I remember my first day of kindergarten, my parents had given me a box of crayons, and a thing of play doh in my backpack. It made me super excited about school because naturally I thought that meant we would be using those things in class. I was a curious child, and wanted to learn as much as I could about the world, and all the different animals it had to offer. Instead, we took naps and sang the ABC’s. When I got home that day, I realized i hadn’t used the crayons or play doh once. I wouldn’t use them at all for the entire year. Even though that curious child still lives, I have felt a bit of disillusionment with school for a long time, perhaps to some degree due to day one of my education. As Mark Twain once said, “Never let your schooling interfere with your education”.
So when it came time for me to think about college, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about that either. I had absolutely no idea what i was supposed to do once I got there and what kinds of subjects I should study. I was actually really considering not attending at all, I thought of it as my way out-to leave the beaten path and try something new. My parents, naturally, attempted to convince me otherwise. Their status quo pleas didn’t seem to resonate with me, but then I remembered that little curious boy and could not let myself stunt his growth.
But even with that decision under my belt, I still had no idea what I would do at college, and beyond for that matter. And it turns out, I was not alone. According to the New York Times, “80 percent of [college] freshmen — even those who have declared a major — say they are uncertain about their major”(New York Times). This information most likely does not come to any surprise to students. Most people going through the college application process feel this exact same way, having to undergo a long and arduous process while not having a clue in the world if it is even worth it or what they will get out of it.
This was all too familiar my senior year of high school. Until then, my entire educational life had been dictated for me and based primarily on the same basic building blocks of english, history, science, and math. All of a sudden, a world of thousands of different and new subjects, most of which I had never even heard of before, fell on my lab and buried me alive.
For most people this decision is completely overwhelming, how could anyone know what they want to do for the rest of their lives after only being exposed to a small handful of subjects? Perhaps more important is the question, “How have we allowed these difficulties to be cemented in the foundation of our educational system?”
This question has been pondered over many times before, and you can read all about this type of research into the problems of our current higher education system in books like Andrew J. Coulson’s “Market Education: The Unknown History”, New York Times articles, my article “The Rise of Academic Disciplines” and more.
All of these masterpieces of the english language share a common ground of ideas: That we live in a very different world, educationally, than ever before. Basically, the way education works today serves mainly, among other things, to prepare students for the job market of the 21st century, which is characterized by a globalized world. A more diverse and expansive job market means schools start educating students more specifically in preparation for these more specialized career, marking a dramatic shift in the way education works.
To make a long story short, this is why “Colleges and universities [have] reported nearly 1,500 academic programs to the Department of Education in 2010, [and] 355 were added to the list over the previous 10 years”. An overwhelming abundance of academic options might just be a direct consequence of a changing, and growing world.
And as a result, widespread uncertainty, confusion, and dissillusionment with the thought of pursuing higher education may also be a consequence of Coulson’s “Market Education”.
Eventually, I choose to study the subject of philosophy, one of the oldest and arguably most essential aspect of education. It might seem obsolete today, but there is still a value to being a curious child who just wants to learn more. There was naturally lots of pushback from people reacting to my choice in choosing the old world method. Market education will always try to push the ancient teachings that live at the core of learning, away from young minds. Perhaps they see it as a distraction from important subjects, I see it as a re-connection and an empowerment.