By Beth Connors-Manke
February Featured Essay
Recently, advertising copy came across my desk that gave me pause. It wasn’t a “hmmm…” pause, the kind that signals interest in a fresh or complex issue. Rather, it was a “what?!?” pause. A “whose Kool-Aid have we been drinking?” pause. The copy read something like this: “Announcing our new undergraduate major in XYZ! Upon graduation, our majors will be experts in XYZ.”
My alarm was born of an issue of fact and an issue of philosophy. First, the issue of fact: college graduates are not experts in anything. Those who have had a liberal arts education are, one hopes, well-rounded, which is pretty much the opposite of being an expert. Those who have majored in pre-professional tracks are simply at the beginning stage of understanding in their fields. A few years of education in an academic discipline or professional field is, quite simply, just an education in that discipline or field. Teachers know this; employers know this. Only the “consumer” believes the expert ploy—which leads to the second, philosophical issue: what is education for? by what means does it provide the most value? to whom? for whom? why?