An Article That Made Me Think
by, 04-16-2009 at 01:46 PM (1595 Views)
College can be the most amazingly enlightening experience of a lifetime. I loved almost every minute of it, from St. Augustine to organic chemistry, from Chaucer to electricity and magnetism. But we need a distinguished blue ribbon commission to investigate its role as a toll booth on the road to employment, and the obvious person to head up this commission is Marilee Jones.
I know; it's an old and outdated article, about to reach it's second birthday...but I do have to wonder how I managed to go this long without stumbling across it. I have read Ehrenreich's work before, and I am currently getting my stuff together to move off island and get my MA in English Literature - it just seems I would have stumbled across this at some point in my internet perusal.
Anyway, all personal surprise aside, the reference to college as a "toll booth on the road to employment" and the need to re-think its roll as such did catch my attention. I've been thinking along the same lines, recently. I mean, really, what does an MA in English Literature do for me, professionally? I can get paid more as a teacher...but that's not really why I'm doing it. In truth, me getting paid more for that MA seems kind of funny to me, since I definitely won't learn any new teaching strategies, teaching technology, or teaching anything during that degree; I'll just gain a bit more content knowledge.
And that's good; and teachers with MA's should be rewarded for working hard to gain more content knowledge, but really and truly, should I decide that I don't want to teach anymore, what is an MA in English Literature going to do for me that my BA in English can't? Not much. Perhaps give me an edge over someone competing for an editing job or something, but is two years and a few thousand dollars worth that?
Luckily, I'm not getting my MA for professional gain; rather, I am doing it for personal fulfillment. I truly love literature, reading, writing, discussing...everything that an MA program would entail. It would push me to think, and I love being pushed to think, because it just gives me the mind-gasms that I can never get enough of.
But, really, why DOES college get to keep its role as the "gateway to the working world"? By now, most of us have realized that there are plenty other ways to gain the knowledge needed for most jobs out there; and in many cases, EXPERIENCE proves to be much more valuable than having sat through a few dozen classes in the last 4 years and listened to and written about the feild you are interested in.
I'm not knockin' college: I love it! (Obviously, or I wouldn't be running back to it like I am now). But why does it have to be THE place to go, and THE place you have to have been to get somewhere? I enjoy college for the mental stimulation; I enjoy college in the moment, without looking toward what to do after graduation. It's smart to have a plan for what comes after graduation, sure, but I don't want to ignore the meal on my plate now because I'm too busy thinking about the dessert, you know?
Just thoughts. I encourage all of my students to apply to colleges; I think it is very important that they see the value in higher education. However, much of that value focuses on the job opportunities it opens and not the experience you have INSIDE the classrooms besides when you're frat-partying and rights-marching. The things that happen in the classrooms can be more that credit-earning survival to the finish line...and not enough people see that, I think.
Despite all this, I know that schools are popping up all over the place that focus on work experience and are slowly debunking my complaint. Still; I felt like writing it down, so there :P