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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More College Graduates? Say it ain't so Mr. President.

Mr. Obama has promised that by 2020, America will "once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."

Can we think about that for a minute? Why does this matter? We Americans so believe in college that we rarely ask why. I asked my students at Yale and later at Northwestern why they were in college. I heard a lot about parties, a four year vacation, going because their parents made them come, and a lot about how you need a college degree to get ahead.

I never once had anyone say they were there to learn. Never.

College offers diplomas. Education, not so much. And to the extent that colleges do offer education, a Yale English major is typically considered well educated by modern standards, what difference does it make to the country? Those English majors don't easily find careers and in bad economic times even a Yale degree may not buy you much.

I am sure what Mr. Obama meant to say was that by 2020 our population will be able to reason effectively, work well with others, and communicate well. At least that is something he quoted from me while he was campaigning. But alas, now it all about making sure those 3000 colleges we have survive regardless of whether they are turning out more productive and reasoning citizens.

1 comment:

Lisa S said...

If you ask theatre and music and other arts majors why they're in school, they may say to learn. But then, they are 'doing', which is what you advocate. It surely doesn't require a college degree to perform, obvisouly, it's just one avenue that some students use (and not one I'd recommend in hindsight).