The Ongoing Controversy
In the continuing controversy about what type of education is best, both proponents of classical education and proponents of tech education make some excellent points. Economics is only one aspect of the controversy. According to one statistics, as many as one in five undergraduate degrees don’t produce earnings any greater than a high school diploma. However, a college degree does prove helpful in gaining employment. The unemployment rate of four-year graduates is only 4.5 percent, as compared to the 24 percent among those with only a high school diploma.
According to one article the cost of a traditional four-year college degree has risen by more than 538 percent since 1985. While many degrees produce a relatively low increase in wage-earning power, overall, a college graduate earns an average of $1.3 million dollars more over a lifetime than those without degrees. However, 40 percent of new graduates are saddled with an average of $22,000 dollars in school loan debt and the interest on that debt often translates into much more.
A technical education usually costs about half the price of a four-year degree, and in many cases, results in more earning power. Technical education schools also tend to partner with businesses and focus on providing skills that are in high demand in the professional world. Another benefit of an alternative education focused on technology is that, like classical education, it teaches the necessary skills for people to work on a team.
The history of classical education and the inclusion of such subjects as philosophy and political science can be traced back to ancient Rome. All free citizens were expected to study grammar, logic and rhetoric in order to participate in civic affairs including public debates and military service. In democratic countries, a literate and informed citizenry is the basis for public education. While economic rewards are an important consideration in choosing an educational path, money, as they say, isn’t everything.
While technical education is more focused on productive skills, supporters of classical education point to a number of worthwhile educational objectives that are equally important. A classical education focuses on improving oral and written communication skills, framing issues in historical context, exposure to art and literature and civic responsibility. To achieve those goals, in addition to their major course of study, students are required to take courses in the sciences and humanities. Most people would agree that that increased knowledge of the natural world, ourselves, and our humanity provides both individual and social benefits.
Timing is Everything
There was a time when a person chose a single career within their lifetime, and even worked at the same company for their entire career. However, there are many studies nowadays that show how people today can expect to have an average of seven careers in their lifetimes. Largely due to technological innovation and advancement, choice in education has become not just a one-time life decision, but a series of choices over time.
In the controversy surrounding classical versus technological education, the good news is that there is no need to choose one at the expense of the other. Because technical education costs less and provides more earning power more quickly, many young people may opt for it as only their first rather than their only choice. They may choose to complete their classical educations while working, without the need to accumulate debt.
Further, many employers offer tuition credits to employees taking courses that can potentially benefit their businesses. In fact, technology is developing so rapidly that many employers rely on their employees taking courses periodically from educational programs focused on rapidly changing technology and providing the skills and knowledge required to utilize it.
All education is valuable, as evidenced by the many four-year colleges that now offer practical professional internships in addition to a liberal arts education. More than ever, today’s workforce is composed of lifelong learners. They must have the skills to effectively problem-solve in an increasingly complex world in which technology has expanded the definition of community to include other cultures and societies as well as their own. That’s why when it comes to education, it’s no longer a matter of which type, but of when.