The Art of Being Human & “Value” of a College Education

This essay is a time-out for me.  I’ve been speaking about the need for students to become more savvy about how to link their international education experiences to their aspirations for employment for a long time.  Titles in this blog reflect that quite clearly. And I know that many of my colleagues are very concerned about the need for their campuses to do a better job about preparing their students to enter the workforce. In the times we’re in, this is, needless to say, obvious. And then I read this essay by Prof. Lisa Dolling who teaches Philosophy at Stevens Institute of Technology, http://chronicle.com/article/To-Help-Students-Succeed/228281/?cid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=e

She says:  “…in the end it is not only a matter of what you do, it’s how and why you do it; and the knowledge that that this requires above all is knowledge of oneself.”  She writes out of her concern that the debate surrounding the purpose/meaning/value of a degree has created false dichotomies…”Either you believe the purpose of going to college is to be able to secure a job, or you think there is something more intrinsically valuable to be gained from the years spent earning a degree.”

Prof. Dolling writes with great eloquence and clarity. And I do agree with her that we’ve placed ourselves between a rock and a very hard place on this question about ROI & value of getting a degree.  She longs for a more perfect economic world when families saw sending their child to college was, in and of itself, of great value to their personal maturation and intellectual growth. When a kid – like me back in my day –  did not spend every week and month worrying whether or not this or that course would build my career portfolio and lead me on to that first job.  There was a sense that it was, without question,  the right stepping stone; that the degree (or a graduate degree that would follow) would surely GET me a job.

And now we’re back in this moment – in 2015.  And we know that other critical factors impede viewing entering and leaving college in such simple terms. Yet, I want to wholeheartedly believe her when she says, “Education is first and foremost about learning; about developing the intellectual capacities needed to succeed as professionals and human beings.”

Right on to that.

 

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