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What is the purpose of a college education?

  1. Sep 25, 2011 #1
    In reading through a number of academically-oriented threads, I am struck by the almost overwhelming idea that the purpose of a college education is to provide you with a good job.

    Whatever happened to the idea that the purpose of an education was to make you a better person, or (in Thomas Jefferson's view) a better citizen. You undertook an education because you thirsted for knowledge, you wanted to experience a wider range of ideas and meet a broader range of people. You wanted to LEARN! And not just because you could possibly use that knowledge to make a living, but simply because you wanted to know!

    I really feel sorry for those people who are so focused on finding a good job that they pass over the sheer joy of learning.

    I spent some forty years in academia. I could have made much more money at something else (and eventually did). I sometimes think that my freshman year, when I was carrying 23 semester hours, working 39 hours a week at an outside job, and trying to live on the Korean G.I. Bill was the most all-around satisfying year of my life (except for the year I married my wife, of course).
     
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  3. Sep 25, 2011 #2

    Char. Limit

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    Whatever happened? The real world happened. The pressure to have more money happened. The judging of your worth by your net worth happened.

    Pretty simple.
     
  4. Sep 25, 2011 #3

    Pengwuino

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    When I look around and see people losing their houses, going unemployed for 2 years straight, health care costs rising, tuition costs rising, etc etc, I sure as hell am not going to ignore the financial motivation of taking myself off the job market for 10+ years (depending on whether you get a phd).

    Plus, some people simply can't enjoy learning a subject and love education to the extent that they could live a life of poverty their entire life and still be happy if they're doing whatever they're doing. The problem most people with your mindset seem to have is they don't realize it's not a black and white scale where you either devote every waking second to your subject with 0 other interests or you should stay the hell out of the field and work as a technician at a factory.
     
  5. Sep 25, 2011 #4
    Depends. Jobs? Pursuing a dream ? Or just to show others that you've got a university degree and they don't ?

    It also depends what kind of degree it is. There some useless degrees nowadays like Liberal Arts and even Business. Business should be about practice not theory. Everyone who succeeded in the Business world (making 1M+ and owns a company) did not have a Business degree.
     
  6. Sep 25, 2011 #5
    Lately the purpose of an education seems to be to funnel money into the education industry.
     
  7. Sep 25, 2011 #6
    At times I think much of the money spent on my education wasn't worthwhile particularly because I enjoy learning; I teach myself everything I want to learn which is far more than a college education requires of me. The only thing my school provides that I can't find between physicsforums/internet and the library is access to the labs and research opportunities.
     
  8. Sep 25, 2011 #7

    lisab

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    I must admit that the last few years have really changed my attitude about college. I know too many smart people who are underemployed because there seems to be no place for them in industry.

    I used to encourage young people to pursue science, just because it's so freaking cool.

    But now I say, why don't you consider something else, particularly engineering? Because I figure if they are one of those dedicated souls who are relentlessly driven by their passion for science, then what I say is irrelevant. And if they aren't, well...then they should consider engineering.
     
  9. Sep 25, 2011 #8

    Char. Limit

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    With that attitude it's no wonder you failed grad school.
     
  10. Sep 25, 2011 #9

    Physics_UG

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    I didn't fail out. I dropped out.
     
  11. Sep 25, 2011 #10

    Char. Limit

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    Okay. With that kind of attitude it's no wonder you dropped out of grad school. Three times.
     
  12. Sep 25, 2011 #11

    Physics_UG

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    also, I don't think grad school is for losers. I think it's a very noble pursuit.
     
  13. Sep 25, 2011 #12
    A drunk person's problems from one thread ought not to be brought into another thread

    That reminds of married couples fight, how one brings things happened 5 years ago :biggrin:.
     
  14. Sep 25, 2011 #13

    Evo

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    He's got 24 hours to get sober and then read the posts he made when he returns.
     
