Education shouldn’t aim at employment

By Letter to the editor

I wish I could bring some comfort and relief to Linze Griebenow (“Theory of Higher Education Doesn’t Match Reality”) and her “emotionally and mentally exhausted” classmates. Unfortunately, what she says about the job market is quite right, and she’s in a better position than I to assess whether the classes she’s taking are “time-waster credit hours” or not. I can, however, point out a few things she may have overlooked.

First, it’s precisely when the job market is worst that the opportunity cost of staying in school is the lowest. If the economy were humming, students would pass up real economic gain to stay in school.

Second, “to better oneself” is not the same as “to get a well-paying job” unless you’ve come to school for purely mercenary reasons. It’s not the university’s fault that employers hire people with college degrees and pay them more; a liberal education shouldn’t aim at employment at all. While it’s usually true that a good education prepares you to work, it should prepare you equally well for a lengthy period of incarceration. What you do with your mind in a prison cell is as vital to the university as what you do with your mind on the job and for the same reason: culture survives in cultivated minds.

Civilization is advanced by those who’ve already received its gifts.

On two points I agree with Ms. Griebenow entirely: 1) the state should make higher education more affordable, and 2) nobody should have to take or teach a “time-waster credit hour.” It’s a pity that students get stoned to enjoy their college years; their classes and their interaction with faculty and peers should provide all the stimulation they can handle.

Robert Schnieder

Associate professor of theater and dance