I have a few running themes in my entries regarding education. The first is I think tests are too heavily used to judge a students absorption of the curriculum. I believe the student should reflect their comprehension of the subject area by creating something using the materials taught to them. Make it stop being theory and apply it. The second is teachers should have more freedom in how they teach the students. What I mean by this is that every kid learns differently, but the system motivates teachers to focus on the middle bottom. Teachers are inherently driven to see every kid succeed. Otherwise they wouldn’t take the job. But many teachers lose that special feeling because of educational system constraints. The third theme is I don’t think the cost of college is worth what you get out of it, especially as the costs rise at a pace that is unrivaled.
The last theme is what I want to mainly write about now. The NY Times published an article today called In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined by Winnie Hu. The article is about Philosophy curriculums in college. There is a preconceived notion that philosophy studies are for “would be teachers” because you can’t make any money in the outside world with a Philosophy degree. Or as the article says “frou-frou.” But that might be because you don’t directly apply the results of the education. Philosophy underpins much of what you ascribe to in any other line of work. What has changed is the focus solely on historical scholars.
Because a few professors noticed the increased engagement in students when philosophy is applied to current events and situations, the Iraq war and politicians ideologies and swerving from them for example, they started prompting debate on the subjects; it could be The Matrix or if what is so bad about an animal going extinct. The interest in philosophy has increased at several schools. At the City University of New York philosophy majors are up 51% since 2002. At Rutgers the number of philosophy majors has doubled since 2002. A small aside: this is gratifying to me because it is happening after September 11th. I’m encouraged by the fact there are more people learning to see things at different angles using philosophy as the basis.
So what are the reasons for this increase? Is it September 11th and people wanting to have some sort of understanding of something so bad? Perhaps. Is it because the emphasis is not on the classics as much as it used to be? Probably. Is it because the skills are transferable and in a changing world environment you need to have the ability to move from one job to the next regardless of what the job is? Certainly. Verbal skills are so important in today’s business world. Being able to describe the problem and interact with teammates is so vital in a global economy where everything is virtual. Logical skills are valuable as well. They are universal. Or is it because the training you get in college just isn’t that good? It seems like new hires get retrained anyway and are rarely given the opportunity to really do the work they thought they were going to do. So if you are going to get trained anyway, why not get an in depth education in something that you can associate with any additional training you’ll get. Think of it like globalization for your mind – new cultures, new rules, and no assumptions.
Finally, back to my earlier statements. Teachers are teachers because they are intrinsically motivated to see kids succeed in education. Students who major in philosophy are intrinsically motivated by the subject and because of that they will be successful. The world is full of people in jobs they don’t like already.