This morning was a morning of reading articles discussing education. In an article entitled “The Diploma’s Vanishing Value” Jeffrey Selingo argues that a Bachelor’s degree may not be worth it, but community college can bring a strong return. He argues that at the four year level where you get the degree matters. He dollarizes the diploma to make his point, which graduates are making the most money? I am appalled by his logic. Dollarizing education to determine its value is extremely shortsighted and incorrect.
I would agree with the author that people should follow their passion. Instead of studying a topic they have no interest in, they should explore the technical skill or academic topic they are interested in. However, the purpose of education is not just about salary.
We have forgotten the value of vocation as we pursue the almighty dollar. This is why I am a huge proponent of offering a business education at a liberal arts institution. The purpose of a liberal arts college education is multifaceted. First, it is about educating someone to be a liberal thinker. This does not mean they will pursue a left of center way of thinking, but a logic that includes recognizing the importance of freedom and how to be a citizen of a free country. Donald Kagan, retiring professor from Yale, described what liberal education is and its role in the creation of citizens. “Democracy is one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience. It relies on free, autonomous and self-reliant citizens. These types of citizens aren’t born – they need to be educated.”
Business students are known for being focused. Often this focus leads to the exploitation of business processes for inordinate personal gain. They cheat, which means they are not being good citizens. This is why I think a liberal education is important to business students. It helps to broaden their focus. In other words, it helps them to see that they are in the business of making a difference.
Education involves a technical aspect too. Whatever the topic is there are certain concepts and ideals that should be understood. How do you read a Balance Sheet? How do we clearly write a paper? What do we need to know about Sociology or Science? Education helps us to understand core concepts of each discipline.
Education also allows us to identify possible career paths. By studying multiple subjects it helps us to see which subjects we like or dislike. This helps us to figure out what we want to do with our lives. This is what is meant by vocation.
One thing that academic institutions could do a better job at would be connecting its students with agencies with students. To help the students network and mingle with the employers within the major areas of study is critical, which is why I think an organization like ENACTUS is so important.
So Jeffrey, don’t just try and dollarize education and tell me one is better then the other. Education is much bigger than a dollar bill. It is about freedom, citizenship and vocation.
And that is my thought for the day!