Saturday, August 8, 2009

The point of college, and other diatribes

This past week I saw an article on the BBC and a blog post on the Brazen Careerist network that go well together - like w(h)ine and cheese. Yes, the bad pun was intended.

The BBC article centers around a woman in New York who is a jobless graduate and is suing her college because she's failed to get a job after graduation.

As the BBC reports:

She is seeking to recover $70,000 (£42,000) she spent on tuition to get her information technology degree


and

The ex-student, who received her degree in April, says the college's Office of Career Advancement did not provide her with the leads and career advice it had promised.

"They have not tried hard enough to help me," she wrote about the college in her lawsuit.
Her mother, Carol, said her daughter was "very angry at her situation" having "put all her faith" in her college.



On the Brazer Careerist we see yet another pointless article about Personal Branding...or rather the blogger's conviction that Colleges should teach Personal Branding. What's funny is that the blog isn't really about personal branding (whatever that is - as far as I am concerned it's a bullshit term). Rather, the blog post is about "how useless his college degree is", as he puts it in his own words

I studied one of the least practical majors at my college: Classical Languages. I learned 5th century BC Attic Greek and Latin. I read Homer and Caesar and Herodotus. I spent hours learning languages I’ll never speak in my life. If I went to Greece, I wouldn’t even be able to ask for directions to the bathroom—that’s how useless my college degree is!


and also how colleges should offer courses on how students could talk up their skills:

Students need to learn how to talk-up their skills and abilities. They need to be able to explain how spending a semester studying Spanish in a third world country translates into desirable traits for an employer. They need to learn how to brand themselves not as the “impractical English major” but as someone who really understands communicating and how to write well.


Quite honestly both the blogger and the person in the BBC article fail to realize that college isn't about cookie cutter approaches. It's not about giving you one specific skillset that you can use to get a job, but rather a number of theoretical foundations and practice that you can apply to any job. It's also not the college's job to teach you how to talk up your skills or find you a job (although that would be a nice cherry on the top).

I agree with a commenter when he says:
I disagree though that its colleges responsibility to teach how their degree applies to the real world. Transforming theoretical knowledge to real world requires good analytical brain and ability to adapt. One can't learn these skills in a classroom. They are learned over experiences in life.


Oh well...another day in academia :-)
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