September 6, 2012

Who Needs College?

Today I stumbled across the statistic that the US has more than 100,000 janitors with college degrees. This stat was paired with some information about increasing student debt, presumably implying that it's awful that those janitors got all that education (and paid so much for it) only to have such a low-status and low-paying job.

But because I'm reading a book on the meaning of liberal arts education, my first thought was: Why shouldn't a janitor have a college degree? If you believe the point of a university is to churn out credentials enabling students to command a higher wage in the market because they've learned job skills, then I guess there's no reason for a janitor to have a college degree. And certainly I'd hate for anyone to be pressured by debt or the bad economy to take a job below their aspirations and abilities.

But I also kind of think education could be a good on its own, that should be available to everyone regardless of their career path. There could be some janitors who like their job and also really want to learn about sociological theory, or biology, or whatever just because it's interesting and enriches their lives, and there's no reason they shouldn't have access to that as well. Saying "oh it's so sad, you did all that work just to get this shit job" implies that the only point of education is to get a job, which I just don't think is true.


Rita said...

Check this article out:

Obviously a conservative bent beyond the philosophy of education, but the point made about the job not being the reason for higher education is made.

Foxie said...

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.

I think you're entirely right. Measuring the worth of eduction simply in the monetary return it brings is an amazingly narrow-minded thing to do and misses the point by a country mile.