10 September 2006

3 Looks Backwards

A.D. Freudenheim, The Editor

For anyone interested in education issues, the New York Times has published two interesting articles in the last week about getting a college education in America (“At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager but Unready,” by Diana Jean Schemo, 2 September 2006, and “Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College,” by Tama Lewin, 7 September 2006). While both articles address important issues, they left unanswered two fundamental questions about higher education, questions I raised in an article back in 2004: first, is college the right answer for most of these people, given the high cost of educating them with information that, for the most part, isn’t necessary or relevant for their working lives? And, doesn’t any discussion of college educations need to distinguish between the quality of education at different kinds of schools?

Let me reiterate that I believe in education for the sake of education – learning for the sake of improving the mind and the spirit, outside of any economic or other impact. Let me further state that I think it is in society’s interest to support or subsidize this kind of education, because adults who are encouraged to think about a range of ideas, who have some knowledge of the world and its history and cultures, are (hopefully) going to be more thoughtful citizens. It is the perpetual, very American, very specific coupling of jobs-and-education that is troublesome, because it raises expectations for the value of getting a “higher education” that may be out of step (and out of scope) with the real economic opportunities available, and which may correlate to the quality of that education.


The fifth anniversary of “9/11” is upon us, and for several weeks already I have been tired of the mournfully-celebratory news pieces. But it has made me go back and look at what I was thinking in 2002, one year after, and (then, as now) as the Jewish High Holidays approached. The answer seems to be not dissimilar: we Americans (not just the Jewish ones) need more humility in our lives. And I was concerned then – as I am now – with American Jews who confuse how Jewish values should apply in “global” conflicts. Did I expect more change in just four years? Sadly, I suppose not. (In a similar vein, Arlene Goldbard has an interesting piece posted about a totally different, non-violent “9/11” anniversary.)


The Wall Street Journal has recently published two articles about workplace issues that should be of interest – and some amusement, too. One article (“How to buy underwear as officewear,” by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, 2 September 2006) was about the creation of new lines of “lingerie” (read: camisoles) that can be worn to the office; the focus of other is clearly summed-up by it’s title: “How Not to Flunk the New Job” (by Angela Morris, 5 September 2006). These are, as readers know, issues near and dear (again and again) to my heart.


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