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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College is 'worth it' for those who want to learn -- which isn't everyone

Students' desire to learn is the key to college success, writes Jonathan Malesic, who teaches writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, in the New York Times. "In more than 20 years of college teaching, I have seen that students who are open to new knowledge will learn. Students who aren’t won’t."

But many college students are careerists looking for the shortest, easiest route to a stable career. If a class isn't "useful," they're not interested. Others think they already know it all, or should pretend to know it all. "Knowingness has taken the place of thought," writes philosopher Jonathan Lear. "Knowingness is a danger especially for talented students who have been rewarded for always having the right answer," writes Malesic.

"College has more to offer than job training," he concludes. "You’re a worker for only part of your life; you’re a human being, a creature with a powerful brain, throughout it."

In addition, adults need to show K-12 students that it’s OK not to know something yet. School isn’t a quiz show; the first person to say the right answer doesn’t deserve the greatest reward. Rather, school should cultivate students’ curiosity and let them feel the thrill of finding something out.

The "union of intellectual humility and ambition" which makes learning possible can be cultivated, he writes.

Too idealistic? I'd love to see more curious -- and competent -- learners. More humility from those young whippersnappers? Yes indeed. But the percentage of young people who are motivated to learn for the sake of learning is limited.

McPherson College students with a Model T.

In a story on colleges attracting students with unusual majors, Hechinger's Jon Marcus wrote about a Kansas college that offers a bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration. Students spend four years at McPherson College learning how to restore old cars and studying"engineering, history, business, communication, art and other disciplines." Nearly all receive job offers.

The listed cost of tuition plus room and board is $44,616 per year. All students get some financial aid, but still . . . A four-year college degree?

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