Opinion: Higher education should not just serve as job factory - lsureveille.com: Opinion

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The Pickup Perspective Opinion: Higher education should not just serve as job factory

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Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 8:01 pm | Updated: 11:21 pm, Thu Feb 28, 2013.

American universities are focusing too much on getting students jobs and not enough on making people smarter.

For example, there’s no need — other than the cultural one — to go to LSU to become an accountant. You can graduate from almost any school with an accounting program and be career-ready.

But society tells us we need to go to the best school we can get into, spend a few years’ worth of potential salary to get a degree and then find a job doing whatever it is we wanted to do. 

And that’s what the students want. I came to LSU and spent tens of thousands of dollars so I could get a job. But should that actually be a university’s main purpose — to be a job factory?

I don’t think so.

The average American worker probably doesn’t reference what he or she learned in college too often.

In their book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” college professors Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum recount an experiment they performed in which they tracked more than 2,000 students from 30 universities.

They discovered, as far as analytical and communication skills go, students are not learning much.

This is especially troubling considering most employers (with some high-skill exceptions) actually teach employees how to do jobs once they’ve                      been hired.

Workers are expected to be generally competent, but in most cases you don’t need a lot of the specific knowledge you spend your time learning in college.

To be clear, it’s important for students to graduate with a set of core requirements.

Beyond those first few semesters, though, we need a serious increase in general academic intensity.

Most students take those core classes and then move on to their major. They start the first year or two of their major taking another set of core classes for that major, which is followed by delving into more specific classes concerning that major.

Instead, we should be concentrating on a more in-depth, analytical education that encourages independent study.

I took a sociology class one year in which I memorized statistics for a few multiple-choice tests throughout the year. Why not challenge students to explore the material on their own and produce papers about whatever interests them in that subject’s realm?

The contemporary college culture is all about getting out with a degree as easily as possible. But for most students, writing papers is the worst thing in the world.

But writing papers on subjects you choose — and perhaps presenting your findings to the class to develop some presentation skills, which most graduates sorely lack — is so much more valuable than memorizing a set of information. Performing in-depth research and analysis increases analytical and communication skills, which are what people need to become a contributor to society.

Higher education should be the option for students who are seriously concerned about furthering their knowledge. If America can get away from the idea that a degree from a “good” school is the key to a good job, we would all be better off.

Community colleges and technical schools provide adequate education to perform most of our country’s jobs.

Oh well. At least we get to go to football games.

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