Saturday, June 04, 2005

Liberal Education is a Waste

Like many in my generation, I graduated from basic training to professional training to work. There may have been a few liberal artsy fartsy courses in the mix, but they had little effect on me or my career.

Basic training began at Sacred Heart Cathedral School where I learned reading, writing and arithmetic, largely because the nuns believed in rote memorization and discipline. Religion was used to teach right from wrong and values, both moral and civic. And the nuns believed in competition, marking with a sharp red pencil and awarding gold stars only for perfect tests.

Basic training continued at McQuaid Jesuit High where we were taught Latin, logic and patriotism. Oh, and discipline, this time in the form of “JUG” (Justice Under God) for any infraction of the code, some of which was known only to the Fathers. The Jesuits also believed in competition and they taught us teamwork by individually taking on the whole class. We never won.

At the University of Rochester I was professionally trained in math and physics, sufficient to earn the PhD in physics after too many years. That training prepared me for teaching in college and research in industry, a career combination I choose to maximize our cash flow. We had two children by then and Lee needed to go to college.

But I suffered from my lack of liberal arts courses. I’m sure that I could have been a better conversationalist at dinner parties, though the bar is fairly low for physicists. Psychology might have made me a better manager. But compared to what a large number of kids learn today, I’m glad that my education was basic and professional.

That is not to say that the Liberal Arts are uninteresting. It’s just wasted on the young. The best time to learn literature, history, philosophy, language, art and cosmology is when you have the time to enjoy them, when you’re secure in your job and on into retirement. You can check out my midlife educational adventure in the next post.


Blogger Stephanie said...

Truer words... :-)

7:57 AM  
Anonymous maggie said...

You were ambitious and took every opportunity available Bill. Kids these days just want to get off as easy as they can. There are still ambitious young people out there ... As a friend and proud mom I want you to know Andrew finished the International Baccalaureate Program in High School which has higher standards and requires community service for a HS degree. As a result, he earned almost a year of college credits before entering Washington-Lee. Now, he'll graduate with two degrees, A BA in Math and a BS in Computer Science. In addition, he also works for the university during the summer for his professors doing research. The opportunities are there, kids just need to seek them .... you'll be glad to know he's a good Republican too !!! Unfortunately, students aren't motivated to excel and top honors seem to go to foreign students who value the educational opportunities available here. Love you Bill and send me that advice ! Mags

4:32 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

Most of what passes for education today is trade school. Classical education is pretty much dead and what remains is so corrupted by political correctness as to be worthless. My older son refused college, learned his trade on the job and is probably better read than his college attemding peers.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of Kids today really do want to get off as easy as they can... do their time and get out! It is a shame, because there is so much out there for them. I will say that Christy has been lucky the last few years. She has had 2 amazing teachers that have gotten through to her and motivated her to look outside the box...

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The time to appreciate humanities and a “liberal” college study is in our retirement and/or approaching such. As I stated earlier, I only had scientific studies for Pharmacy in the ‘50’s so now is the time for me to catch up on all the great writers that liberal college classes offered.

Keep up, please, your background. It’s re-assuring to a lot of us scientific people.


2:36 PM  

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