The worst education money can buy

A recent poll showed liberal art and social science grads as among the top regretters of the degree programs they had chosen. Among some, this has encouraged the entrenched believers in “hard-edged” degrees to say the equivalent of I told you so. I guess it’s soothing to know that you made the right decision even though your hard-edged and tightly skill-designed degree marks you for obsolescence within a decade of graduation.
Those with less STEM orientation in our degrees have had to develop certain agility regarding our credentials. For instance, my sciences as an undergrad were heavily loaded towards computer programing, statistics, and earth sciences. I saw these as directly relevant to my research interests as an anthropologist. In grad school, I was among the few who could utilize DARPA ( pre-internet computer network) or run over to the science center and do a statistical analysis on a data set.
As a teacher, I’ve seen older STEM degree types awaken to interests in art, social science, and literature that they missed as students in programs where experimentation outside hard subject material was not encouraged. After all, you need to get a job.

For two years, I taught anthropology courses to nursing students in a bachelors of science program at a small university. Perhaps because of my background in healthcare, I developed an approach that supplemented our regular curriculum with related material on attitudes towards health and healing in the cultures we studied. As practitioners, I pointed out that they would run into many healthcare issues that were cultural in origin. For example, some variables could be cultural variations in pain tolerance, attitudes towards specific procedures, and sexism.

My point is that a blind frogmarch towards one goal in life or education winds up impoverishing us. Most better quality educational institutions recognized this years ago and attempted to rectify disciplinary tunnel vision with core programs or course distributions that encouraged some exposure to other areas. But unfortunately, I think the problem has been that many have belittled these approaches and encouraged students not to see them as serious enrichment to their lives but as mere tickets to get punched en route to the degree.

A significant change has been the shift from receiving an education as the goal of attending college to one of just getting employed.
Part of this is the high cost of education and the diminishing probability of paying for it over a lifetime of work.

The high cost of schooling and the over-emphasis on specialization are trends that run counter to the genuine need for an educated populace. One makes a genuine interest in education an overly expensive sacrifice and the other shackles minds into narrow prisons.

6 Replies to “The worst education money can buy”

    1. I speent about seven years in the OR, and it helped get me through school. After grad work I couldn’t get a jog as an anthropologist right away, and went back to the OR for two years. As my dad said always have a trade to fall back on!

  1. My son is only now realising that there was a reason some subjects like science communications were mandatory. Often students don’t see, or don’t want to see, the value of soft subjects until after they’ve completed their studies.
    My first degree was a liberal arts degree. Then, because I wanted to get out of the typing pool and because education was still affordable, I studied economics. The first led me to question many of the economic theories we were being taught, much to the chagrin of my lecturers and employer.
    Very interesting and perceptive post, Lou.

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