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.