My "Social Structure" class has taken up Randall Collins' still-provocative 1979 book, The Credential Society. He argues that most white collar jobs could be learned by any literate person with, say, six month's on-the-job training. We don't need all the schooling and credentials we keep piling on to train for the actual jobs that most people have.
I have read and taught this book several times. This time, though, I was struck by a more radical implication than even the radical Collins meant.
I tell students early and often that at a liberal arts college like Centre we are not trying to train them for a job. We are trying to form them into people who will be good citizens and live meaningful lives. We also hope and expect that some of what they learn will be useful for their employment. By the time they graduate, most students absorb the liberal-arts mantra. But I think they take our protestations only half seriously.
Today, though it occurred to me that to treat school as job training is to prostitute education for an unsuitable purpose. And the more a school tries to be job relevant, the worse a job of real education - moral formation - it does.
I am chewing on this.