Sometimes when I read articles about education and learning, I believe that we are losing common sense about what it means to become educated. There is a never ending debate on the value of a STEM education vs. the value of a Liberal Arts education. The debate mostly focuses on the notion that a STEM education is too narrow, while a Liberal Arts education is too broad.
We learn and become educated for one primary reason — to be self-sustaining, independent and productive adults. I believe many people are overlooking this common sense fact. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what other people or people in general “should” know. They should know about citizenship, democracy, have facts in history, civics, etc.; they should have specific skills — verbal and analytic. Everyone seems to want to determine and prescribe what everyone else ought to learn and know.
But this has left out the most important component to the learning process — that of the individual and what they want to do with their lives. Do they want to work with their hands, paint pictures, compose music, or hack on a computer? Only when a person determines what he or she really wants to know in order to advance their personal desires for a career and lifestyle will they be sufficiently motivated and content.
I can’t help but notice the current (I believe) bubble in higher education. The consensus being that you should obtain the most and best (as in prestigious) education that you possibly can. Strive for the best university, everyone says. Take out all the loans that you can acquire. A college education will “always” benefit you in the long run. This whole approach brings back to me the same mentality of the housing bubble when people were told that houses never lose value, and that everyone will always need a home, so you should acquire the best home that you can possibly get, and take out the most loans that you possibly can.
Well, what happened in the past does not dictate what will happen in the future. We soon painfully learned that owning a home is not necessary for everyone, and that houses can go down in value. The common sense notion of owning a home because you want to live there, raise a family there, and live in that type of home — that is appropriate for you — was lost.
You attend college or university because you want to learn and have a career in an area of study that you enjoy. If you enjoy studying broadly — i.e. in liberal arts — then you should attend a Liberal Arts College. If your interest is mostly to find a career where you can work with your hands or hack on a computer then a two-year career college may be a better fit.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you “should” learn. Determine that for yourself!