Reading Tressie McMillan Cottom's recent post about the future of higher education, I started thinking about what sort of things a higher education institution could do to help ensure that folks are really prepared for some sort of meaningful engagement with the world outside college. So I thought about what sort of stuff I've learned at college that has prepared me for the larger world. I certainly feel more prepared now -- I have skills, and I understand things, that I didn't before, I'm certainly a better writer than I was going in -- but the biggest thing is that I feel a lot more emotionally stable, and able to deal with anxiety and social situations, than I was coming out of high school, or during the two years after high school when I hid in my bedroom and read Wikipedia.
And that mostly doesn't have much to do with college. I mean, I've had some very healthy and productive social relationships at college that have helped move me towards a better place -- but I've also had a handful of awfully destructive relationships at college, and there wasn't anything at the school that helped me distinguish between them.
What really helped, I think, was therapy. Maybe therapy combined with Liberal Arts. But I'm not sure that therapy can be mass-produced on an institutional level. Which is a shame, because I know basically nobody who shouldn't see a therapist at least sometimes, and especially if the goal of the therapy is, beyond just coping with the experience of day-to-day life, developing the life-skills to be a generally more balanced person, capable of having healthy relationships and choosing and pursuing positive goals.
Maybe instead of pushing people to go into STEM programs, since apparently we don't actually really need any more, the institutional education propaganda should encourage people to become professional counselors. (Though that creates the serious problem of people going into therapy because it seems like a lucrative career and not actually being any good at it.)
Thinking about whether my education is actually useful is stressful, and it seems like it would take a pretty intense reworking of not just the education system but the economy into which it's pouring kids, so I don't think there's anything I can say on this topic that's really insightful or helpful.
PSA: This is what I think about when I wake up at 7am. When possible, please let me sleep in.