Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Do colleges and universities have the right idea?

"The great aim of education is not knowledge but action."
- Herbert Spencer

A well-educated person may be stoked full of knowledge. But so is an encyclopedia. Unused encyclopedias are used as door stops, baby booster seats and as starters for bonfires.

Most college students have a fair idea of what they want to do once they graduate. Postgrads have a clearer idea. Many of those college students who don't have much of an idea of what they want to do with the knowledge and skills they learn will end up returning to college again or bouncing from one job to another after graduation, looking for the perfect fit.

The whole purpose of education is to prepare young people to do what they must and what they want to do as adults. If education fails that purpose, it prepares biological encyclopedias.

Preparing a young person to be able to function well as an adult is more than simply expecting the young person to make up his or her mind about what they want to do. Options must be discussed and, if possible, introductions in the form of internships give the young person exposure to future possibilities. Young adults too often in the past have made life altering decisions based on the flimsiest of information.

Schools must also motivate their students to make choices and to develop the kinds of work habits that are required in the after-school environment. One reason that employers continue to seek new employees with experience is that new graduates often do not have the attitude needed to succeed in the working world. They can work, as evidenced by their success with their in-school studies. Employers want long term work habits, attitudes and ethics, which students recently graduated may not have.

What if the student is lazy? Colleges and universities are designed to weed out those who don't work. What they may not be designed to do is to prepare their student charges for what working life is like. A recent graduate may have a terrible time getting a job, but a relatively easy time if he must find a new job with a few years of experience behind him.

The future of each college student is determined while the students are in classes. What better quality schools do is not to fail the lazy students but to motivate every student to do what is necessary to succeed, both in school and in the working world.

Not every post-high school institution sees that as their objective. The "top" schools fail the less motivated students, making their grads more desirable in the workplace. Some schools graduate those whose averages may not be as good as those of the top schools, but their grads may be better prepared to function in society because they were raised up in college instead of failed out.

The top schools may graduate future leaders of industry, politics and religion, but the schools of lesser renown graduate more of the kind of people who keep their country on track toward its collective goals. They graduate more people who really matter to the world.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to raise up every young person to reach his or her potential.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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