Friday, August 15, 2008

wise words

In the spirit of "what I wish I'd written" - Harriet has written a terrific post about why college and encouraging a "life of the mind" matters. The whole post is terrific, but I've stolen (sorry, H!) the bit that I thought most wonderful.

This morning, I came across an editorial Charles Murray wrote a couple of days ago in the Wall Street Journal about how college is a waste of most people’s time. In terms of quickly moving people into the work force, Murray is probably right. But it seems to me that he has missed the point of college altogether. Maybe the humanities do not train you for specific job skills, but the study of arts and culture and history have other effects on both the way we think and problem-solve and also on the way we view the world and others in it. And then there are the intangibles of the experience of being a college student, being away from home and finding your way in the world in a sort of halfway-house for adulthood. I had a sheaf of report cards with stellar grades and loads of A papers that I could have saved. But those are nowhere to be found. Instead there are pictures of the people and activities that meant most to me, the detritus of my existence then, all serving to conjure up the parts of me that stem from that time and place. A poet friend of mine used the phrase “this carrying life” to describe the way our lives are encoded in the smallest fiber of our being. These are the paper remains of my carrying life, reminders of that which I carry with me everywhere. And sometimes it takes an old friend to remind you of how you came to be.


harriet M. Welsch said...

Aw, thanks, Lemming!

Drewster said...

Lovely and true.

I think very often, when we work in specific fields (like theater for me or education for lem) we get used to working with people like "us". My non-profit office is all college grads. (Rice, Yale and UT-Austin)

When I worked in corporate America, I could witness this very phenomenon. Two people, one HS educated and one College educated. Both intelligent people, but two very different skill sets when thinking it out.

Education, and the experience of learning just pays.

John said...

Sadly, at least in the UK, the expansion of our colege/university system has resulted in more and more degree courses being specifically occupation/oprofession orientated. Theidea of a broad "education" for its own value seems to be neglected. Likewise at school.... but I musn't get started on that