Jobs, jobs, jobs

Preparing students for jobs “should be front and center in the thinking of educators,” writes Camille Paglia in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The idea that college is a contemplative realm of humanistic inquiry, removed from vulgar material needs, is nonsense. The humanities have been gutted by four decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics.

Paglia is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where students can work with their hands as “ceramicists, weavers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jazz drummers.” They’re a lot happier than students with “trendy, word-centered educations,” she writes.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity. Our present educational system defers credentialing and maturity for too long. When middle-class graduates in their mid-20s are just stepping on the bottom rung of the professional career ladder, many of their working-class peers are already self-supporting and married with young children.

. . .  educators whose salaries are paid by hopeful parents have an obligation to think in practical terms about the destinies of their charges. That may mean a radical stripping down of course offerings, with all teachers responsible for a core curriculum. But every four-year college or university should forge a reciprocal relationship with regional trade schools.

A word-centered education worked fine for me. My only manual skill is touch-typing. But many young people are wasting a lot of time and money in college because their real goal is not to get an education but to get job credentials. Often they end up with a lot of debt and no degree.

Walter Russell Mead predicts tough times ahead, even for the college-educated, but advises a traditional liberal arts education.

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  1. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    I have been trying for a while to get the state to issue a BS for the completion of an apprenticeship program. I believe the academic rigor is equal to other majors.

  2. A traditional liberal arts education has a value all its own, even in the work force. The ability to synthesize ideas across a wide spectrum of disciplines is certainly a valuable talent.

  3. georgelarson says:

    “A traditional liberal arts education has a value all its own, even in the work force. The ability to synthesize ideas across a wide spectrum of disciplines is certainly a valuable talent.”

    I agree with you, but do modern colleges offer a program to achieve this? I am not sure if employers are looking for this in a college graduate? My boss does not.

  4. George-
    The problem is that many schools have had their traditional liberal arts education corrupted… which was the point of Paglia’s column. In the traditional sense, a liberal arts degree was a sign of ability to adapt to a wide range of careers. Now, a student can get a liberal arts degree at major respected schools learning little except how special they are.

  5. I believe the key is to teach students skills that they will utilize inside and outside of the classroom.

  6. Here in LA, there’s plenty of film school grads who are temping, while grips and ADs work pretty often, even in this economy. There’s many, many paths to an education as well as to a degree. I think flexible thinking is the key, and I hope more people feel bold enough to combine a trades type job with real education.

    I was surprised she didn’t mention how being a chef has become so popular, as well as fashion and interior design, thanks to cable TV.

  7. Are there jobs available for ceramicists, woodworkers, metal smiths and jazz drummers? I’m sure that in some niches, yes, there are jobs. But the bulk of manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. I’m sure even our jazz drumming will be outsourced. Weaving doesn’t seem to be something that is in high demand these days. The industrial revolution just killed that profession. Hasn’t recovered since.

  8. Soapbox0916 says:

    I believe the traditional liberal education is actually quite different from a liberal arts education at most schools today,

    Walter Russell Mead in his article is actually advocating for a traditional liberal education instead of liberal arts, when studying the classiscs were the backbone of colleges.

  9. Paglia is pointing out a reality: many young people would prefer, and be better served by, a more focused curriculum that developed their concrete skills. Her article is indeed unrealistic to imply that there’s room for all of those students in the trades and the arts.

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Said it before; The Maytag guy wants $85 for knocking on your door.
    A heating/cooling guy was fixing my A/C–took a box elder bug out of the contacts and built a shield to prevent it happening again. We chatted. He and his daughter ride both western and dressage. Have the land and the horses. Our family runs to Infantry, so I don’t know much about horses. But do you have to have different ones for western and dressage?

  11. “Revalorization” is a great word for what is needed. A civilized society needs people doing work in the trades and manual services, and doing that work well. Giving credit for the value and importance of the work could encourage better performance as well as happier workers.