04 September 2009

Learning to teach students to learn to teach to...

I know a lot of college students in Memphis. Having grown up here, I know a good 300 or so just from high school, plus everyone I've met at MCA, and through Rozelle Artists Guild. They all have a very broad range of majors, from American History to Philosophy & Religion, to Printmaking. It's really cool to have that broad range of studies available to you and the chance to hone in on one of them so seriously for a few years, but everytime I hear someone spout off a major that isn't law or medicine, I immediately have to ask, "...Soooooo, what are you going to do with that?", to which almost all reply, "I don't really know, probably teach."

I'm in no way against the proliferation of knowledge. Contrary to that cliche high school argument "when am I EVER going to need to know this?", I really do think it's important to learn the basic principals of physics, geometry, American history, the selected works of E. E. Cummings or whatever else you're forced to do in those four years, even if you literally never use a calculator or read a poem again. It's about training your mind to think in different dimensions, and it's about exposing yourself to a shitstorm of different things with the hope that, by the time you turn eighteen, you will have found at least one thing that interests you enough to continue your education.

That scope will linearly lead to a declared major in college, a degree in it, and if all goes well, some career that employs it. But aside from the few lucky exceptions like those guys that preserve really old documents at museums or the old, sage men with PhDs and smoking jackets who write weighty books, what can you really do with a degree in history? What career is there for history freaks? What, other than teaching?

It does seem a bit off that there are so many kids today going to school for things that there is no secondary use for. I am all for education, and lifelong education is not an idea I'm unfound of whatsoever, but isn't the root purpose of education the preparation for real world application? In this age, I find that more art students, as hard as it will be for them to find good jobs, have a bigger advantage when it comes to venturing out of the teaching possibility post-grad. We're all just learning some specific sect of knowledge to pass down to the next generations, in hopes they might find it interesting too, so that they'll have something to declare as a major in college, so when they get out, they can teach kids the same thing.

It's a cycle I really don't have an opinion on. I'm for it, if anything. I'll always be supportive of an educated populace. I'd rather a world of teachers who are also students than a world of people that never found any reason to go to college themselves. Even with the stress, lack of sleep, doubt of a future career, and insurmountable debt incurred, I think it's worth the trouble.


Chandler Pritchett said...

Provocative post, many would argue that the "point" of education has nothing to do with preparing one for a professional career.

"If I tell you that this is the greatest good for a human being, to engage every day in arguments about virtue and other things you have heard me talk about, examining both myself and others, and if I tell you that the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being, you will be even less likely to believe what I am saying. But that's the way it is, as I claim, though it's not easy to convince you of it."

Socrates, in Plato, Apology 38A

Lauren Rae Holtermann said...

Nice response, Chandler. & yes, I could totally argue the point of education is a journey rather than a destination. Really, I kinda think that is the point moreso than preparation for some long-awaited application. It's just odd to think something that our society stresses the importance of is actually more about enriching individual lives and minds rather than contributing toward a greater good, or productivity, or something capitalist-driven.