I had a part completed post yesterday on the international scene. I put it aside in part because I have a tooth abscess and find concentration difficult, more because I found the scene depressing, requiring too much research to say something sensible.
Today instead, a brief continuation of the discussion that began on Sunday Essay – John Roskam and the value of an Arts degree. There Thomas wrote in a comment:
When studying my Arts degree (part of the double B.Education/B.Arts), there was quite a high number of mature age students. Not something ridiculous, like 50%. But certainly something around the 30% range.
Of this, I'd say half were people looking for a 'sea change' so to speak.
The other half were people WELL outside of the working age and were engaging in pure learning. Not for any other purpose than to learn more about the world.
This has to be the noblest form of education aside from learning to help others.
I agree with previous commenters that the Arts degree is largely misunderstood (and, to a degree, mismanaged by universities). It's obviously not reverse welfare. For the majority of people, it's a way to achieve an end - whether it's a teaching focus (as with me), a chance for existing workers to up-skill so to speak, or a chance just to learn. And that's to say nothing of the students who enter Arts degrees from high school (quite a number of students do it every year) because they just want to get into uni and don't know what they want to do and/or genuinely want to learn.
I'll finish with this: I believe it's quite short-sighted to wholesale criticise a degree, graduates, or the like without actually even ATTEMPTING to understand them (the degrees and the graduates) - and this is what comes through from Roskam's piece.
I thought that Thomas’s comments drew out a number of issues, including the variety in students and student needs. Arguably, the co-related concepts of educational for national efficiency, education for personal and national economic return, education for job purposes are swamping all other considerations. The idea that a key purpose of education is to help individuals live richer and more fulfilling lives, to pursue their own intellectual interests, to just enjoy doing or making things, to use their education for public purposes that may not provide an immediate cash return, has been lost sight of.
I think that’s a pity. It risks impoverishing our society, possibly leaving us with more economic wealth but with a diminished sprit.