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Thread: The Purpose of Education

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    The Purpose of Education

    Some of the campuses of my state university system have announced plans to eliminate many of the traditional humanities departments as well as some "Studies" programs in favor of engineering, finance and other more "career-oriented" degrees. I'm not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, most students lacking an independent source of income will need to ultimately earn a living. On the other, I think there is something to be said for education for its own sake. Although I do think it a bit cruel to encourage most people to pursue doctoral-level humanities studies when the job prospects are so dim.

    I keep hearing about the humanities providing highly prized "critical thinking skills", but I couldn't hire a philosopher for an accounting job. I'm not sure that the best poloicy is.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Interesting--I just read this article yesterday about how tradespeople are in increasing demand. It seems college is out as the default "must-have" for a a financially-secure, successful life.

    On the one hand, I'm glad that there are expanding opportunities for those who are not academically inclined.

    OTOH, I've always believed that college bestows many intangibles in the critical thinking department. It doesn't matter that you don't necessarily have to know Ovid to run a business, but you learn how to think. In fact, I clearly remember the moment when I realized my own children flipped that switch and started thinking and reasoning differently.
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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Interesting.

    As long as it's possible to get those humanities degrees at other state colleges, I see nothing wrong with colleges and universities tailoring their offerings to outfit graduates with skills they can use.

    The job market now is so specialized that there's not much opportunity for career migration starting with that new degree; as LDAHL pointed out, hardly any organization will hire a philosophy major for an accounting position. They may hire a philosophy-degree employee into an accounting position if the skills are there. But most won't do it for someone right out of college.

    The other part of it, of course, is being realistic with students and helping them understand that a doctorate in a humanities field may never give them many job prospects or enough of an income to pay back those educational loans. Or that not everyone has to attend college, and that there are plenty of careers which can be satisfying, pay well, and offer longevity, without university degree initials involved. I'm not sure who gets to deliver that shot of reality, though.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    I cannot imagine any job that will not require some understanding of the humanities unless it is a repetitive job that will eventually be automated. The human ability to think, plan and evaluate is critical everywhere
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveinMN View Post
    The other part of it, of course, is being realistic with students and helping them understand that a doctorate in a humanities field may never give them many job prospects or enough of an income to pay back those educational loans. Or that not everyone has to attend college, and that there are plenty of careers which can be satisfying, pay well, and offer longevity, without university degree initials involved. I'm not sure who gets to deliver that shot of reality, though.
    My son is a student advisor and adjunct instructor at a community college. He makes less than my other son who serves tables at a restaurant. Bugs the heck out of my educator son. In fact, when I get to age 70, I'll probably get more in Social Security than what my educator son earns working 40 hours a week, still paying off his student loan.

    I often work with post-docs on Pharma market research projects, and I probably earn at least what they do. I have a BA. In Theatre/drama criticism.

    And it is insane what people have to endure in student loan payback. Maybe this vocational thing portends a seismic cultural shift in expectations about the way in which we give back to our communities. How many lawyers do you need in one town? How many auto mechanics?
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    . Or that not everyone has to attend college, and that there are plenty of careers which can be satisfying, pay well, and offer longevity, without university degree initials involved. I'm not sure who gets to deliver that shot of reality, though.
    only if the job ads for that career NEVER list bachelors degree under the requirements or even pluses (and aren't ever likely to 10-20 years down the road). And I wonder how many jobs that is really (probably some nursing where you don't need it, hairdresser maybe. But a lot of things company PAD requirements at this point). Because if it's the kind of job that may be a skilled trade but still preferences candidates with a degree better to get that.

    It seems to me that kids from a purely white collar background thrust into a blue collar world will actually need JUST AS MUCH help adjusting as first generation college students do who have no relatives who ever went to college. But of course unlike them, they won't get it. What could possibly go wrong.
    Last edited by ApatheticNoMore; 3-14-18 at 5:57pm.
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    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Perhaps I’m jaded. If I could hit Hillary’s reset button...I’d like to try again. This time, I want to make it to 60 without the scars of being a blue collar public servant. That would probably mean immersing myself in creative writing, art and music while living nearly off grid on the mountain of my youth.

    One thing I am proud of. I never pressured my kids to choose a career. All I ever insisted was they finish anything they started. That seemed to be enough.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    That would probably mean immersing myself in creative writing, art and music while living nearly off grid on the mountain of my youth.
    And you can't do it now because... ?
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    And you can't do it now because... ?
    Well dang girl!

    Edie Brickell says it better than I could......

    I'm not aware of too many things
    I know what I know if you know what I mean
    Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box
    Religion is the smile on a dog

    I'm not aware of too many things
    I know what I know if you know what I mean
    Choke me in the shallow water
    Before I get too deep

    What I am is what I am
    Are you what you are - or what?

    I'm not aware of too many things
    I know what I know if you know what I mean
    Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks
    Religion is a light in the fog

    I'm not aware of too many things
    I know what I know if you know what I mean
    Choke me in the shallow water
    Before I get too deep

    What I am is what I am
    Are you what you are - or what?
    Don't let me get too deep

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    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    I've often wished I had pursued carpentry as a vocation. I'm pretty confident I would have rounded out my world view with books.

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