience.
The current conversation is caused by current unemployment which is not caused by graduates having the wrong degree. If you want successful vocational training you have to get it from people who are currently working in the field.
Knowledge of a particular field is changing so fast that professors, unless they work in the private sector part time are usually way behind the times.
Bad experiences with English and History teachers in high school soured me on the Liberal Arts. I saw no point in jumping through the hoops that college courses required unless there was some financial reward at the end of the rainbow.
Now I read literature and history on my own, just like I did in elementary school.
A minor quibble, most tradesman (plumbers, electricians,
autor repair, other handy types) tend to be employed
and not independent, so the $/hr charged for the services
does not reflect their income. Eg car repair generally charged
by the book estimates of time required at $/hr plus parts
and shop supplies. Car repair person not making any where
near that income, but more likely $10-15/hr. Machine shop
time runs $75-150/hr, but it is a very rare machinist that
makes more than $25/hr, most under $15. HVAC residential
repairs run $75-125/hr but the HVAC person is doing well
to make $15/hr. The rest goes to company overhead and
owner profit, if any.
I majored in Clinical Laboratory Science and I had to write technical papers, research papers and essays that were probably much harder than any French Lit Major had to write. In fact, I still have to write procedures that will meet certain laboratory certification standards and are simple enough for nurses to understand.From what I have seen of Liberal Arts majors, they aren't learning history, languages, math or science. Their lack of communication skills is astonishing and their "perspective" leaves much to be desired. Most people would learn more after four years in the Armed Forces than four years as a Liberal Arts major. They would probably be able to find a job and keep it, too.