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View Diary: Abbreviated pundit roundup: College affordability, Syria, and more (74 comments)

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  •  Confusing education with job training (1+ / 0-)
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    If you're looking for skilled factory technicians to tweak machinery, then the kind of "education" that Obama's plan is promoting will produce it.  And for some people that's great.  But it ain't education.

    "College" now refers to two rather different things.  One is the traditional meaning, where students go for say four years to get an education.  This is not job training  It involves exposing them to a diversity of subjects.  It requires learning to write a cogent paragraph and a cogent document.  It exposes students to the inter-relatedness of subjects.  And the residential aspect of many colleges often gives students better experience, via student activities ranging from the newspaper to radio to theater to orchestra to social action, than a real McJob.  This can go onto a resume too.  Would an employer rather see "stage manager for two musical theater productions" or "burger flipper"?

    The other meaning is, well, what Obama seems to be promoting.  It's "career training" for existing, short-term jobs.  So learning to manage Cisco routers, learning to work a DNA machine, learning to build spreadsheets.  All useful for getting jobs, but they don't by themselves give society the creative thinkers needed to actually come up with the future.  And that was America's strength -- our "liberal arts" education combined with our good technical education created the two halves of the puzzle.

    It's fun to joke about English majors but it turns out they end up as employable as anyone else.  I know I picked up more work-related expertise on the job and outside of the classroom than in it.  But I value my liberal arts education highly and was happy my kids wanted to schools that offered such diversity.

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