I commonly ask my students why they are attending college. “Why are you here?” I’ll ask. “Why are you spending serious money to attend college?” and of course, many of their answers are the same: “I want a good job, money, marriage, etc.” And why not? We all need money to survive, want a job we are proud of, and perhaps a family. However, is that what university should be for, to prepare students for a job in order to make money?
Idealistically, entering university used to mean a chance to explore the world and one’s self with more depth. To understand where we are in history, where we’ve been and where we are going. To better yourself, your community, society, nation, and the world. However, in this age I fear that the goal of education is not to become wise to the world, but rather to become more clever in order to make money to accomplish personal goals.
The paradox of learning in today’s digital world is that we have more access to information than we’ve ever had in history. However, instead of educating ourselves on this information, we are becoming more tightly focused on chasing corporate dollars. We have the ability to learn about the environment, structures of oppression, international exploitation, philosophy, science, literature, the various peaks and valleys of civilization. We can gain insight into where we are going as predicted by credible economists, scientists, and other writers and readers of society. But I wonder, at the end of the day, are we mostly using our information devices for anything other than distracting us from what is important?
So what information are we paying attention to? Well, going back to many student’s answers to my question about why they go to college, it's the information that helps us gain economic fortune. It seems rather unfortunate if today’s university, the highest institution of knowledge, is then just a place where we learn in order to make money.
In is poem entitled “Choruses from the Rock” T.S. Eliot asks:
“Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
In other words, question the knowledge that is in the information that you are being told. Question whether there is any wisdom in the knowledge you are being asked to understand. And finally question whether or not you are living for life, and not for something else. I prefer to live in a society where students go to college to live a wiser life, rather than an economically successful one, what about you?