Let me start by saying that I firmly believe higher education institutions and accreditation organizations need to start caring as much about students’ success after they graduate as they do about their success until they graduate. Because of this, I really wanted to like this fellow’s piece. Instead, I find myself a little confused and am having a hard time with its flow.
At the end of one paragraph he has suggested that industries in which middle school and high school students will one day work, haven’t been invented yet. He cites Amazon and Google to highlight this point– the reasoning being that they did not exist 25 years ago. The next paragraph points to the “hard to fill jobs of today”–welding and manufacturing–that have certainly existed for well over 25 years.
A few paragraphs later, the author writes about the “upside-down” degree offered in the University of Wisconsin system. The initiative has students finish an A.S. in an applied technology field and then finish their bachelor’s degree by completing all of the required general education coursework in their junior and senior years. Those last two years take place while the is working in the field of their applied associate’s. He makes the following point…
A side benefit is that faculty members enjoy having more working adults in their general education classes — older students who have the experience to understand both the personal and professional value of these liberal arts and sciences courses, as well as to enrich class discussion for all the students.
…but he offers no support for this claim.
In fact, the chief complaint I heard most often from students about general education coursework was that they did not see how they would ever apply the things they were “being required to learn.” If the author is still talking about welding and manufacturing jobs, I assume they will not be discussing a great deal of history, humanities, or English composition on the job, so I fail to see how their world-of-work experiences are going to make them any more predisposed to understand the connection.
He finishes strong with three solid paragraphs about the importance of a liberal studies based education and the importance of seeking post-secondary certificates and degrees. He pushes back against the notion that “college is not for everyone” and I applaud him for it:
Our language gets in the way. …The assertion that college is not for everybody surfaces regularly. When you peel back to what those pushing that notion mean by it, … a student going to the local community college for a certificate in software development or an associate degree in hospitality management might sound to them like a grand idea.
He champions the importance of liberal studies coursework in terms of helping students develop emotional intelligence, interpersonal communications skills, and the critical and creative thinking abilities necessary to succeed in the current world of work:
…employees need the fundamental kinds of knowledge and skills most often developed through a good liberal arts education. They include critical thinking, clear writing, persuasive speaking, numeracy, the ability to work well in diverse teams and an understanding of global issues.
His last three paragraphs were great–he seemed to be trying to work towards a “both, and” answer to the problematic dichotomy some have setup that pits higher ed against workforce development. In the end, however, I remain unconvinced–some of us are walking sideways and some are walking straight.