We are separated by thousands of miles, decades of age, and, in one important instance, that danged chromosome. We are the Men and Woman of Mondo, convened once again to mull over this topic: Is a well-rounded education a waste of money? Or should a person just learn what's necessary to take on a career? Is an education a means to an end, or a way to human betterment? Let's find out (or at least start somethin'!)
From: Mark Saleski
To: The Hot Topic Team
Re: A Well-Rounded Education
Can we just get this one over with by flinging the obvious answer? Of course a well-rounded education is worth it. It's simple!
But it's not.
When dealing with things like very technical disciplines (the various flavors of engineering, for example), very often few electives outside of the major are required. But really, what's the big deal here? Why take courses that have nothing to do with future employment? Why learn something if you're not going to use it?
This debate was rubbed right in my face when I was in college. After escaping from mechanical engineering (What was I thinking?!) to the kinder waters of computer science, I discovered that a whole world of non-technical electives was open to me. There was no hesitation on my part: psychology, philosophy, sociology, and logic — all tastier in some ways than the nearly full plate of computer and math courses I was looking at.
Well, my friends thought that I was nuts. What the hell did Existentialism have to do with complex data structures? How might Political Psychology help me to write software?
The answers are: Nothing, It can't, and What are you afraid of?!
OK. Maybe that last bit was a little too flippant. The thing is, I see learning as less of a training exercise (read: for making money only) and more of a way to "seed" the future. Sure, I took a bunch of math and computer courses. Yes, I did graduate and use that stuff to write manufacturing software. Does that mean I pissed away money on those electives?
No, and "future" is the key word.
First, you are not your job. I suppose you can be, but to limit your knowledge to the professional arena is to unnecessarily constrain yourself and your future. One small example: a short while ago, I struck up a conversation with a person on the topic of website hit-counters. It turns out that this person shared my interest in psychology. Because of that intersection of ideas, I'm now occasionally writing articles for the magazine that she (Hi Mary!) helps to edit. That is an opportunity I could not have imagined twenty-five years ago when signing up for a course in Social Psychology.