Indiana University recently invited alumni to respond to the question, "Is a College Degree Worth the Cost?" My response follows:
IDEALLY, yes as embodied by the moderator and 2 commentators, but colleges and universities today (and in the years that I taught) are NOT IDEAL! I have seen far too many examples of political correctness and thought control. Liberal arts and sciences are anything BUT liberal as espoused by John Stuart Mill and any of the great Liberal thinkers.
I see the statistics, but you can INDEED make a good living in some of the skilled trades (plumbers, carpenters and others), as well as those who service the ubiquitous gadgets of our digital age. Two-year schools and IT tech programs DO have an important role, and transferring credits to 4-year schools where appropriate should be routine.
But I STILL believe in what used to be called the "Liberal Arts" -- literature, theater, music, and the graphic arts etc. (I play the piano). EVERYONE needs beauty and empathy in their lives, not merely manipulating people as so many have done in recent years. I don’t totally agree with the anti-Wall Street crowd, but they are right to complain about such GAMESMANSHIP. Many things that are legal are NOT ethical or moral, even in a rough-and-tumble capitalist society like ours.
But for young people child rearing is very, very important and there is no instructor’s manual for it. Expose your kids to beauty, let them color, experiment, don’t hover over them and please their every whim. Let them be children! Teach by example, for the child is, after all, father or mother to the man or woman.
I know the disadvantages of inner city children. Many of them EVENTUALLY become incarcerated, especially when there is no male role model at home. Such kids don’t get ENOUGH parental attention -- unlike the smothering of the ones that I previously mentioned above.
I am struck by that scene with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as prisoners in Shawshank Prison in Maine in The Shawshank Redemption film, one of Stephen King’s unscary and unsupernatural efforts. In the movie, Robbins plays a soprano duet in Italian on the turntable. Freeman, in the prison courtyard below, exclaims, “I don’t know what those ladies were singing about, but for 5 minutes we were men.” I volunteer and work with former prisoners who are my friends. I repeat that scene and they all remember and love it.
To return to college you can GROW by the acquaintances you meet and conversations that you have. Employable skills are essential in our times, but we ALSO have to nurture GOOD PEOPLE and, speaking as a political scientist, GOOD CITIZENS. That also includes travel abroad, sometimes assisted by the business community where applicable and foreign students come here, and not just ”ghettoized" because they pay full tuition! I travelled a lot in Europe since I taught Soviet politics and foreign policy. I learned a lot from it. Knowing other languages and cultures is important. The local IVY TECH here in South Bend has been hosting Chinese educators. A young Chinese woman was at a Rotary meeting this morning getting her MBA at the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame to hear Mendoza’s Chinese dean. There is a more and more globalized economy, despite its drawbacks for U.S. jobs and it is here to stay. WE CAN and WILL bring foreign students and citizens here and some of the undoubted flow of U.S. jobs abroad is beginning to be turned around. This is ALL to the GOOD. We should welcome this development college or no college!
Finally, there are many lessons to be learned in life that you cannot acquire in ANY classroom or job. In my case, as a spoiled “Portnoy” Jewish kid, my work AND military experience benefited me a lot. College should not be synonymous with snobbery, political correctness or ideological can’t. I have fought BOTH of these in my 77 plus years. As I PASS THE TORCH the coming generation must learn to STAND ALONE at times while taking account of other people as fitting. As Donne said, “No man is an island entire unto himself.” There CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be a “United States of Me”, college or no college!
Aside from the craziness at IUSB which is well known (political correctness, et al), it tries to advise career paths for students in different majors. I have seen them and counseling, especially in these economic times, as money well spent. Regarding things like women's studies and similar majors, there is a legitimate basis for women in politics, history, sports, military, how female voting poatterns differ from male, etc. But if its consciousness raising that they are after, that could be a possible by-product of such courses but shouldn't carry college credit. Maybe my comments were a bit personal but at MY AGE I am excused!