Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To Help Students Succeed Professionally and Personally, Teach the Art of Being Human

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 9th, 2015

Among the many false dichotomies fostered by the continuing debates surrounding higher education, one that I find especially disconcerting is that which pits the professional against the personal. While it is expressed in a variety of ways, it boils down to this: Either you believe the purpose of going to college is to be able to secure a (preferably high-paying) job, or you think there is something more intrinsically valuable to be gained from the years spent earning a degree. My question is: When did these become mutually exclusive?
Yet believing that they are is one of the unfortunate conclusions many people draw from the endless bickering about the value of a college education, a debate that many believe was ignited by Ronald Reagan’s disparaging of "intellectual curiosity," and intensified with Scott Walker’s recent proposal that the University of Wisconsin revise its mission statement to replace references to the "search for truth" or desire to "improve the human condition" with clear (read "practical") goals of meeting "the state’s work-force needs." Politics aside, I doubt that either of these officials wanted to assert that professionals need not be thoughtful or reflective. However, that is precisely what this sort of sloppy rhetoric implies and what continues to drive the public’s misconceptions about higher education and the "value" it holds for our society.

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