College Is More Than Learning A Vocation

November 2, 2011

Alex Tabarrok’s recent article College has been oversold travels over some familiar ground. The gist of argument is undergraduate college students need to focus more on practical sciences than liberal arts. Or as Alex says, “going to college is not enough. You also have to study the right subjects.”

I find this focus on immediate practicality short-sighted and unfortunately all too common.

The value of an undergraduate degree is more than vocational, it is about teaching life long skills as young-adults transition into adults. Skills like critical thinking, communication, self sufficiency, and research/study skills are just as important, if not more important, than the specific major they are studying. These are the tools that over a lifetime transcend specific careers and keep the doors open transitioning to new ones.

As college tuition rates rise the drum beat of “do something practical” grows louder. I’m not advocating a path of extreme liberal arts, but rather no matter what major a student pursues it is important to cultivate personal development skills just as much as knowledge on a particular subject. The truth is the world doesn’t need more computer science graduates. It needs more hard working people passionate about what they do.

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