What is College For?

I was going to start with “When Readings Collide” but that may not be where I want your mind to go. Then I thought “Reading Intersections” but while that is true, it isn’t really relevant to the topic.

I found two articles on the same day (not that they were written on the same day, but that I found them on one day) that were clearly related. The two articles are StayOutofSchool.com’s It’s about Our Values, Stupid and Siobhan Curious’ Why Do I Have to Learn This?

StayOutofSchool.com says:

News Flash! Education is about preparation for living. It’s about WHAT … YOU DO ALL DAY. Education is about why you bother to get … out of bed, how you choose to spend your time, what you value, and how you interact with the world. It’s reflected in how you treat others—people you know and people you don’t. It’s reflected in what you have to offer the world, in the quality of work you do. It’s also reflected in the puzzling and ubiquitous choice to subsist on a diet of ramen or BigMacs and own a 62” television with a full cable package instead of investing in nutritious food and a library card.

Classroom as Microcosm says:

If you believe that college is a threshing machine, separating wheat from chaff (Theory 1), then grades, at least passing ones, are what matters, so that when you graduate, you will be seen as wheat, not chaff, in the larger world. If you believe that college is a place to accumulate knowledge that will serve you in all aspects of your life and self, (Theory 2), then learning is what matters, regardless of the grades attached to it.

These theories are not compatible. Learning requires risks, frustrations, even failures. ”Good grades,” more often than not, require a lot of memorization, or at least an understanding of what the teacher wants and a willingness to try to produce it. A desire for good grades can be detrimental to actual learning.

The two authors both begin their posts referring to other authors’ works. I haven’t read either of the other authors’ writings.

But I find it both encouraging and scary that we are talking about this in such numbers that I am finding them…

It is encouraging because thinking through what we believe and what the implications of those beliefs are is important for living a life of integrity.

It is scary because if we have to talk about what college education is for, then we don’t know.

I am also concerned because I don’t think that students tend to think of their education this way. I think they consider that a college degree is only useful insomuch as it enables them to get a job they can work at for forty years. Wouldn’t spending this four years finding out what they enjoy, applying it to their work preparation, and learning about other things (which would help them think outside the box at work) be useful, even if they were only coming to college to get a job?

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