Sociological Analysis

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College Education

May 20th, 2011 · 4 Comments

The findings about the quality of college education in this NYT article by Arum and Roska, were quite surprising to me. I suddenly feel in the minority of college students who actually notice a difference in my writing skills, critical thinking abilities, and simply my view of the world, from my freshman year to now, going on my senior year. Perhaps this has something to do with the types of courses my peers are taking and whether or not they are truly interested in them and have the desire to learn more about it. Ever since I was in high school, I knew what I wanted to major in: Political Science (and plan for Law School after), and I wasted no time in doing that at Queens College. I later on added Business and Sociology as minors, because through taking LASARS I realized I also had great interests in these subjects. I do my research before taking a class, and I’m genuinely excited to go back on the first day and embark on that semester-long journey. While I admit, I am not a morning person, I’m the type of child who was taught “you go to school, unless you’re so sick you MUST stay in bed all day” other than that, my parents never allowed me to use silly excuses, even when I was younger, to skip a day of school.

School has always been a top priority matter for me, even as a 1st grader. However, I know what it’s like the opposite way too! My brother, just a year younger than me, is the complete total opposite; Great kid, but hated school work. His teachers always liked him, after all he was the cute chubby kid in class, but they always had complaints to my parents about how they know he’s capable of doing better academically. He’s now a sophomore at City Tech and at times, even I am surprised at how much he has “taken” to college. It’s like he finally found his thing: mechanical engineering and he’s doing so well, compared to how lazy he seemed to be when younger. For this reason, I strongly believe that when students are deeply engaged and interested in the courses they are taking it will make a difference in the education they allow themselves to receive.

Perhaps researchers need to investigate another social question concerning college education: Is the job market so narrowed that students are simply taking courses they are not interested in, but believe that it will land them a job in the near future? With the stifling economy, and concern for our generation’s financial future, I would be curious to see the results of such a study!

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1    efeliciano510 // May 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Reading this response was very interesting to me and almost felt as if I was reading another article. I could relate to this with my sister as well in the situation you describe with your brother and I thought your last point was interesting in concern with the job market.

  • 2    Prof. Hala // May 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Roshnee — this was just the kind of serious, well-considered response I was looking for. I think the prevailing conditions, especially at public colleges, are such that ‘learning’ (and skills-building) depends increasingly on individual students’ initiative. Resources — for instruction, career or grad school planning and prep — are out there, though they’re in short supply, but it requires awareness and initiative to to locate and access them. If a student *comes to* college with discipline and focus, like you, they can take advantage of the resources to learn and succeed. Something as seemingly minor as thoroughly researching course offerings before enrolling, I think, can make all the difference in one’s college experience — a single course, with the right instructor, can change everything, starting a chain of interactions/events/academic-career connections that steer a professional path. Even for those students who sort of stumbled into college, landing in the right courses, the kind that interest and inspire, as you note, can transform college from a waste of time and money into something worthwhile, beneficial, even life-changing.

    Understanding changes in the US job market and overall economy, as you suggest, are essential to designing effective college curricula. After repeating for so long how a college degree is *necessary*for secure, well-compensated, and fulfilling employment, we’ve lost sight of the fact that a degree is not *sufficient* for success — and we’ve lost sight of economic restructuring that’s resulted in actual declines in real median incomes over the last 30 years, creating unprecedented levels of income and wealth inequality.

  • 3    Prof. Hala // May 23, 2011 at 9:11 am

    A broader sociological observation I meant to make builds on the point about how individual factors (value orientation and starting skills, etc.), individual initiative, and self-reliance increasingly determine learning and post-college success: It seems that college operates increasingly according to a ‘market’ model.

  • 4    Prof. Hala // May 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    One last thing. A student from another class responded to this, arguing that college is less important to him b/c he plans on attending law school, which had me scratching my head since plans to attend grad school is perhaps the main reason why college matters (he thinks it’s enough to have a decent GPA and ace the LSATs). You, on the other hand, seem to have your bases covered, but I thought I’d share this link with you as well. It underscores the imperative of building an application that will get you into the highest-tier program possible — because JDs from ‘mediocre’ programs are increasingly leaving students jobless and enslaved by debt.

    If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this article from the NYT Magazine: ‘Is Law School a Losing Game?’ And there was another stunning article in the Times a couple months ago about numbers fudging with respect to law schools’ grad placement rates and earnings.

    So keep taking college seriously, because it (the GPA, activities, honors, internships, Letters of Recommendation…) really does matter.

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