College Grads Might be Trained, but Are They Educated?

Most Americans think that the throngs of young people who graduate from college have been educated, but in today’s Pope Center piece, Troy Camplin argues that they’re mistaken. That is because what we label “college education” is, for most of them, just training for some hoped-for occupation.

Camplin reflects on his own higher education credentials — a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. — and writes, “Because my degrees involved so much training that was called education, I had no idea that I hadn’t actually received much of an education.” He isn’t against colleges offering training, but laments that so few students now get much (if any) of the education colleges used to pride themselves on offering. Well, more than offering. Most schools used to take general education seriously and required students to take a wide range of courses in literature, history, philosophy, the fine arts, and so forth.

But when officials started to care more about their bottom lines than upholding the ideal of college education, they began to do what would get them the greatest number of students: give them occupational training. At the same time, since fewer and fewer students wanted to bother with rigorous core curriculum courses, those officials allowed the requirements to slide. At most schools now, the distribution requirements can be met with a jumble of trendy, fun courses.

Camplin concludes, “We are more and more preparing our students to work at jobs in the economy, but we are less and less preparing them to create, discover, and understand. That is a loss to both our culture and society.”

I think he’s right, but there is no easy way back.


George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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