Monday, April 06, 2009

My Rant for Liberal Arts Education

A fairly good editorial in the Bangor Daily News elicited these thoughts:

This editorial, while it tries to do the right thing, says exactly all the wrong things. The reason Maine has no jobs left is because UMaine has focussed on trying to "educate to the job" for the last 25 years. And what has that gotten us? Fewer and fewer jobs requiring less and less skills and knowledge. Dumbing down college has not made Maine students any more employable. It has only made Maine students more expendable.

The BDN makes the same mistake as those trying to defend not bulldozing the Amazon because a plant in there might lead to a cure for cancer. While possible, it is the worst way to defend a good cause. It is like saying that the best reason to help your mother is because someday she might help you. Starting a negotiation at the lowest common denominator rarely compels the parties to aim higher.

When I went to UMaine Orono, a large portion of the curriculum for mechanical and chemical engineering (and college in general) was directed at Jenness Hall and pulp and paper science. Basically, UMaine was a vocational school for the paper mills. It taught exactly what the paper mills wanted students to be taught. Now there are a tiny fraction of paper mills and paper mill jobs left in Maine, as compared to 1982.

Universities should be leading, not following. They should be creating new industries, not simply stamping out employees for old and dying ones. To do that means taking risks and letting the chips fall. Many of our nation's most smartest minds had no idea what they wanted to do when they grew up, let alone when they finished college.

No pain, no gain.


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