How relevant is a college education?

11 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle

In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person moi said:           There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process. http://www.uma.edu/educatedperson.html

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills. http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/critical-thinking-is-an-essential-trait-of-an-educated-person/

Robert W. Goldfarb has a provocative essay, How to Bridge the Hiring Gap in the New York Times:

So, this fall, I talked to about a dozen C.E.O.’s in a variety of industries, along with more than 135 graduates, to try to get to the bottom of this paradox.

Instead of finding shared interests linking those who need work and those who need workers, I uncovered a serious divide that limits the success of both.

Every C.E.O. I met described recent graduates as lacking the skills and discipline required in today’s workplace. They complained that young employees deemed themselves entitled to promotion before mastering their assigned tasks. All concluded, in effect, “Let them grow up on someone else’s payroll.”

I replied that my interviews with young people showed that many had records of part-time jobs and excellent grades at selective schools that seemed to make them promising candidates. But executives countered that recent graduates had emerged from universities whose weakened requirements didn’t prepare them for the complex jobs that companies must now fill.

Recent graduates say they are equipped to add value to any employer who hires them. An economics graduate from the University of North Carolina told me: “I’m sick of the bashing our generation gets. I had a 3.6 G.P.A. in a demanding major. Everyone in my dorm knew it would be difficult to land a job, so we held study groups where people in different disciplines shared information. We invited alumni to tutor us in skills and office protocol employers value. All I ask is a chance to prove I’m as good as the best of any generation.”

It’s true that companies are actively seeking petroleum engineers, systems designers, supply-chain analysts and other graduates armed with “hard” skills. But those who majored in English, philosophy, history and other liberal arts subjects are far less likely to be offered an interview, much less a job.

At one time, employers recruited liberal arts graduates whose broad education shaped an inquiring mind and the ability to evaluate conflicting points of view. Their education also brought a freshness of vision that saw alternatives to outdated practices. Graduates entered corporate training programs armed mainly with potential, but soon absorbed business disciplines. Veteran employees seeing that growth didn’t laugh when a trainee suggested a different approach to a chronic problem…. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/jobs/bridging-the-hiring-gap-for-college-graduates.html?ref=education&_r=0

Goldfarb is arguing the value of a liberal arts education which exposes the learner to a wide variety of philosophies and information.

If college evolves into just a certificate for a vocational career, then is less and less reason for students and families to spend the thousands and in some cases the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a college degree for a traditional brick and mortar education. See, Is online higher ed a threat to bricks and mortar colleges? http://drwilda.com/2012/09/17/is-online-higher-ed-a-threat-to-bricks-and-mortar-colleges/

Sarah D. Sparks wrote in the Education Week article Experts Begin to Identify Nonacadmic Skills Key to Success which examined some of the traits which can lead to success both in college and later life.

Dispositions for Success

Across education and industry, research by Mr. Sackett; Neal Schmitt, a psychology professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing; and others shows the biggest predictor of success is a student’s conscientiousness, as measured by such traits as dependability, perseverance through tasks, and work ethic. Agreeableness, including teamwork, and emotional stability were the next-best predictors of college achievement, followed by variations on extroversion and openness to new experiences, Mr. Sackett found.

If you take a close look at these commercial tests [given during job interviews], they are compound traits of the top three traits” predicting post-high school success, he said, and the top three traits are also closely associated with a student’s ability to perform well on a task and avoid bad work behavior, such as theft or absenteeism.

Each student’s personality is different, of course, Mr. Sackett said, but, “we have to differentiate between that and behavior.”

You can learn to behave contrary to your disposition,” he added. “You can learn to behave in dependable ways. For some people, it’s second nature, for others, it’s a real struggle.” Either way, he said, schools can teach and measure noncognitive, college-readiness skills just as they do reading or mathematics—and they may be just as important.

More and more researchers are beginning to study the concept of emotional intelligence. See, Business Balls.Com which has a concise summary of “emotional intelligence.” Employers are saying that there is a place for those trained in quality vocational education, but there is an increasing need for the educated person who possesses both critical thinking and emotional IQ skills. That recognition of what a college degree should mean seems to be missing from many academic programs.

An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious – just dead wrong.
Russell Baker

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