My eldest graduates this Friday night. And of course, anytime I mention this, my listener asks what plans she has for next year. An appropriate question, but a little annoying because I can't answer sufficiently without a lot of words.
She's taking a “gap year”, as is apparently common in other parts of the world. She's still pretty unsure what she wants to do with her life, so she's going to look for a job – hopefully in a preschool, because her gifts and passions have always been with little kids – and spend the year figuring out if that's what she wants to do for a career, and if so, what further education will benefit her the most in that endeavor.
But she's also going to get a step up on her education through CLEP tests. You can get credit for a lot of college courses by testing out of them this way. It's MUCH cheaper than college (about $100 per test, for 3-6 credit hours). She can do it on her own time, around her work schedule. It's a good thing.
Hubby and I think this is a wise move on her part. It just makes no sense at all for her to spend the money and time to start on a college degree that, in the end, she may not need. It used to be that one went to college, puttered around a bit, and eventually found some direction in life. Higher education has become far too expensive to serve that purpose well. You gotta find your direction first and then decide if college is a necessary spot on that path.
Here's my concern, though. College isn't just about career preparation (or at least, it shouldn't be): colleges traditionally instructed people in the Liberal Arts, the subjects and skills that antiquity taught us are necessary for a person to know to be able to take an active part in civic life. History, literature, composition, public speaking, logic, mathematics, science, languages, philosophy, the arts, debate and discourse . . . yes, someone can make a living without knowing this stuff, but you would lose a lot in the making of a life. This is the art of living in liberty, of being a free person, a person of consequence, a person who can and chooses to make a difference. This is the stuff that develops good citizens. This is the stuff that develops good humans.
The Liberal Arts used to be the essence of education. They used to be the focus of learning even at the high school level. But I don't think even our colleges do them justice anymore. Somehow over the years, we have become a specialized, practical race who can't see the forest of Real Life for the trees of Making An Income. We're more afraid of our kids ending up in a dead end job than we are of them being dead-hearted people.
So, while I'm all on board with my daughter's "college and career" plans, I'm hoping I can encourage her, in some way, to continue to cultivate the Liberal Arts in her life. Unfortunately, that door may be temporarily closed. She's burnt out. Her high school years turned her off on education that doesn't seem to have a practical purpose. I'm hoping a year's break may make room for the love of learning to ignite again. But when it does, where will she go to feed that fire?
Society needs a way to take our educational burnouts and nurse them in the Liberal Arts without their having to go back to the schools that burnt them out in the first place.
Ah. A summer project for me.