Friday, July 31, 2015

Detroit Free Press: Is a college degree a lost cause these days?

Policymakers are debating whether a liberal arts education or skills-based training for high-demand jobs is the future of postsecondary education in the United States. Most pundits agree that a liberal arts degree no longer cuts it in today’s global economy. But is this viewpoint really true? Brian Dickerson asks the readers to consider these questions:

But should a perfect match between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills be the ultimate objective of higher education in Michigan? Or, to put it another way: When is training workers for specific jobs the responsibility of colleges, universities and taxpayers, and when is it a cost that should be borne mostly, or exclusively, by employers themselves?

Fareed Zakaria, author of In Defense of Liberal Education, argues that favoring job-specific training over a broad-based curriculum (keyword: well-rounded) is not only shortsighted and “un-American.”

The solution is not that more students need to major in marketing or engineering, Zakaria, argues, “but that their liberal education should be more structured and demanding,” with greater emphasis on reading and writing.

Zakaria, a native of India who emigrated to the U.S. to attend Yale University, also warns that “Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are still oriented around memorization and test-taking.” He credits the Asian model for generating impressive test scores, but adds that it’s “not conducive to thinking, problem-solving or creativity” — the skills that have allowed American workers to maintain their productivity edge.

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