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What if we re-frame the reasons for Higher Ed?

Most do Higher Ed in order to get a better job; What if it was something you did to instead be a better human?

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Probably the biggest takeaway I have from my higher education experiences is that I was doing it all in order to get a job. (you can read about my specific undergrad experience here on a past challenge - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/higher-ed/research/student-working-through-a-ba-degree) Information was delivered to me as if it was hands on training to do the job that I was supposed to get. It wasn't. In a way, I felt like I was buying my way into a career, but it didn't really work that way. That's kind of how society presents it, and to a lesser extent, how educational institutions present it. 

What I eventually did get was exposure to a lot of things that I wouldn't have otherwise had growing up in a small mixed rural/suburban town - cultures, ideas, philosophies, etc. These things ultimately _did_ help me get a job, but they were marginalized by the higher ed pedagogy, so I had to go looking for them myself. 

Higher Education seems to be moving even more towards being framed up as technical job training. (my alma mater recently changed the name of the college of technology to "Polytechnic Institute" as a reflection of this ideal and have even opened a "Polytechnic Highschool" to feed the program) Based on a 2013 report, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/20/only-27-percent-of-college-grads-have-a-job-related-to-their-major/) only a little more than a quarter of college grads have a job related to their major. Why spend 4 years learning specific skills that you only have a 27% chance of using?

Rather than a direction that intensifies the old model of making education _more_ job focused, I'd like to see education go more broad. I think this is even more important as we are looking down the barrel of jobs lost to automation and starting to think about basic income plans. 



How can we help College aged people become better humans who can better contribute to society in all ways, not just by being a cog in an employment chain?

Some research questions that immediately come up:

What is the value proposition? The traditional promise of job placement is highly monetarily focused even though we know that it's not a given.

What are the measurable outcomes? (or do we even need them?)

What is the pedagogy? I think it under this model, higher ed should play more of an enabling role. Montessori-esque?

What exactly will these students be able to do when they are done? As a baseline, students should learn to be auto-didacts. (this is already a necessity for pretty much any non-labor job) but what else? 


*image taken from http://betterhuman.today/ . I have no idea what that book is about, I just thought the image was appropriate for the conversation.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I spent 17 years in Higher Education as a Computer Technologist for a Distance Learning program. For the past 3 years I have worked as a User Experience Designer. Occasionally I work as a bicycle mechanic. :)

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I don't think most students really think about the "whys" of higher education. They probably should.

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Photo of Lucy Chen

This is a great post.

Wholistic education policy and philosophy is what is lacking in current systems

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