Sunday, July 7, 2013

365 Days of Happy - Day 188

I'm loving that this Thought Catalog article isn't fluff. I feel like some articles on Thought Catalog are just fluff, something somebody whipped up in an hour. But this--this is gold. This has substance. Can more Thought Catalog articles be like this, please?

My comments are at the end of this article.

Should College Be For Job Training or Education?
By Matt Saccaro

Recently, Tim Donovan published an article on Salon titled, 'Thanks for Nothing, College' that demonstrated the terrible, frightening state of post-secondary education in the US. Donovan's article spawned an interesting topic in the comments: Should college be vocational training--something akin to trade school--or should it just be about education and 'enlightenment'? Is the purpose of college to get someone a job or to educate them?

Claiming that college's purpose is the latter of the two is idealistic and, at least in 2013, inaccurate. It's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the grim headlines and bad news about college. Youth unemployment is more than twice as high as unemployment for other age groups. Average student loan debt increases every year while the employment outlook worsens. Employers of the world are able to abuse graduates desperate for any kind of work. And, worst of all, the time and money spent at college and the resulting hardships might not even be teaching undergraduates anything.

Add all this up and it's clear that something is wrong...and college in its current incarnation isn't fixing it.

College is fundamentally flawed and degrees are worthless. STEM degrees are obviously slightly less worthless but they're not a golden ticket to employment. Undergoing an intellectual renaissance--and that's if you're actually doing the readings and not just partying/drinking/smoking--at college counts for nothing when the four years are up and you're sent into the job market. Intense discussions about Kafka don't strengthen a resume.

Don't rush to the comments section to slander me yet. I'm sure what you're going to say is something like this: 'If you don't want those things, then don't go to college!'

That's easier said than done, unfortunately. Even some McDonald's locations require a college degree. Therefore, skirting around college is difficult (at least it is if your parents aren't bankrolling you). For some people, risking college and the inherent debt it brings is the best and only way forward.

Donovan summed up this quandary in his own way: 'This is the Catch-22 many young Americans face: Either take on enormous debt to attain a degree in a field with little guarantee of relevant, gainful employment, or stay out of school entirely and try your luck competing for minimum wage, service sector work with hordes of recent graduates bearing resumes printed on card stock and donning neatly-pressed suits.'

So what separates the college graduate that gets a decent job and the one that serves happy meals to screaming kids?

Skills and experience.

The ugly truth is that you are your resume. If you don't know someone, you need a good great resume to get a job. You need skills, you need experience. You don't need philosophy or pedantic lectures about historiography. That's not to insult these subjects. I love history and I even wrote an eBook about US diplomatic history. But I'm not naive enough to think that it'll get me a steady job. It won't. On the whole, subjects like that produce well-read customer service people.

In 2013, the sun is setting on college as a place of academic enlightenment. History books and other kinds of literature are easily obtainable on the Internet (and far cheaper on the Internet than through a college book store). Interpretations of these works can be found for the price of an Internet connection and a subscription to an academic journal or two--and those journals aren't even a requirement when you can have discussions on Internet forums for free. When you go to college for anything other than a STEM major, you're paying for a syllabus and a classroom.

However, the sun is rising on college as a place of job training. Schools eventually won't be able to keep their racket running. They'll have to make changes. They'll have to boast that their curriculum and their system makes students employable and gets them jobs. To accomplish this task, esoteric and quite frankly pointless classes like Russian literature and the history of Byzantium must perish in the face of more relevant activities, classes that teach skills--Microsoft Excel, Hootsuite, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Photoshop, anything. Perhaps colleges can even turn into an experience that takes partially place outside of the classroom, where to get a degree a student has to intern for a predetermined amount of time. I argued for this solution in December 2012. If you want a liberal arts education, read some books. If you want a job, learn skills.

Technology has brought society to a point where academic achievements are constantly at our fingertips. The Internet has the information contained in every college course, and if it doesn't have the information it has a means of obtaining the information. College doesn't need to be about 'education' because, generally, education can be accomplished in cheaper ways now. Attending a series of glorified book discussion groups isn't worth $40,000 a year. Four years of internships and job training might not be worth that much either, but it'd certainly be a wiser investment.

I completely agree with this article and it spawned a few thoughts in my mind.

I hear all the time, 'Why do I have to take these stupid Gen Ed courses? Historical Perspectives, World of Ideas, Individual and Society? UGH give me a BREAK.'
To be honest, I did not learn anything in Global Perspectives and Individual and Society, except that my teacher for Global Perspectives was a total bigot. My freshman and sophomore year flew by. I don't remember much of it, except key moments, such as which guy I was dating a the time and where I went on vacation. But as for education, nothing really stands out to me.

By graduation, I'm sure all students want to have a resume with internships, officer positions and relevant experience galore. But that doesn't come easy to many students. I got my first internship when I was a senior in college, and didn't become an officer in Delta Zeta until my junior year. I am being completely honest when I say that I've learned more about leadership, time management, work dynamics and relationships, attention to detail, and professionalism through my social media internship, my photography internship, my study abroad experience, my two waitressing jobs and my involvement with Greek life than I have in any college class.

Of course, I never could have had those experiences if I weren't in college.

Instead of filling up freshman and sophomore students' days with boring, general classes such as Global Perspectives, why don't we prepare them to start looking for internships, or have them take personality assessments? I understand that many underclassmen might not know exactly the field they want to get into, and general courses might help that, but we need to push those students more. Like I said, I didn't really get involved until my junior year, and to be honest, that's way too late. I feel like I wasted two years screwing around (not literally, I might add) and jumped on the involvement bandwagon way too late. What was I thinking?

We live in a world where a bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma. My parents were right when they told me that I must go to college and get a diploma before I joined the Peace Corps. College has changed immensely since the 1970's (side note: how cool would it be to be in college in the 1970's?! Groovy) and I don't think our systems have adapted to that yet.

I leave with this note: Alverno College always has the best radio ads, I think. I always hear them on Pandora. They go something like, 'At Alverno, a college degree is more than just paper in a frame. Alverno offers masters degrees in this and that so you can do more with your piece of paper than you thought. We provide students with 8 core abilities that can help you get a job after graduation. Invest in you.'

1 comment:

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