Six Lines

Expectations and Education

Posted by Aaron Massey on 16 Dec 2013.

Higher education is in flux. It’s much more expensive than it was 30 years ago. New technologies have unknown implications for the way we teach and learn. We’re expecting more and different work products from professors. All of these changes are affecting the expectations we should have from higher education.

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I would like to compare two videos of people addressing the affects of our expectations of education on the students themselves. Mike Rowe talks about how the emphasis on a college degree as the shiny “better” path to success and happiness means that people overlook good opportunities that clearly don’t lie at the end of that rainbow. Marco Arment talks about how the people who follow the ‘expected’ path blindly end up missing the most important lessons required to be truly successful and happy in the positions for which they were ostentibly being prepared. They are approaching the same basic problem from totally different sides. Rowe says that the path is a lie because it implies you shouldn’t be doing some lesser job that could have made you happy. Arment says that the path is a lie because it implies that the only skills needed are those that would be covered while you’re on that path.

Rowe says that the problem is that the “planned” path doesn’t cover all definitions of success.

Arment says that the problem is that the “planned” path isn’t even possible. There is no grand unified plan for success, and our collective focus on higher eductaion as the plan to make everyone successful results in disillusionment. I remember distinctly my first May after graduating from Purdue. I was working for AMD, and I learned a lot. I enjoyed it. But I was still surprised at the realization that I didn’t have a summer vacation. I wasn’t going on an internship or doing anything different. I was just working at AMD, indefinitely.

Much of these same sentiments have been voiced before. One of the more popular articles on the subject this year was “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.” It’s a bit light on actual data, and it contains some rather broad generalizations. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong.1

  1. Much like any Malcom Gladwell essay…