Won’t Get Fooled Again

In terms of what strategies colleges and universities could use to do bring students more in line with what employers are looking for, Humphreys said, “[employers] want a ‘both-and’ picture; they want higher education institutions to bring students to an even higher level of ability…. They also want [higher education] to ensure that every college graduate, no matter what their major is, achieves much higher levels of evidence-based reasoning, research skills and complex problem-solving skills [along with] ethical decision-making.”

More Than a Major’ Zack Budryk

I’ve been an English teacher long enough to remember a time when ‘finding a job’ wasn’t necessarily the first priority in college. Plenty of people went to college seeking specific jobs, of course, but the liberal arts model dominated. My Dad, who was an accountant and studied “Commerce” at L.S.U. in the late 1940s’, used to say that you went to college to get educated; once you were well-educated, you could easily get a job.

His degree included English classes as, in effect, a kind of second major. Over the three last decades or so (every sort of loss seems to start in 1980 with the election of Reagan) the once broad notion of vocation, centered on the professions, has become more and more narrow. It’s no coincidence that this has happened alongside a huge increase in the cost of higher education and ongoing attacks on the federal government.

The right hates class mobility– the servants get restless– and it will not abide the notion of a government with a social agenda and the funds to back it up. Cheap college and a progressive government, after all, brought us the 1960s’. We can let that happen again. We’ve now reached a point where the tail wags the dog: if you go to college to get a job, then the college has to change everything to make that happen.

Even more, college will be assessed by that vocational criteria and little else. It’s a prescription for servitude, not surprisingly, to the masters of the marketplace. And it has created an entire profession– the college professor– where a majority of people are no longer fully professionals; adjuncts paid piecemeal by the student or the course, no benefits. As the recession drags on, perhaps our masters are starting to reconsider.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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