  15. Sep 25, 2011 #14
    Should have let him rant before he did something more stupid. :bugeye:
     
  16. Sep 25, 2011 #15

    russ_watters

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    Few people are wealthy enough that they can do that.
    Making a career of academia is nowhere close to the same thing as just going to college for love of learning/to better yourself. In fact, it is almost exactly the thing you are complaining about! You went to college to prepare yourself for your career!
     
  17. Sep 25, 2011 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    I went back to school in my late twenties. In order to do so, I had to walk away from a sucessful career and put everything on the line. Just the lost income probably accounts for over $250K. Then, to make things worse, we decided to get out of Los Angeles at the end of my sophomore year, and moved to the backwoods of Oregon. At that time I seriously considered changing from physics to EE as a practical matter, but in the end, couldn't bring myself to do it. My heart was in physics so I stuck with it. So, from a financial pov, I did all the wrong things. And it has been an incredibly tough road. But now I make great money working from my converted barn, in my pasture, on my 5+ acre farm, as a private consultant and contractor, mostly via the internet, doing what I used to do for fun. I get paid to play in my barn. Who woulda thunk?!?!

    I think people underestimate the cost of doing a job you hate, or at least, one that you don't love. I recognized that trap and ran like the wind. Honestly, I have no idea how I managed to pull this off, but I attribute it to following my heart and doing what I love.
     
  18. Sep 25, 2011 #17
    i'm only just now starting to feel like i'm getting an education, and it's not all warm and fuzzies. it's also not something i'm sure i could have gotten in college, despite getting the "university" experience and all of those humanities electives.
     
  19. Sep 26, 2011 #18
    Famous words from a slave owner who considered blacks an inferior race and insisted we should become a nation of gentleman farmers. It was never much more then romantic idealism and if you really want to become a better person there are certainly easier and cheaper way of achieving the goal these days.
     
  20. Sep 26, 2011 #19

    Char. Limit

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    Really? All the reasoned, rational arguments available and your very first choice was to play the race card?
     
  21. Sep 26, 2011 #20
    No, Russ, I can honestly say that when I went to college I had no idea of pursuing a career. I simply wanted to learn. I changed my major three times. And I was not rich--that's why I had to work 39 hours a week at an outside job. And my first university teaching job was in a field in which I had taken exactly one introductory course! Hardly a career preparation!

    Moreover, those forty years were not continuous. I spent five years as a U. S. intelligence officer in the Middle East, and five years as a Director of Planning for a three-county planning agency. At no time when I was a student did I have either of those activities in mind as a possible future occupation.
     
  22. Sep 26, 2011 #21

    wukunlin

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    For me it is all interrelated:

    There is something I love to learn everything about it => I want to use this something to help myself make enough money to live
     
  23. Sep 26, 2011 #22

    russ_watters

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    That doesn't actually change things. You may not have done it on purpose, but you did do what prepared you for your career.
    So you got lucky in that eventually you fell into what became your career. Doesn't change the fact that in college you learned what prepared you for your career.
    You didn't have to be since when you were in college you learned what prepared you for your career.

    The way I worded that initially isn't the most useful: you don't need to be rich to go to college, you just need to be rich to afford what comes after college if you didn't prepare yourself for a career while there. There are a lot of debt-laden waiters and waitresses out there.

    Lets not use you as an example here: Imagine a hypothetical person who goes to college for love of learning art history and comes away with an art history degree and $80,000 in debt. Now what?
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
  24. Sep 26, 2011 #23
    This. I have been around the globe and it is the same story everywhere you go. You can no longer just study for pure interest or love of a subject, there has to be some financial motivation after the degree or you'll end up stuck in a menial job trying to pay back a massive debt.
     
  25. Sep 26, 2011 #24
    I would say that that person was extremely irresponsible and selfish in running up a debt that they had no reasonable expectation of paying off. Just because you want to do something does not give you the right to do that something. Where is that person's sense of honor?
     
  26. Sep 26, 2011 #25

    russ_watters

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    Fair enough - so the "sheer joy of learning" isn't enough in that case. Now what if their parents paid for college so they came away with no debt? Is it ok then?
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2011
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