So, in that Socratic spirit, let me share with you something that has baffled me throughout my career as an academic.
I find it bizarre when faculty talk about preparing students for the workforce, and when they give career advice to students.
It is bizarre because most of them--not all, but an overwhelming majority of them--have never been gainfully employed outside the walls of the ivory tower. I do not mean working summer jobs as students. I am referring to real jobs with real responsibilities. Yet, they give career advice to the youth? And students listen to them?
Most of the faculty were good students who went to college right after graduating from high school. And almost always, even as they were wrapping up the undergraduate programs, they applied to graduate school, earned their doctorates, and then started working as faculty. If not for the odd summer jobs, they might not have had any exposure to the real world at all.
My neighbor/friend jokes often that I am like any professor who has never done an honest day of work, by which he means the real world working experience. But, of course, he knows he is exaggerating. I worked as an engineer in India. A real job. Well, make it three real jobs with three different employers in India. And then here in the US, I worked as a transportation planner, for almost six years. The six longest years ever. A grand total of seven years of work in the world that was far away from higher education.
The more I observe the faculty in higher education, the more I am convinced that most of them should simply admit to students that they have no idea about jobs and careers. Even worse are the deans and provosts. All of them should do a full disclosure like "to be honest, the only thing I know is how to prepare for a career in higher education." As Ken Robinson remarked in this awesome talk that is also hysterically funny, the entire point of education, right from kindergarten, seems to be about preparing clones of teachers.
If you were to visit education, as an alien, and say "What's it for, public education?" I think you'd have to conclude, if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything that they should, who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners -- I think you'd have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn't it? They're the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there.Which is all the more why I felt awesome on reading a student's email of thanks in which he writes:
The advice you gave was based on your understanding of who I am as a person and what I value, not on some intellectual or scholar you are trying to forge into your own image.It is unfortunate that most of higher education today is neither about the intellectual aspects of understanding the world nor about workforce preparation. It has become a self-serving business. How awful!