08 February 2016

Skillz in Action! Thinking Critically about Ads Posing as Copy in IHE.

Okay, class, go read this: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/02/08/debate-over-liberal-arts-vs-vocationalism-lazy-one-essay

And then go check out this: http://burning-glass.com/

See, with the right technology purchase, you can turn your impractical liberal arts majors into an entry-level corporate workforce. Painlessly. Effortlessly. It won't hurt a bit. You won't even notice.
This approach requires no major curricular overhaul, no fundamental change to how colleges teach the arts, humanities and social sciences. It should not be a distraction from the fundamental role of these fields: to explore the connections across knowledge and evaluate ideas critically.
How's that again? Just a few paragraphs up, Smigelman was pointing out that academic advisors in the liberal arts, being mostly faculty themselves, were out of touch with the needs of a rapidly changing workplace, clueless about the narrow technical skills that can boost a student's employability. How do you retool THAT academic-advising workforce without distraction from the "fundamental role" of those departments? Has Smigelman ever seen actual actual academic departments collaborate on a certificate program? Has he seen how tapped out faculty advisors already are by the multiple institutional gaps they already have to fill? No biggie:
This is where technology can help. Career applications can tell students what kinds of jobs will be accessible to them and what skills they will need to get there, enabling them to pick courses on the periphery of their liberal arts degree that will give them the practical tools to achieve good career outcomes.
Hmmm. Guess who makes these "career applications"? Yup.

Smigelman isn't wrong about his basic solution: liberal arts students need more help than they generally get identifying their strengths, recognizing the kinds of extracurricular involvement that will help they acquire particular competencies, and learning how to get information about possible careers. But we who help them do that need to keep clearly in mind that our duty is to our students, many of whom will change careers several times in the course of their lives, and many of whom just haven't lived enough yet to know what kind of job will give them long-term satisfaction.

Our duty is NOT to corporate employers who would prefer to offload the training of an entry-level workforce on to institutions of higher learning.

The debate over "practical" majors vs. the liberal arts is not lazy: it strikes at the heart of what higher education is for. Is the purpose of our college and universities to educate human beings and citizens, or is it to train students for their first post-college job? Ideally we do both, but many of us in the liberal arts find ourselves desperately trying to carve out room for the former, while multiple institutional pressures tend toward the latter.

Student who know they want to go into human resources (Smigelman’s example) or advertising or sports management can probably work electives and minors into a suitable program--and more power to them. Similarly, though Smigel doesn’t say this, liberal arts majors can find ways to develop skills through their other activities--every serious student organization needs someone who can run Excel (another of Smigelman’s examples), a part-time job in an institutional communications office can provide on-the-fly training in Adobe, internships make it possible for students to sample potential careers, getting involved in a volunteer organization offers ample opportunities to develop organizational and management skills. And yes, faculty in the traditional liberal arts disciplines can do much more than they do now to encourage these kinds of engagement and to encourage students to situate what they learn in the classroom in relation to their overall life goals.

But how many happy human resources managers knew at eighteen that such a career was what they wanted? And how many students have diligently shaped themselves for a first post-college job, only to discover a couple of years in that it’s not what they expected and that their talents seek a different outlet? Most people do many different things in the course of their lives, and few people end up doing a job directly related to their undergraduate study. Much as we want our students to be employed upon graduation, when we spend four years directing them to jobs that “represent compelling targets” and making sure that they acquire “technical skill bundles” along the way, we’re diverting energy away from the fundamental work of our disciplines and making the interests of employers our own.

It's not lazy to see this as a problem worth arguing about within our institutions and departments. It IS lazy to pretend that a software program will allow us to serve our students without inadvertently selling their souls.

No comments :

Post a Comment