A Narrow Focus on Vocational Goals


"The main thing needed to make people happy is intelligence, and it can be fostered by education." Bertrand Russell 


Our schools have never done a very effective job of developing students’ appreciation for the benefits of a liberal arts education.  The increasingly narrow focus of public education on preparation for a career has exacerbated this problem.  With most parents and educators buying into the belief that the value of education is roughly equal to the amount of money you can earn with the skills and knowledge you have acquired it should not be surprising that students have come to the same conclusion.  The age-old question “Why do I need to know this?” can now be translated as “What does this have to do with getting a job?” 

The clear implication is that a liberal arts-education has little or no intrinsic value.  This is not the case. Being well-educated does have its rewards, even if our schools do a very poor job of convincing students that this is true.  The educational process can assist us in developing a better understanding of ourselves and other people, as well as the way we interact with each other and with nature. In this regard, education helps us to be better family members, neighbors, and citizens.  Conversely, a lack of understanding can lead to unnecessary conflict and make it more difficult to find acceptable solutions to legitimate conflicts. 

A comprehensive knowledge of the world and our place in it, combined with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, increases the likelihood that we will understand what has gone wrong, when things go wrong, as well as making it more likely that we will find the most effective means of resolving conflicts and dealing with life’s difficulties.  We make choices, small and large, all day every day.  Choosing wisely increases the likelihood that we will have a good life.  Education can help us make better choices.  We need to do a better job of helping our children understand that the value and the importance of being well-educated extend well beyond the limits of the skills and knowledge needed to get a job.