Higher Education, Not Fitness

Accreditation is broken. It has become a sales gimmick. In order to have a fully accredited degree a student must take a mass of expenses and extraneous courses. Make these courses optional and engineers for instance would be just as well rounded as their careers call for without ever having taken poli sci or fitness. The only reason it’s a requirement is so the school never has to make a sale. You don’t have to sell a sociology course to an engineering student. You just make it a requirement of an accredited program. Arguably, the engineering course was just fine without it. And engineers would be just as viable for the workplace if they had never taken art history.

The test for a good program is the workplace. I dare say fresh graduates would be even more work-ready than before if they didn’t have to suffer through unnecessary thousands of dollars of loan repayment for courses that didn’t help their careers one bit. Even philosophy majors would be better off just studying original texts, translated works and maybe a few good expositional textbooks. They don’t need biology. Seriously, explain to me what biology a philosophy major needs to know they didn’t already learn in high school. High school is the proper place for all that stuff. College is meant for specialization. Why do accreditation boards obsess over making a student well rounded in all areas. If students want that they can go to a library. It’s free!

Fostering a students given talents and abilities, providing them with a set of skills they can use to get a job, this should be the focus of education. I’m not saying let’s dump these other courses. On the contrary, people should have the option to purchase courses to explore any interest they may have in a particular subject.

Yes, this method of education would probably cause some courses or even whole subjects to disappear from the course catalog. Too bad. That’s just competition; something our universities have been sorely lacking. As President Truman said (reportedly), “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” When those courses disappear it’ll be because we don’t need them. Not to mention, programs would become more focused making students all the more ready for a good career.

I know some of you will protest we need the fluff courses to pay for the hard sciences. My response to this is twofold. 1) It isn’t just “hard sciences” that spend the money. Probably just as much of it goes to studying pooping habits of prairie dogs. Maybe we should cut these programs and use the money to fund the so-called “hard sciences”; maybe even pass some of the savings to the students. That’ll be the day. 2) A lot of these programs are supported by grants from foundations, governments (yes, plural), wealthy alumni and other benefactors. And plenty of students will still be studying philosophy, political science and kinesiology. Universities will still be a hub for the “high” pursuits and what not.

The next hurdle will be tuition costs. That will have to wait for another post but I’ll just say this: Big Education is an industry. I know they’d rather have you think of it as pure, enlightened, progressive (if that appeals to you) and totally worth tens or hundreds of thousand of dollars, but it’s a business. It’s big business and regardless of it’s claims not every course or program is of equal value.