Against a Career Driven Education
When I look back on my college education, it was a lot of things, but career oriented it was not. In fact, I didn’t know what career I even wanted to pursue until I had almost graduated-after four and a half years.
I know what you’re thinking. Four and a half years and you still didn’t have a chosen career? You must have been barely taking any classes at all, and you must have been wasting all of your time playing video games and going to parties. As an answer to that: you’re part right. I did play a lot of video games, often with my roommates. However, you are wrong about the parties. I went to California Baptist University (CBU), which is located in Southern California, and it didn’t really have parties (at least as far as I knew). As for the wasting of time, CBU was on the semester system and I took fifteen to eighteen units each semester.
So, what took me so long to decide?
Well, I missed Freshmen Orientation because I was on another continent for two weeks. Africa, to be specific, and Ghana, West Africa, to be even more specific. I know that, for most people, a trip around the world before freshmen year had officially begun would not qualify as part of my education. Yet, among other things, visiting the sick and orphans, and helping to plant crops and build buildings drastically affected my worldview. Among other things, it led me to focus mostly on my studies as everyone around me at school had already formed cliques, and I was not a member of any of them (that is, until one late night when I wondered to the downstairs lobby and met the “Lobby Rats,” a disparate group of rebels and anti-social misfits. with whom I immediately bonded).
Additionally, during Summer 2004, with one semester left, I studied abroad in Oxford, England. Even though I shared a flat with classmates from the program, it was the first time that I had really lived away from home. Experiencing culture shock and having to deal with the experience of being a stranger in a strange land, it taught me a lot about people, about sympathy for strangers, and about the various experiences of people. For example, the weeks that I spent in Oxford, studying at Wycliffe Hall, were more rigorous and more freeing than any full semester back in the states.
What, you may ask, of the actual classes that I took at CBU?
Before I finally decided on double majoring (History and English-it took the last two years of college to figure out what to do with them), I took every class that interested me. That list includes:
- Intro to Koine Greek I & II
- Intermediate Koine Greek I & II
- Intro to Sociology
- Intro to Philosophy
- General Psychology
- Fundamentals of Acting
- Class Piano
- Basic Reasoning
- Latin I & II
- Principles of Biology, with a lab
- Self-Defense (in reality, this was actually Shoshin Ryu Yudashankai ju-jitsu)
- Intro to Film Studies
None of those classes were necessary for either my English or my History degree, aside from accidentally fulfilling some of my GE requirements. All of these were topics in which I was interested-and that was enough. I didn’t care if they translated into more money; how could I, when I didn’t even know what job I wanted?
Instead, they were things that I was interested in, topics that were, in my mind, worth learning. They added, in ways that I can hardly measure, to the organization of my mental thought processes, to my understanding of the human experience, and to my understanding of Christianity.
As part of my college GE, I also had to take some religion courses (CBU is a Southern Baptist University) like Old and New Testament Survey and History of Baptist Thought. Yet, the two years of Koine Greek, with its emphasis on verb tenses, grammatical voice and mood, and layers of meaning, along with the sometimes lengthy translation homework-like a whole chapter of the NT at a time-, taught me more about the Bible than those three courses. Additionally, with how many modern English words are made from Greek and Latin roots, the advantages from studying a couple of dead languages are multitude.
In my mind, these kinds of classes are the purpose of education. Not a narrow focus on career or money oriented classes, but a focus on learning that improves the nature and quality of life. I know that many will say that a focus on a career will necessarily improve life, yet that it is a shallowly focused materialism that ignores anything that makes life worth living. Too much of our education is focused on postponing the search for meaning or truth, the pursuit of passion and interest until later. Not until junior high and school, when you might be able to take some electives (the options of which are woefully low in number at most schools). Not until college, when you can finally choose a major (most students are discouraged from changing majors once they have begun-too costly and time consuming). Not until you have a job, when you have a paycheck-spent mostly on monthly bills-and free time-less than you think and possibly less than when you were in school.
That is a wasted education. First and foremost, education should be about meaning and truth, passion and interest, change and the improvement of humanity. It should be about about depth and value, with the monetary kind as one of the least important.
If we pursue what we are passionate about, in general, people will pay us for it, and in seeking it, we will become better people and keep our souls. If we seek money first, we will lose our them in our vain pursuits of an ever-fleeting currency.