People go to college to qualify for jobs and careers that will provide them a more comfortable standard of living and perhaps higher status in our society. Loosely translated, this means that the more you learn the more you earn. This is what students try to tell Professor Gary Parnell in freshman English courses each quarter at Snow College when he asks them to write an essay that compares and contrasts educated and less-educated people.
This is also what 72.6 percent of the college students nationally say, according to a UCLA survey of 300,000 freshman in more than 500 colleges. This is a dramatic shift in opinion for students from 1971, when fewer than half of the freshmen noted "making more money" as a primary reason for college attendance.This simple answer has gotten to Parnell, who tries to make the point that if it's only a job students want, then there are easier and less expensive routes than a college education. Most large companies subsidize education for their employees anyway.
In addition, vocational educators continually remind us that most of the jobs in our society require two years or less education beyond high school. This kind of education is more properly called "training."
Convinced that there is more to an education than a means to a job, Parnell has complicated his quarterly writing assignment by insisting that as students compare and contrast the educated and the less educated, they not mention money.
The students complain. The chorus of complaints about the assignment seem to say "we are in college to get a good job."
The students try to hedge by writing in terms of security, professional opportunities, providing for the future and raising a family that won't have to depend on social welfare.
Parnell holds his ground. "What do you want out of college that you are willing to invest thousands of dollars in? Why are your parents willing to help? What does society want that it is willing to subsidize students in Utah colleges by paying in some cases 80 percent of the cost of educating people when tuition from the consumers of education only pays 20 percent?" His point is that there must be something intrinsically valuable in education and something that an educated person has besides a job that makes the investment in education worthwhile.
The students seem to begin to get the point as they are led through a writing assignment that challenges. A first insight is that maybe there is more to education than school. There are surely some good examples of educated people who didn't have the advantage of schooling. Students examine the idea that maybe education is not just for a job when they consider Brigham Young's statement that "knowledge is the power to think clearly, to act well in the world of work, and to appreciate life."
Perhaps there is even some mystery to be discovered in the value of education when one considers the insight of Ecclesiastes (1:18): "For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth in knowledge increaseth in sorrow." Perhaps the answer is in the famous line attributed to Socrates. "The unexamined life is not worth living."
Whatever the answer to the question posed by Parnell, there is more to education than a job. Education develops an insatiable appetite that encourages further education. The more we get, the more we want. There are more differences between the educated and the uneducated than how much they earn. College education buys more than job skills. At the least an education tries to develop a society that is not as quick to make judgments, that is willing to explore alternatives and that, in the words of Brigham Young, thinks clearly, appreciates life and, yes, acts well in the world of work.