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Why a Great Books Education Is Not so Practical?

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In today’s society a specific education is required for the majority of careers. Medical doctors must complete years of school not only dealing with general medicine but also handing specific parts of the body, situations and even age groups. Most high risk and high paying jobs require years of job specific training to further in the field and it’s for a good reason.

In Crabtree’s “Why a Great Books Education is Most Practical!” he argues that it is most practical to have a great books education over some more job specific training integrating technology and sciences. He states that the education that includes picking an undergraduate major then moving directly into the workforce or attending a graduate school to further education “is not suited to the economic environment currently developing” (212). On the other hand, in Jacoby’s “When Bright Girls Decide That Math is a Waste of Time” she urges parents not to dismiss math and science classes and avoid “intellectual handicaps” (630). Solely, a great books education is not practical, merging Crabtree’s idea along with job specific training and math and science courses would provide a well-rounded education for today’s society and workforce.

In today’s workplace, knowledge in science and technology is inevitable in order to grasp a career. A great books education is more of an “old time” education where English classes were required to read classic literature, but as times have changed those practices have phases out. A great books education is useless to a computer programmer or engineer. Although Crabtree states that the field of medicine has been called into question due to “an excess of doctors in the United States right now” (213) it is vital that doctors always be trained to the highest level of scientific and technological degree possible because of their high-risk occupation. Since students mostly attend college to prepare for a specific career, this type of training is not provided with a great books education due to the complexity of the field.

Jacoby believes that math and sciences are the key to education and the gateway to successful careers. Starting in high school, Jacoby argues that students should take advanced math and science courses all the way through graduation to insure a balanced education. Now, in order to graduate, most high schools require a specific amount of advanced science and math classes in order to prepare students for college and even a workforce consisting of skills those classes taught in those courses. Even in college, students must complete general math and science classes regardless of their major. This was not implemented for any reason. Universities recognize that in order to produce a well-rounded scholar that is successful in the working world math and science classes are required even for suppose an art major.

Crabtree suggests that if one goes for a job in high demand as a programmer, electrical engineer, or computer programmer that even though they hold good job security in the foreseeable future, that since technology is changing so rapidly that it would be hard to keep up with the training of this occupation and that the longevity of careers are in question. He says, “some companies do not want software writers or engineers over thirty-five years old because their training is out of date and they are too set in their ways to approach problems with fresh thinking. These companies prefer to replace older employees with recent graduates.

Thus the longevity of one’s career in this fast-changing field could be relatively short.” (213) But, he also says that eventually technology will render many jobs dead, which is his reason for thinking a great books education is most practical. In his article, he described a story about an artisan who was highly demanded for his work in touching up photographs. When new software was developed, he closed down his shop because users with little to no training were able to achieve his level of work for less money and at home. Technology is claiming the jobs that can easily be turned into hardware, software program or can be move to a remote location. Jobs that require the expertise in math and science that cannot be duplicated by a machine will always be available, whereas jobs like the artisan had may be taken over by a computer program.

A great books education does not provide the degrees of occupations that render the highest paying jobs. Degrees in art, political science, English or a foreign language require years of building to get to a point of high income. A liberal degree in political science may only be useful if it was put toward becoming a senator or president. An art degree may be a great idea once landing a job as media director at a high end fashion magazine. But until these rare jobs are achieved, the degree that was so expensive to get will start off as punishment. Crabtree even states that a great books education is no designed to make money. He says, “It is designed to achieve the even more practical goal historically assigned to education: to teach students how to live wisely.” (213) Times have changed. In this day in age, money is the reason people go to college. College provides the specific training needed to get the highest paying jobs and there is no doubt that the highest paying jobs require math, science and technology.

Crabtree’s last statement says that a great books education is not for every student. A student that chooses to take the path of a liberal arts education must be very confident in their career path and the certainty that it will provide the lifestyle it will provide. But for the majority of students, a great books education proposes more risks than benefits. The highest paying jobs on the market right now require more math, science and technology experience than a great books education can provide. The best way of education is to merge a great books education with the more practical job specific training. If a student is trained in their specific job path and a great books education is integrated that is specified in their degree plan is added this will create a well-rounded student prepared for the modern workforce.

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