President Obama’s 2009 state of the union speech addressed higher education as a universal vocation, if not a duty of all citizens. Three years later, reports show a loss of value with the bachelor degree and a growing interest in the master degree. Law schools and MBA programs are bursting at the seams with hungry students wanting to stand out in a rough job market. The last six months have shown numerous articles on the limited job market as well as a high unemployment rate not going away anytime soon. Roughly 30 percent of Americans now have a college degree but this no longer guarantees an advantage but stands now as a prerequisite.
Somewhere over the years, the University lost its identity. Not too long ago, the business major ceased to exist. Now it’s the biggest major in the United States. (Ironically, employers now de-value the four year bachelor degree because its commodification erased the premium.) But Universities are not trade schools meant to pump out the next generation of “money-making” machines. Rather, higher education forms students into intelligent and well-rounded human beings by placing them into conversation with the world of ideas and shocking enough, each other. This type of education has no direct monetary value but the formation of the whole person is incredibly invaluable.
Yet, the recent transformation of the University sacrifices the construction of conscience and good will for a more “skilled” based education. What happened to the values of critical reflection, debate, and conversation?
To offer a better insight (something to chew on), I suggest watching two videos:
1) Education and John Henry Newman by Fr. Michael Himes
2) The Changing Paradigm of Education by Sir Ken Robinson
Many questions are left unanswered but, nevertheless, we must continue to update, refine and innovate our education system in a way that doesn't focus primarily on economics but all areas of growth.
Michael L. Avery