University Courses Aren’t Meant for Preparing One For “The Real World”

In yesterday’s Daily Titan, Sabrina Park wrote an article entitled, “Biology Does Not Teach Me About My Life“, in which she wonders “why there aren’t more general education courses offered that teach an extensive curriculum on the skills necessary to function properly in the real world.”  The basic thrust of her article is to advocate for classes in college that better prepare one for post-college life.  Indeed, this idea isn’t limited to Ms. Park; her fellow CSUF student Amy Leadbetter writes elsewhere in the same issue “the purpose of college, you will notice that this environment that you spend four, five, sometimes even more years consumed by is supposed to prepare you for the real world.”

However, universities are not meant to help one with one’s life generally.  They are meant to provide students with greater knowledge of the world, perhaps better tools with which to approach given topics, etc. and, ultimately, provide one with better job opportunities.  Indeed, she quotes Derek Thompson of The Washington Post, “Education is an appreciating asset. By that, I mean it helps young workers leapfrog low-skill jobs, so its value increases over time.”

Although Ms. Park likes the idea of universities offering more courses to accommodate students and help them in their growing up, that’s simply not the place for such to take place.  First, there are on-campus opportunities with various clubs and other groups on-campus in which to take advantage and to help one learn other life skills.  Second, there are off-campus opportunities, as well.  Third, there may very well be other institutions or organizations that offer such life-skills training.  (Although, in my mind, I am thinking of things in a Jewish context, such as kibbutzim, yeshivot, or other such programs in Israel, other opportunities include ashrams, or other spiritual centers, and more (including non-religious/spiritual opportunities).)

I think ultimately, it depends on one’s outlook on the role of university and what it’s role is: although it may be designed to teach students information and inculcate knowledge (and perhaps analysis, etc.), university/college can be a time of personal self-growth and discovery.  However, one shouldn’t make the mistake, as Ms. Park and Ms. Leadbetter have in understanding university as necessarily supposed to be teaching/equipping students with life-skills for beyond college/university.  Nevertheless, as an opportunity for young adults to try new things and as a time of exploration, it can be a time and perhaps space for such personal growth, but that’s not the purpose of the institution.

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About Rabbi Drew

The current SoCal Jewish Student Services Rabbi.
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