It seems that the focus of higher education is mainly for students to have a successful career. While such a goal is important for these institutions and for students, college attendees must demand that universities shift their emphasis to teaching critical thinking skills as well.
Many parents and students consider college to be an investment. These individuals are paying universities a large sum of money so that the students will obtain jobs following graduation.
This comes as a result of higher education being in a state of neoliberalism, meaning that “you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace,” according to William Deresiewicz’s essay in Harper’s Magazine.
The essay argues, “The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers.” Colleges no longer focus on developing what Deresiewicz calls “complete human beings,” but instead provide them with specific skills in a certain field.
One can see such a phenomenon at Geneseo. The college has eliminated the art department entirely and limited the humanities requirement to one course. Clearly, Geneseo is less concerned with fields that are not considered lucrative, which is disappointing.
That being said, higher education institutions are not completely at fault. These universities are developing programs to satisfy their clients.
Some of the most popular majors students declare include engineering, biological and biomedical sciences and business, according to CNBC. These popularity levels directly correlate to the highest paid fields, as “students who choose STEM ... curriculums are poised to out-earn their peers,” according to PayScale’s latest study as reported in Money Magazine.
It is evident from this data that students and colleges prioritize programs that guarantee high paying jobs. While students need to be prepared for the real world, it is also imperative that they are encouraged to think critically in the classroom.
Such skills will allow students to determine for themselves a moral code by which to live, and therefore become better citizens. Courses that are not as prioritized in the humanities fields provide a wonderful opportunity for students to explore these matters.
In these classes, students become independent thinkers and cultivate a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Reflecting on one’s choices and environment will help people live better lives.
Critical thinking skills will not only foster this type of contemplation, but this skill is also attractive to employers.
For example, critical thinking enhances writing skills. Individuals who can write clearly and thoughtfully are valued for any job, as “you will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo,” Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times David Brooks argues.
Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, managers said that one of the skills they look for when hiring an individual is the “ability to create and/or edit written reports,” Forbes reports.
One can clearly see that critical thinking fosters personal growth and is also valuable in the job market. Therefore, colleges and students must not discount classes in the arts and humanities. Such courses provide a well-rounded learning experience to students who typically enroll in science and business classes.
It is essential that students advocate for change at their colleges in order to get the most out of their education. Only then will students further develop morals to live by and continue to foster a passion for learning for the rest of their lives.