Here’s what I’m thinking about today:
Joanne Jacobs linked to this article in Slate: In the recession, does advanced education really pay off?
Interesting in general, but particularly this stuck with me:
And what about the people whose degrees and passions lie along paths that are eroding beneath them? As in, oh, the dear journalism students. Sam writes that when he started journalism school at the University of Missouri in 2004, “I was OK with the low pay expectations and was fully willing to start at the bottom of the food chain.” He promptly got a job at the local paper “and just as promptly, was laid off.” He's working at Applebee’s. “My question, I suppose, is this: For a person who had dreamed of covering sports for a newspaper (and developed few web-based skills to supplement his writing skills), what is the best option? Go back to school in a different area (which I can't afford), keep pushing my resume to those who aren't hiring anyway, or give up my dream for something more plausible?”
And here is something that I wrote last year but never got around to posting:
Sometimes it seems like education focuses on a best-case scenario. Go to a good school, get good grades, participate in extracurricular activities, get into a good college, get a degree, get a job, get a house and two cars and a big TV, be happy. We drop our children off at Kindergarten (or, these days, preschool) and their new sneakers and their shiny lunchboxes reflect our wish for them to be happy forever — to move seamlessly from one good place to another.
Are we fostering the attitudes our children need when things don’t go as planned?
How did we create this kid who was smart enough to get through college, smart enough to be a professional journalist, but evidently not smart enough to figure out how to create a new strategy when outside forces went against him?
There’s a lot of buzz lately about “21st century skills” (the so-called “soft skills” like critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and working cooperatively) and I tell you what — this is what it’s really about. It’s about how we drop the ball when we train kids to pick up skills and knowledge but somehow strip away their ability to think for themselves, weigh options, form opinions, and make decisions. When I read that bit about the journalism student, I couldn’t help picturing him as a confused little mouse wondering who moved his cheese.
Things don’t always go your way, you don’t always have control over everything, and sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Even if you did everything you were supposed to do. Even if you got straight As. Even if you were the best employee. You are not entitled to a perfect life, even if you think you deserve one. Things go wrong.
Education should do more than prepare kids to fill job openings. It should prepare them to be something more than the sum of their salary and their possessions. It should strengthen their ability to deal with the unknown, not weaken it.