Mark Twain once said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Twain did not trust the schooling system or institution. In 1930, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote an article titled, “Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education.” Her basic premise was that for democracy to work and for the government to function, an informed citizenry knowledgeable about the basic functionality of the government and proactive in the decisions was key to that democracy’s success. The best way to achieve that was through education. There is an economic consideration too – even though there is no pragmatic way of determining the economic parameters in the future. For college students, this means jobs being prepared for now may not exist by the time the student enters the job market or the job may not exist yet.
In the United States, we vote. We vote to elect local, state and federal officials, who we then entrust to do what is necessary for their particular jurisdiction. It would be problematic if nobody voted because of apathy or ignorance. Furthermore, it would be problematic if people voted without understanding the issues. I partially agree with Eleanor Roosevelt. Education is a necessary tool for good citizenship, but as a secondary purpose.
If good citizenship is necessary for a democracy to flourish and education is necessary for good citizenship, then similar logic follows regarding careers. Every expert agrees that for the most part, a degree gives John a better opportunity at landing a job than Joe. It means that one must get an education, a degree and subsequently, a good paying job with that degree in order to function as a good citizen. Enter another purpose for education: to secure a good career. In fact, according to a 2008 College Student Characteristics Inventory, the number of students that cite “to prepare for a career” as their biggest reason for attending college is 68 percent. That is up 14 percent from a study done 12 years ago by the University of Colorado at Boulder. Political rhetoric, the media, friends and family constantly say, “Go to college to get a degree and get a good paying job.” No. I mean, yes. Just as good citizenship is a secondary purpose of education, so is a good paying job. In that sense, a good paying job is in the back of my mind. The irony is that I have to pay off these outrageous federal loans somehow.
My point is similar to Mark Twain’s quote. I came to Miami University-Hamilton in the spring of 2009 not because I had grandiose plans of using my degree as some lottery ticket to future success, but because I wanted to learn. It really was that simple and still is. The purpose of education, as I see it, is knowledge accumulation. That means gaining the skills necessary to engage in critical reading, critical thinking and rational arguments.
These skills will assist one in being a good citizen and engaging in democracy, as well as potentially earning a high-paying job. I came to college to challenge my preconceived notions of society, politics, morality, and spirituality, or lack thereof. The only way to allow for knowledge accumulation is to come to college with an open mind.
Amidst temptations to spend four years partying or economic turmoil in real life, lending to the fervor to get a degree and get a higher paying job, or even the culture itself that prioritizes money, learning itself often takes a backseat. Even if one is serious about learning, math and science gain most of the media attention and government money. Math and science are important, but the other areas of learning are too – philosophy, English, sociology, etc. Irony abounds even more when one considers how much the average student works and goes to school.
According to the American Council on Education, 78 percent of undergraduates work while attending college. Of full-time students, 25 percent work full-time as well. That does not even include non-traditional students that have the added burden of taking care of children, which is common among many at Miami Hamilton.
You work hard outside of school in order to work hard in school, so that you can get a good working job outside of school later. Therefore, school just becomes a blur of booze, bills and boring lectures. It does not have to be that way. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Invest in knowledge for knowledge’s sake.