It’s that wonderful time of the year in academia when the school term is winding down and the noble refrain to ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ is within earshot of every parent of a graduating high school senior. It is also the week when that hefty tuition deposit should be in the mail to the college that the student has decided to attend in September.
May 1 is the traditional benchmark date for colleges to tell you to ‘put your money where your mouth is because the rubber has met the road’. If your child didn’t get into Princeton, he or she should get over it and get excited about all that Rutgers has to offer.
So with college tuitions ranging between twenty-five thousand to sixty thousand dollars a year, it’s fair to ask about the relevancy of a college education today. While it’s true that colleges were never designed for the sole purpose of producing graduates who would earn the highest salaries, some grads actually do rake it in. Just don’t count on it, all you future teachers and engineers.
Colleges, particularly liberal arts colleges, were actually established several hundreds of years ago to produce great thinkers. These thinkers wanted to change society by advancing the causes of mankind. There were students and professors, skilled in oratory, writing and science, who could formulate ideas and promulgate them among peers and into the general population. Slowly but surely new ideas from the university community changed thinking and it has been that way since the days of Socrates and Aristotle.
College classes today continue to encourage the development of thoughts and ideas. When we try to eradicate prejudice and intolerance, for instance, through honest and open discussions about politics and culture, we move forward in our understanding of each other. We may not agree, but we do understand another point of view more fully. This opens up the door for new possibilities. Walls start to come down to make way for bridges.
Colleges have been training students to ‘think outside of the box’ even before there was a box to think outside of. Is college still worth it? If today’s students learn to think in global terms, if they can study with people who have something unique to offer them and if they are brave enough to act on their changed perceptions of the world, then the answer is yes.
I still remember a bit of wisdom from one of my professors in graduate school at Seton Hall: Education begins to make us new people from the first moment we step into a lecture hall and we should celebrate, not mourn, the loss of our old self.
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