Strategically Missing the Point

When people write blogs, they hope to get a half million hits and go viral. This has not been my experience. Nobody from one particular liberal arts college has read any of my previous posts. That’s understood. My bad marketing. New plan for this LAC: put initial employment data online for everyone to see.

In May, the college will begin publishing employment and salary data for the class of 2011, building on it with every class. A spokeswoman for the Council of Independent Colleges said its president and researcher had never heard of a nonprofit, private college making such data public.Anderson knows the risks: “First, people might look at your data and not be impressed. The other risk, though, is that you have no data, and you’re this black box where people dump $50,000 a year for four years.”If I could pick one of those two risks, I’m going to take the first one.”

I’m not naming the college, but suffice it to say the school just dropped from contention for any Henley family tuition money. It strikes me as a liberal arts college that has lost the key ideas behind the purpose of LAC’s.
It all stems from the perspective of a father, I guess. What’s the real purpose of higher education? Is it to prepare them for their first job at age 23…or their last job (not to mention all the ones in the middle)? This ignores what kind of mother, daughter, sister, voter, leader, and person I’m trying to create out of the 16-year-old clay I was given. It also ignores the 12-year-old son and my sick daughter of 11 years on the couch downstairs.
When I came out of college with a music education degree, my first job was at Dunn and Bradstreet (my student teaching supervising teacher got fired–bad taste in my mouth for teaching). I’ve held multiple jobs with multiple foci. My wife’s job changes (significantly) every year…and she never leaves the elementary school she’s working in. She’s constantly getting more schooling to make up for her “focused” degree. My job at NITLE has shifted significantly in less than a year. My personality, a high school debate coach, other relationships, and sheer fear guide me through transitions.
If you have 4 years to prepare for a life that demands constant change, then where do you go? I think the answer is LACs, if you can afford them. This should be a priority. I think wedding rings should have precious metal in them, too. Meanwhile, a girl named Indigo prepares for her first on-campus concert in front of her peers–a chance to explore, become adventurous.
If we drop the purpose of higher education to job training for twenty-somethings, then LACs don’t hold up. The smart move, then, becomes two years at a community college to get the “generals” out of the way. Then two years at a public in-state institution for the degree. Then the job. Done. Texas wants to offer degrees for $10,000, total. That’s a savings of a quarter million if tuition rises. The Edpunks Guide…makes it even cheaper. Who needs integrated learning, undergraduate research, personal attention from PhD’s, a community of learners…any of that? I used to have a button on my jacket that said, “I don’t need college. Just the degree.”
And that’s what most 18-year-olds think. Except you have to work for another 45 years after college. And at age 25, you realize that you HATE accounting, or that you can’t be a partner unless you can bring in business…and they fire you if you can’t. Next thing you know, you’re wearing a Statue of Liberty outfit, trying to get people to bring their income taxes to you instead of using Turbotax.
If only there were an integrated accounting-theatre course you had taken…

About Paul T. Henley, Ph. D.
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2 Responses to Strategically Missing the Point

  1. Fine post, Paul. The case for flexibility and mental mobility is crucial.

    But you knocked it out of the park with the statue bit.

  2. Pingback: Seed Corn and Payday Loans | Thinking Again

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