Applied Knowledge

I read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recently about how the profession of teaching has changed because today’s students go to college for something other than knowledge for knowledge’s sake: “maybe at one time, most students went to college to broaden their intellectual horizons and figure themselves out. That time has passed. Today more students attend college for a specific reason: professional advancement. Especially for adult learners, getting a degree is a means to a promotion, a raise, or entree into a new field. Vocational motivations for degree attainment are driven in part by projected job growth in industries like technology and health care, where there’s a need to solve 21st-century problems. Colleges are no longer singularly committed to knowledge production for the sake of it. Academe has shifted toward helping learners use knowledge in new ways — toward innovation.”

The writer speaks about how professors need to adapt and recognize that there is no going back to the good old days . . .

My undergraduate studies at Columbia University opened my mind to the great books of Western Civilization and the best part of my liberal arts education was teaching me the importance of critical thinking. I am saddened to see that opening minds up to great works of history, philosophy, art, and science has no “application” in today’s innovation economy. I am all for making sure students today are prepared for the workforce—and equipped with the technical competencies they need for career and life success—but it would be a shame if that means they cannot think for themselves, problem solve, or hold a conversation with at a social event.