Saturday, October 6, 2012

On "For the First Time, Again" by Meghan Austin (682 words) ***

Just yesterday I read an article in which the author claimed that a college degree was a waste of time. There was some debate on this issue in the comments. What, after all, is college for? One venture capitalist has put forth a prize for people who drop out of college and do something significant--by this I mean start a company and make a certain amount of money.

The claim, so it goes, is that college will never pay off. Given the price of a tuition at many college, that may in fact be true for some students, despite the fact that college graduates do earn substantially more throughout their lives than non-college graduates. Does the extra few thousand dollars each year really pay off, when a debt of one hundred grand has been racked up?

But is college about how much money one is going to make? Is it about one's job opportunities? Or is it about something else, about--dare one say--education, education for life, education in values, education in critical thinking?

Enter into this fray Meghan Austin, whose story is about college education, only here the college education is one in which what is learned is not from the books that are taught in class but from the experiences one gleans while in the class, a class that is, on the face of it, a waste of time. I kept wanting to think the story about a grand psychology experiment. Take the teacher away, and see what the students accomplish, what they end up thinking. But maybe what the glean is deeper than that.

I remember being excited by the learning I got to do as an undergrad. By graduate school, I remember being more jaded. I loved the research that one did as a grad student, but the class time itself no longer seemed as important. What, after all, was there left to be taught except simply platitudes (modernism stemming from the loss of a center; romantics being more individualist than classicists; our ideas are all bound within a cultural framework from which we can't escape) that I had long ago put to memory. Perhaps Austin's class is discovering these sort of things early. Read the story here at Failbetter.

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