I know a lot has been written lately about the value of higher education. I'm at a crossroads in my life, however, where I'm wondering how to make sense of that value for me. Here's a recent experience that set me to thinking about this. I was working for a friend who owns a UPS store, helping her package and process materials from a mobile shipping station at a hotel conference center. To do this task, all I had to do was follow the steps she provided and help the customers promptly and courteously. This was certainly a task I could do without any higher education at all. In fact, in my current life situation, I'm finding that my education is misleading me to expect better opportunities than the market currently has to offer me, based on the types of degrees I actually earned. In other words, earning the degrees I have earned has set me up, in some ways, to fail at doing small and somewhat menial but practical (and lucrative!) tasks well.
Of course, at the end of the day I am a huge advocate of higher education. In the final analysis I love learning and hope to never stop learning. And yet I think I need to echo those voices out there (I read a NY Times article last year about this but can't find it now) who suggest that as the world has drastically changed, so should our approach to education. I love the critical thinking skills my humanities degrees have developed within me. And yet in some ways I find I am only good at critical thinking in those same areas, and not as good thinking through more practical concerns, such as personal finance, and creative networking and self-promotion skills. I think all undergraduates should be required to take some sort of business or personal finance class. Or the skills and knowledge gained from such a class could be rolled into a more general class focused on life after graduation. It would be great if such a class was interdepartmental and provided a variety of views and insights on the topics. Again, don't get me wrong. I love my ability to critically read through a novel or a theological text. But without a job and the skills and knowledge related to living life well, those sorts of things fall by the wayside in the scramble of just trying to make it.
I would love to hear others' thoughts on what they think the value of their education is, and also how they acquired the life skills necessary for making it in these difficult economic times.