June 19, 2013

We’re now in the middle of June. Most college graduations have occurred. Those graduates are now exploring the labor market and finding that times are tougher today than they have been in the recent past. Almost none of those graduates are looking back on the academic part of their young lives with either appreciation or scorn. If they think about their recently completed “college days,” likely it’s about certain social events or athletic victories.

Yet, as parents or grandparents of younger children, who are not already in college, today is a very good time to reflect on the “college experience” — before we send those young children into what has become “a rat race.”

To do so, I am going to give you a taste of some recent (and, one not-so-recent) opinions on this important subject — a college education :

In an article published by THE WASHINGTON POST (“The richness of learning” by Richard Cohen) we find:


“The figures concerning salaries and debt are not to be dismissed. But they, too, need some perspective. College, after all, is not solely about earning power — although you are forgiven for not knowing this. College, believe it or not, is about education — and that, boys and girls, is not something you can put a number on. . . .
College taught me how to have fun with knowledge. It enriched my life in ways that cannot be quantified. I came out of college with a debt, but my real debt was to my professors.
When I wanted to become a writer, I found teachers who showed me how. One of them, John Tebbel, a former newspaperman turned author, took me aside. He praised. He criticized. This is how it’s done, kid. The man changed my life.”

And, speaking at Harvard University’s graduation last month, Oprah had this to say :

“It doesn’t matter how far you might rise because at some point you might stumble. . . . And when you (fall), there is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. When you’re down in the hole, it might look like failure. . . . Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost. Then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake. Each mistake will force you to learn who you really are. . . . And then figure out what is the next right move.”

And again — from THE WASHINGTON POST, Ruth Marcus in her article, “Young graduates need to try and to fail,” we read :

“. . . What I mean is that we need to back off, as parents and as a society, and stop expecting our children to become teenage specialists, directed and driven toward particular goals before they have had a chance to sample the menu of possibilities.
If you know that you want to be a doctor, buckle down and go for it. But if you are heading off to college uncertain about where your studies and interests are going to take you, that’s all right.
In fact, better than all right; you ought to be open to the glorious possibilities of accident and happenstance. How can you know if you might be interested in linguistics or neuroscience or Chinese or ancient Greek history before you have had a chance to try them?
With our well-intentioned questions and understandable emphasis on a defined career path, we encourage the premature closing of the teenage mind.”

And, finally, Robert Maynard Hutchins (then, President of the University of Chicago) clearly defined the role of a University in his 1935 commencement address :

“A university is a community of scholars. It is not a kindergarten; it is not a club; it is not a reform school; it is not a political party; it is not an agency of propaganda. A university is a community of scholars.

. . . In America we have had such confidence in democracy that we have been willing to support institutions of higher learning in which truth might be pursued and, when found, might be communicated to our people. We have not been afraid of the truth, or afraid to hope that it might emerge from the clash of opinion. The American people must decide whether they will longer tolerate the search for truth. If they will, the universities will endure and give light and leading to the nation. If they will not, we can blow out the light and fight it out in the dark; for when the voice of reason is silenced the rattle of machine guns begins.”

A college education is not only about career choice and better paying jobs: it is also about ideas, curiosity, imagination and values — all necessary for a lifelong adventure with learning and the many wonders that fill life with the greatest of rewards.

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning

www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com