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Job Training Versus Character Education

images (1) copyModern higher education has become proficient at convincing the American public that to earn a good living, one must hold a college/university degree.
While some jobs/careers do require specialized training, the scheme of requiring a degree in most cases, is more a function of credentialism and jumping through hoops than actual job preparation.
images (2) copyJust ask the thousands of employers who interview tens of thousands of “qualified” applicants only to find themselves forced out of necessity to hire perfectly credentialed and completely ill-equipped employees.
Historically (1636-1920’s), American higher education was designed to build character, not train for employment.
Almost all job training (beyond day labor) was accomplished through apprenticeship.
But during the 1940’s to 1980’s the educational plan promoted by higher education was to secure a degree, which would lead to 40-50 years of service to a single company, after which the employee would retire with a good pension.
CaptureToday, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average employee will hold no less than 14 distinct jobs or career positions with different companies and in different fields over the same 40-50 years with little to no retirement plan.
Other statistics show that 75% of all college graduates do not secure employment in the field of their degree and the percentage increases significantly a decade after graduation.
So attending college for the purpose of job training for a single career has been obsolete for 20 to 30 years. This being the case, what is the point of college education?
From the perspective of history, the rationale for a liberal arts college education has never changed—at least in the United States, it has always been to build individual character and national citizenship.  It was never designed to train students for employment—that was the role of the free market.
The legacy of American higher education training independent, self-supporting citizens who were highly literate, well versed in history and literature, philosophy and languages, science and mathematics, law and virtue, and devoted to Deity was the foundation of American society for nearly 400 years.
This educational legacy which lasted from the 17th century well into the 20th, perpetuated a culture of the single income American family with mother caring for the children and the family supporting father in the family business or ranch/farm. It promoted a sense of honesty over prosperity, family values and fidelity over selfish needs and wants, service over entertainment.
So why is that legacy not our standard today?  Why has the percentage of active Christians declined decade after decade for the past sixty years?
The answer is easy—we have forgotten who we are. The strength of America has always been her fiercely independent, creative and religiously reverent people.  A people who used their Yankee ingenuity and their Puritan work ethic to solve any problem or hardship that came their way.  It was a culture grounded in doing what is right—even at a loss, where a hand-shake was as good as a written contract, and where people seemed to be in competition to sacrifice for the next generation. Until we recover our collective memory, we will suffer in the depths of bondage and ignorance.
This former sense of obligation to preserve the past and safeguard the future, to make decisions where money or entertainment are not the prevailing criteria, where thoughtful consideration of how our actions will impact our spouse, the rest of our family and the community at large, is the desired philosophical outlook of a liberal arts education.
Benjamin Franklin said it well when he declared that the purpose of education was to train us to, “pray as if we will die tomorrow and work as if we will live for 100 years.”
What Employers Want
Job training is a relatively easy process and in most cases only takes a few months of OJT.
Rather than credentials, what most employers really want are prospective employees who have a real work ethic, who are punctual, who value personal hygiene, who are creative, and exhibit initiative.
They crave employees who can follow the rules to perfection and at the same time, think outside-of-the-box to improve the rules for greater efficiency.
Employers want people working for them who are honest, who have common sense and who value loyalty.
Virtually none of these characteristics are part of modern job training diploma programs. Training citizens in the above-mentioned qualities in addition to an “abundant,” mind-opening education is the purpose of liberal arts education. I don’t know how to say it any clearer.  And if you the reader, will stop for one minute and carefully consider what I am saying (especially employers) you will find yourself in agreement.
So why do we continue to promote a “job training” system of higher education when it has been failing to meet our workforce needs for so long?
Why are we so enamored with credentialism and the false security of a stable, long-term career?
What does the future hold for our children and grandchildren?  Can we honestly see the current national structure maintaining prosperity?
Study History to Navigate the Future
Alexander Tytler, a university professor of history, a contributor to the Scottish Enlightenment, and a contemporary to the American Founding, taught that every 200-250 years, society completes a full revolution of this cycle:
For the past twenty years, we have taught that America was somewhere on the “pre-bondage” side of the cycle, between selfishness and dependence.
As we enter 2013, I think it is clear to anyone who will honestly look at the facts, that we have without a doubt entered the “bondage” phase.
Just consider the likely conclusions of three obvious trends in America today (and don’t forget the historical evidence):

  •  the direction and probable fate of the U.S. dollar/economy
  • the direction of American culture
  • the irreversible direction the U.S. national debt

This bondage phase will become more and more obvious over the next decade.  What does this mean for our families and our finances?  It means that we will soon need to adjust to a new standard of living.  It means that those qualities and desired results of a liberal arts education will be in higher demand than ever before.
What does it mean for our form of governance?  It means that government will increase dramatically as a top–down, anti-local, over-the-top taxing entity or it will fail and we will be left to our own devises in a very fractionalized, almost tribal environment.
Other cycles corroborate the Tytler Cycle and indicate that we will likely face war conditions on American soil within a decade. It means that those qualities and desired results of a liberal arts education will be in higher demand than ever before and may very well be the difference between creating solutions and increasing freedom or submitting to the powers that be—contrary to principles we know to be true.
Some would say that such talk is negative and doomsday-ish.  We see it more as a reality with incredible potential opportunities to do good, to be righteous, and to provide true leadership—leadership that one must be prepared and trained for.  We also believe that we have entered a time that requires a heightened awareness and frankness not found in a third turning (see the Fourth Turning).
Monticello College is the only institution of higher education in America that I know of, that is consciously preparing leaders and citizens for these historically sound inevitabilities.
Is this crazy talk?  Only time will tell, but until our predictions come to fruition, we will continue to build Monticello College as a training ground for a new kind of leader—a leader needed to pilot a people out of bondage back into abundance.

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