Distracted Colleges Fail to Equip Workforce

800px-seattle_u_admin_03Seattle University students are occupying the lobby of the school’s college of humanities, demanding the resignation of its dean.

The offense? According to the students’ petition, the college’s faculty and curriculum “traumatize,” “tokenize,” and “pathologize” students, resulting in a “profoundly damaging” student experience that has “lasting effects on [their] mental and emotional well-being.”

The students contend that the problems they are facing will only be corrected once the Seattle University humanities curriculum is replaced with a “non-Eurocentric interdisciplinary curriculum,” taught by staff from “marginalized backgrounds,” and “especially professors of color and queer professors.”  They want the college to “radically reinterpret what it means [for the college] to educate teachers and leaders for a just and humane world.”

In their minds, this can only be achieved by “centering dialogue about racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy, and other ethical questions about systems of power.”  In other words, they want education to be rooted in the victim theories popular in the leftist culture of the modern academy.

FPIW’s most recent video, filmed at Seattle University, illustrates perfectly what happens when proper education takes a backseat to leftist social justice causes.

Higher education’s undue emphasis on elevating social justice, diversity, and tolerance diverts attention and resources away from the traditional purpose of education, namely, to prepare students with the skills and knowledge necessary to become productive citizens in a dynamic economy and society.

The recent events and video filmed at Seattle University are manifestations of the prevailing trend in higher education that seeks to indoctrinate students with a perspective that leaves them wholly unprepared for the workforce, and thus harming families in the long run.

Students of today and employees of tomorrow suffer when education is disproportionately devoted to topics arising from postmodern academic thought.  The University of Washington, for example, offers an undergraduate major in “Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies,” which features course offerings such as “Queer Desires,” “Feminist International Political Economy,” and “Lesbian Lives and Culture.”  It goes without saying that most students who devote their academic studies to classes like these will likely be unprepared for the modern workplace.

There is little doubt among employers that colleges and universities are failing to properly prepare students for the workforce. A Braun Research survey of 500 senior executives indicates that nearly 60% of them believe that higher education is inadequately preparing students for today’s workforce.

Where is the skills gap most apparent? The senior executives who participated in the Braun Research survey mentioned soft skills (44%), including communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, as well as a lack of technical skills (22%). A robust study of humanities in core curricula would address the former while additional STEM programs and technology integration in the classroom would alleviate the latter.

Simply put, students whose education focuses primarily on gender and race studies, cultural and moral relativism, and anti-colonialist, anti-American, and anti-Western sentiments are far less prepared to make a living for themselves, let alone provide for a family.

Even students who don’t major in gender or race studies experience a lower quality education when taught by liberal academic institutions.  The National Association of Scholars publishes a list of the books most commonly assigned by universities as required reading for incoming freshman.  Their study found that the majority of assigned books are recently published and politically progressive, with topics focusing on victimization and oppression.

It appears that instead of encouraging their incoming students to familiarize themselves with enduring literature or books that will prepare them for academic and professional success, schools have been using texts to advocate progressive causes.

In recent years, universities began hiring diversity officers and other administrators to ensure compliance with prevailing conceptions of political correctness. Nonacademic administrative employment at U.S. colleges increased by 60% from 1993 to 2009, according to data from the Department of Education. This administrative bloat drives up tuition costs, increases student loan debt, and crowds out valuable resources that could otherwise be used for instruction and research.

With total national student loan debt nearing $1.25 trillion and graduating students facing an average debt of $37,172, colleges and universities have an obligation to provide students with a quality education that prepares them to enter the workforce. Without these skills and knowledge, both individuals and families suffer.

This ballooning burden of student loan debt increases financial insecurity.  Quality education leads to sustainable employment, providing the economic foundation without which many millennials will not enter into marriage.

Improving the quality of education will increase economic opportunity and strengthen families. To accomplish this task, colleges and universities must refocus their efforts on providing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in the modern workplace, without the added distractions of diversity and social justice advocacy.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington:  http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/05/16/opinion-distracted-colleges-fail-to-equip-workforce-hurt-families/.

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