Ever since the advent of formal education, there has been a radical shift in the concept of what is higher education. Most people, today, understand “higher education” as going to tertiary school in the pursuit of a diploma in the hope that, after graduating and acquiring the much-coveted piece of (sheepskin) paper, it will help them land a lucrative job to earn a decent living. They could not be further from the truth.
Higher education refers to the process of acquiring knowledge with the (primary) objective of improving oneself, to become a better person, to elevate ourselves above the material existence. To this end, earlier higher education dealt with the arts (literature, humanities, linguistics) and sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, applied sciences).
To provide skills and knowledge that prepares a person (student) for employment and earning a living is not higher education because it is meant to address the basic needs – the material needs, the needs for survival. Even if there are elements integrated into the curriculum that provide for higher goals, these only serve to guide the actions and behavior in the future employment or occupational environment. The primary purpose is still to ensure that the student is equipped with the essential abilities and information to get a job, in other words, trained not educated.
Today, higher education has been corrupted and debased into meaning a way to obtain the necessary skills and tools to earn a living. In other words, it is no longer about aspiring for higher ideals and goals. It is now about obtaining the necessary skills to enable one to land a decent job; nothing more tnan a glorified vocational school or training center.
When you ask an average student in the tertiary level what they will do after graduating, they will often answer with “To get a job.” You often hear parents telling their children that education is the key to the fight against poverty. You hear that slogan mouthed by almost every man-on-the-street.
And it gets worse. Currently, it is no longer sufficient to just be a college (bachelor’s) graduate, you must have a post-graduate degree – a masters or even a doctorate. If you want to make a decent living, you will need more than just a bachelor’s degree. To illustrate how bad everything is getting, a Eurpoean news item (a few years ago) featured a (German or London) cab driver who has a doctorate degree – because there was no job available.
This bastardized notion of what higher education is (today) is supposed to have started with John D Rockefeller, Sr (principally), Dale Carnegie, and J P Morgan (among others). It is said that, one day, they got together and mused over over how to ensure that their factories and industries and offices can have a steady of supply of manpower and personnel (read: employees to work for them on measly earnings to ensure that they remain awashed in wealth and power, see http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/John.D..Rockefeller.Quote.585E). [This quote subtly manipulates the focus or goal of education to develop better people and equip them with higher goals and pursuits towards the more fundamental objectives of material existence and the beginnings of consumerism. You really have to read between the words to get what is being implied – to the point of being accused of having a “world domination conspiracy” mind – I quote,
“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present eduction conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds, and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people, or any of their children, into philosophers, or men of science. We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for great artists, painters, musicians nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen – of whom we have an ample supply. The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.
– John D. Rockefeller; General Education Board (1906)“.]
As an end note, just like giving credit where credit is due, let us put everything in its proper place – and courses that “train” (instead of teach) people with (employment) skills and “prepare” them with the needed knowledge should be left to vocational and technical schools (business, engineering, certain medical fields, etc). There is no place for them in higher education. Higher education should concern and limit itself to the development of the individual through higher goals and values development – courses and fields of knowledge that will benefit society as a whole and not to address and satisfy the basic needs of a single person.
In parting, may I invite you to go through some of the quotes from particular respected and highly-esteemed personalities throughout history. Please refer to: http://www.homeschoolstarter.com/quotesarchive.html (many thanks to its web site owner and webmaster for providing wisdom to all who seek it; may it bring enlightenment to all seekers of the truth).