On trying to figure out the point….

So here’s a question that was posed the other day in my Argumentation & Logic class: What is the point of going to university?

You may think the answer is simple. I did, too. Until my professor got involved. She tends to complicate things, but I guess that’s a good thing especially for the type of class it is.

Is the point to prepare yourself for a career? Most of us would say yes. Having a degree generally makes you a more viable candidate for certain positions, that’s for sure. For my husband, his college education definitely prepared him for a career. He went to what my professor calls a “vocational college” meaning that pretty much every course he took would have a pretty direct impact on his future career. He is a computer science major.

I, on the other hand, am an English writing major with a Sociology minor. Clearly, neither of those are really going to help me for future careers. Maybe if I was also getting a teaching license or continuing to grad school, it would more obviously be a career-directed major. But it’s not. It’s a liberal arts degree. Most liberal arts degrees tend to mold the mind more than the career. I know a few philosophy majors…but really, how many paid philosophers are there in the world anymore? How many anthropologists?

And, maybe, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t all that many professional writers out there.

So what the hell am I going to school for? What is my education preparing me for, really?

In my estimation, while I’d like to be a professional writer (for Vanity Fair, if I’m allowed to be choosy), the reality is that I’m being prepared to be an effective communicator. I’m learning how to speak well and write with authority. I’ve seen the benefits of this at my own job a number of times already. I’m learning the best and most compelling forms of communication for any number of scenarios that I might one day find myself in. I’m better understanding how to choose my words for said situations. I’m honing my writing skills so that I can make fundamentally sound arguments for any position I take.

So no, my degree isn’t vocational. Not by a long stretch. And my husband’s degree is one of the furthest from liberal arts you can get.

If you have a degree, what is it in? Why did you get it? What did it prepare you for?

If you don’t have a degree, what do you think the point is in getting or not getting one?

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5 thoughts on “On trying to figure out the point….

  1. I think undergraduate work is all about learning how to learn. Learning a set of frameworks to apply to future work, whatever that may be. Learning to be an effective communicator (as you said). I don't think undergraduate work is very vocational at all. That's what grad school is for!

  2. Wouldn't it be nice if an LA degree *did* provide for a career making a bazillion dollars? That's the problem that so many of us LA people have. We have degrees for something we love, but little opportunity to actually pursue that for a lucrative career.

  3. I have my liberal arts in English and taught last year and this year I'm working part time in a library doing story time and helping people find books. I'm certainly not getting rich, but I love what I do.

  4. Calling it a “vocational college” might be being a little too nice… but in the end I *did* get a degree and it *did* help me achieve goals toward my career. It looks good on a resumé, that's for certain, but it's the kind of degree that points me stiffly in a single direction.

    Your degree, on the other hand, is still a great achievement and looks great on a resume, yet it leaves your options open to many different career paths depending on your interests. Like I said this morning, it gives you the option to do freelance work (though you don't really need a degree for that, with your penchant for language and detail-orientation). Combined with your experience in multiple fields, you have the option of getting a job somewhere you want to work and turning that into a career.

    So there you go, my take on it. Liberal Arts degrees may not give you the clout to make a bazillion dollars a year, but they are an important stepping stone on a path toward a career you enjoy.

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