This article from the New York Times highlights a problem I’ve been increasingly concerned about of late, and about which I wrote about previously here. Governments and peoples seem not to understand the value of the humanities, humanities education, or–ultimately, I would argue–the proper value of education wholesale. The real, ultimate value of all higher education is the ability to think critically about everything, even while specializing in a particular area. This has practical value, but it gets easily lost when rhetoric focuses on education solely as a practical necessity rather than a value in itself. This is a problem which was recently highlighted to me in a conversation about continuing education for professionals: a group had been unable to understand the value of life-long self-education. Their degrees had not done the job university is supposed to do: instill the ability to think beyond the high school mentality of “will it be on the test?”
Those of us who are academics, and those who understand and value education need to start being more vocal about this, before we collectively become philistines, and before an entire generation or two is deprived of a holistic education and the benefits it provides–not just for “jobs” or economics, but for human living.