Okay, okay … I may be beating the proverbial dead horse here, but yesterday, a colleague shared an article written by the the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, bemoaning the continuing elevation of what I’ve called “credentialing” over the sort of broad, liberal education that Americans used to recognize as an ideal. The author criticised the the “current policy rush to move students swiftly and efficiently through their educational paces,” a goal that is too often reached by simply dispensing with such “non-essentials” as history, philosophy, science and the arts in favor of providing “marketable skills.”
I couldn’t agree more. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten that job training is not education.
We lie to our students if we pretend that a quickie program of “how to” courses will prepare them to cope with our increasingly complex, interconnected, globalized world. Learning how to communicate, learning how to learn, learning how to think critically and analytically, and learning how to understand the world in which they live--are the essential survival skills, and inculcating them requires exposure to a broad array of subjects.
Today’s college freshmen can expect to have at least five different careers–careers, not jobs–over their lifetimes. At the same time, they will have to cope with dizzying social changes and increasingly complex political, economic and interpersonal environments. They will need tools not just to earn a living despite changes in the economy, important as that is, but tools that help them live authentic, meaningful lives, and be contributing members of American society.
As the author of the article put it, “The United States is in danger of squandering the opportunity to develop the liberally educated citizenry that both our economy and our democracy so urgently need, a citizenry possessed of that fuller understanding of the world and of the global challenges we face.”