ExPatriatePen wrote:One thing a liberal arts degree shows, is a willingness to focus and dedication to accomplishing a goal.
Maybe it's not a 3.8 in Pre-Med, but it does show at least a minimal ability to stay on task and complete assignments.
But does it really accomplish those tasks any better than a high-school degree? Should it? Is college hard enough?
I agree that one of the traditional benefits of a college degree--regardless of major--was a demonstration that the graduate possessed the intelligence, work ethic, self-control, etc. necessary to take rigorous college courses and pass. It was a sign that you could stand up under pressure and perform challenging mental work. But with so many more people heading to college (a phenomenon that politicians have pushed at every turn), do we all really think that college is as hard as it was, say, 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago? Colleges don't want to fail out huge percentages of their students, so rather than send the more marginal students packing for home (like mac's theoretical 2.1 lit major), you dumb down the coursework so they can still graduate. But by dumbing down the coursework, you destroy the very value of the degree--a demonstration that someone can accomplish challenging mental work.
The attitude toward college in this country today reminds me of a cargo cult. During World War Two, a lot of the battles in the Pacific theater took place on or around islands populated by natives that didn't have much experience with modern technology. In some of those places, the natives saw Allied or Japanese soldiers carve airstrips out of the jungle and then magic flying machines would land and deliver all sorts of wondrous goods. Greatly impressed by this, the natives would try to build their own landing strips, often including control towers made of logs and even "radio equipment" made out of junk, with the expectation that the flying machines would come and deliver wondrous goods for them too. Of course, it is not the building of a runway that causes cargo aircraft to land, but they didn't know that. I see the same attitude for college. How many times have we heard that college graduates make "X" more dollars over their lives than people with high-school diplomas? But is that caused by the college degree, or is it maybe the fact that the people who have traditionally gone to college are the brighter, more capable, harder-working among us? Maybe it's the fact that college was tough, and a degree demonstrated that one could surpass that adversity? It's not the piece of paper on the wall that causes higher salaries.
I think a lot of students today are feeling the same sort of disappointment that the cargo-cult natives must have felt. They spent years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars carving their runways, but the mere fact that they obtained a degree did not make the big-money job offers land. Like the cargo cults, they are realizing that there is not necessarily a causative relationship between what they've been doing and what they want to happen.