UND Professor: Jobs Focus Erodes Higher Education’s Greater Purpose
Donald Poochigian, a professor of philosophy at the University of North Dakota, is upset at what he perceives as attempts by some to “drive a stake through the heart of liberal education.”
We need to lay waste to the intellectual landscape of North Dakota. None of that namby-pamby liberal artsy-fartsy stuff for us! Contrary to Socrates, the uninvestigated life is worth living, certainly so concerning economic development, where an investigated life is but a luxury good.
Thus it is the higher education “stakeholders” who, viewing higher education as sucking blood money from the body politic, are poised to drive a stake through the heart of liberal education. So, let’s be done with it! Let’s “grow” business!
Perhaps these stakeholders will celebrate this new academic year for us by beginning the wholesale elimination of liberal education from North Dakota. Certainly, institutional building space would be freed up, facilitating the “efficiencies” the state board currently is pursuing. Emptied departmental spaces would provide desirable “business incubators” in pleasant campuslike settings.
Who knows, this academic year may be the North Dakota higher education system’s “step up to the next level.”
I won’t pretend to Mr. Poochigian grasp of philosophy and perhaps he’d be offended by the boiling down of his complaints to the age-old philosophical question about chickens and eggs.
Allow me to be blunt. What Mr. Poochigian describes as a “liberal education” is a luxury afforded to those affluent societies. America is certainly affluent, but that doesn’t mean we can stop prioritizing the sort of education that makes us affluent over less practical, though still important, studies such as philosophy.
Philosophy doesn’t build homes or roads. It doesn’t fill stomachs. It doesn’t manufacture the goods, or provide the services, that Americans both need and want.
In December of 2010 Peter Wood wrote about this for the Chronicle of Higher Education:
60 percent of the growth in college graduates from 1992 to 2008 ended up working in low-skill jobs, the kind of jobs for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics regards a college degree as irrelevant. …
Higher education’s response? Generally, if the topic is acknowledged at all, it is done so in scorn for the philistines who would reduce the “value” of a college degree to the job prospects and earnings of graduates.
I hate to invoke the cliche of the starving liberal arts major, well-versed on the works of the great philosophers but with few skills useful in the jobs market, but there’s truth in it.
Philosophy is important, but given the expense of higher education and the burden that expense represents for students who take on huge amounts of debt to finance it, it has become an extravagance few can afford.
Perhaps reforms to the government policies that have inflated the cost of higher education could make it otherwise.Tags: higher education, North Dakota News, University of North Dakota