“Adopting a policy that views higher education solely as job training is extremely dangerous, because it disregards much of the work colleges and universities do in preparing our citizenry and it leaves graduates unprepared to adapt as economies evolve and jobs change.”
“Graduates of 4-year colleges and universities should be more than employable. They should be able to progress on a career path that will sustain them for a lifetime...
A baccalaureate [bachelor’s] degree develops extensive knowledge in an area of academic focus and foundational knowledge of the basic areas of human awareness (including history, science, mathematics, economics, language, and the arts). It also develops the ability to think critically, analyze complex problems, and work within a team.
To fulfill TCNJ’s “full institutional mission,” writes Gitenstein:
All of TCNJ's students must complete learning requirements that demand intellectual and scholarly growth while exposing them to quantitative reasoning; social change in historical context; behavioral and cultural perspectives; literary, visual, or performing arts; worldviews; natural science; interdisciplinary study; and civic-engaged learning. This is what makes TCNJ graduates well-rounded and vibrant contributors within both their communities and professional fields, throughout their lives.
It is absolutely necessary that, nationally, we do not lose sight of the need for colleges and universities to produce not only skilled technicians but multi-dimensional thinkers and problem solvers, as well. The mission of 4-year colleges and universities is not simply to prepare future employees. We must prepare thoughtful and engaged citizens who have broad perspectives, open minds, and diverse abilities.
Leaving aside judgement on the specifics or the ideological agenda of the TCNJ “mission,” Gitenstein is generally right that children need a strong foundation upon which to build their careers. The essential purpose of education is to prepare students to deal with reality through the use of their own minds “throughout their lives.”
But Gitenstein raises serious questions about American education. Why haven't children acquired this intellectual foundation before college age? What were they doing for the previous 13 years of K-12 education? If K-12 schools’ mission is not precisely to give children the “foundational knowledge” and “ability to think” they’ll need to flourish in their lives, then what exactly is their purpose? Have the public K-12 schools utterly failed in their mission, leaving colleges to make up the lost ground? Or are higher education institutions merely milking the “federal student aid” gravy train by forcing college students into redundant, unnecessary curricula? Is it some combination of both? The answer to this last question is; probably both.
There is no reason why kids should not be ready to begin occupational training by the time they reach young adulthood, not just upon entering college, but even beginning in high school. That colleges and universities must provide what is essentially primary and secondary education, for whatever reason, is an indictment of both progressive education and, more broadly, government-financed schools.