Students are in class to learn, not practice for the “real world”

December 5, 2017

Jasmine Nelson

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    I firmly believe that there is no such thing as the “real world.”

   A college education should prepare students for their lives and careers as intellectuals, thinkers and continual learners. College classes are not practice for the “real world.”

    But many undergraduate classes at UCCS use job-focused teaching methods to prepare students for work in their desired fields.

    These methods include doing work for local companies and assigning work-related homework. I’ve turned in my resume for a grade about five or six times now.

    This approach does have practical value. Students are able to network with professionals in their community and get firsthand experience that helps confirm or call into question a student’s decision to enter a given field.

    But when classes emphasize graded “real world experience” over other methods, higher education loses its academic value and turns into an overpriced trade school.     

    I understand the appeal of job-focused education, but we are not learning a specific trade for a specific career in any one class. We’re learning how to learn and how to apply intellectual skills to larger contexts in our field of interest.

    Of course, I want to find employment, but I attend a university to become well-educated and to be intellectually challenged with the opportunity to experience both failure and success.

    Focusing on developing employees in a college class does not fulfill a student’s desire to learn. Instead, the class emphasizes on filling the work force’s needs.

    Science classes, for example, do not teach you how to do specific work in a lab, but are all unified by the goal of teaching students how to think like a scientist, with integrity, passion and curiosity.

    College classrooms should foster an attitude of lifelong curiosity based on the excitement of discovery. The value of a higher education is in students’ growth as people, thinkers and curious learners.

    A college education is worth more than improved job prospects.

    According to the College Board, getting an education is correlated with better physical health, increased civic engagement and increased job satisfaction due to the sense of continually learning new things.

     These skills can be applied across many career fields and positions. As Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel puts it, it’s important to be job capable, rather than job ready.

    It’s important to be creative, think critically and apply content-based thinking specific to your field and a broad range of situations beyond college, rather than to specific jobs or job tasks I sampled in a college class.

    Grading us as though we are employees in our ideal job isn’t fair.

    We are learning in undergraduate classrooms, whereas employees ideally who have attained their degree(s), have been learning on the job for some time and are paid to meet the specific needs of their employer.

    And in undergraduate classes especially, it doesn’t make sense to pay thousands of dollars to do labor that might be difficult to grade objectively.

     I want to learn, and we deserve the flexibility offered by a classroom to make mistakes and learn from a professor.

    I want an academic degree to broaden my perspective and encourage my love of learning. I want my job to compensate me for my labor and open doors for future career goals. But students are not employees in the classroom.

    An employee works for the betterment of the company; a student works for the betterment of herself or humanity.

    A good employee follows the needs of his employer, whom he is encouraged not to disagree with. A student is taught to think critically about the world around him.

    Job preparation is important, but students should get that from actual job experience, internships, their advisers and the Career Center – not their classes.