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February 02, 2011

Harvard Study: We're Encouraging Too Many People To Seek Academic Four Year Degrees at the Expense of Vocational Two-Year Degrees, Which We Really Need

The academy offers two reasons for getting a four year degree: 1, the experience of college life and the intellectual growth it offers (offers, note: many don't bother to take that offer. I didn't, not really).

Add into this the stuff they don't say but everyone knows like "it's easy to get laid in college.")

2, actual preparation for a good-paying career.

1's a nice reason but it basically amounts to a four year vacation. If the goal is to prepare people for a career, we really need to do things differently. So sayeth Harvard.

The U.S. is focusing too much attention on helping students pursue four-year college degrees, when two-year and occupational programs may better prepare them for the job market, a Harvard University report said.

The “college for all” movement has produced only incremental gains as other nations leapfrog the United States, and the country is failing to prepare millions of young people to become employable adults...

Here's one bad thing about propagandizing for college: It creates the belief that intellectual growth can only happen in college. Like, only if a professor assigns you a book can you read it and think about it. Like, only if you're in a seminar can you discuss intellectual type stuff.

So millions of people think they're incomplete if they don't go to college.

Plus, people leave college and sort of say, "Well! All done with that!" As in, I will never attempt intellectual growth again. I sorta did that, too.

All this emphasis on college, where immature minds learn the very basics of stuff. What about adulthood, where people already know a bit more and have a bit of wisdom behind them?

I can sort of imagine a salon/seminar/book-club sort of culture taking root in the United States. Barely; I mean, it's improbable, but it could happen. And if that should happen -- why shouldn't people pursue this sort of thing as a devotion or genuine interest their whole lives? Where did we get this idea that learning begins freshman year of college and, by implication, ends senior year (or, realistically -- junior year)?

If people have the yearning for this sort of thing, they can have it, and they don't need to be in college for it. A mechanic who likes reading can join a book club, can't he?

I realize this sort of thing does exist, but most people don't take advantage of it. And, anyway, since the idea becomes that learning only happens in college, it's sort of devalued as "just a hobby" or whatnot, whereas in college it's "real."

Well, it's not particularly real in college. For some, maybe, for most, no, and in any event, I don't think that vocational preparation and intellectual growth are related endeavors for most people -- for most occupations, they're tangentially related or not at all. Only for top-level thinking-type professions are they closely related.

So why are the two concepts joined in our minds? This model makes sense for 15% of the population but not for 85% of it. And the model seems to retard learning for many (again, gee, can't learn unless you're in college) as well as actual vocational preparation.

Actually... It's likely that that is precisely why the internet and blogs and discussion fora have taken off -- because this is an easy way (no driving, no scheduled meetings, etc.) to have a sort of salon-type thing going on. We do it here with politics, and of course pretty much every single possible area of interest has its discussion fora, from model railroading to wannabe physics geeks.

So, I guess, to some extent, the internet has facilitated exactly what I'm talking about. But it's not a physical-presence thing so that maybe people don't consider it to be a sort of salon.

I read, forget when, that the Germans were just queer for clubs, and every German belonged to several of them, from professional type clubs to intellectual interest clubs to hobbyist clubs to boardgame clubs. Americans I don't think ever matched the Germans for club-joiningness, and certainly since the 60s, when that sort of structured community society seemed to become passe or reactionary or Ozzie and Harriet or whatever, it's declined further.

Although it's a FACT that Germans Are Weird, I always wonder if Americans wouldn't be better off if that sort of institutional, formal parallel civil society weren't in existence here.

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posted by Ace at 03:04 PM

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