I honestly don’t think about this issue much. Most of my time is spent trying to figure out why reading old books is relevant to anything, and realizing that I’m probably fighting a losing battle.
And I suspect many of us would initially go “pffft. How does a college give social status, unless it is Yale or Harvard?” I think the two posts below can help generalize that notion of status, though:
- Kevin Carey, “Harvard vs. the Internet” – from the article: Harvard Summer School is an open admissions program taught by a combination of Harvard professors and people who are not Harvard professors. It markets itself as an opportunity to pay thousands of dollars to live in Natalie Portman’s old dorm, which is kind of creepy. And Harvard College does not accept credits earned from Harvard Summer School’s online courses.
- Mark Bauerlein, “Glenn Reynolds on the Next Bubble Burst: Higher Ed” – Reynolds argues that a college degree is about giving a general sense that one is “educated” as well as a social network, as opposed to skills “valued in the workplace.”
You can see where I’m going with this. The “social status” comes from that sense one is educated, and yes, with whom one hangs out. Forget the fact that Harvard is indulging in some rather base behavior in its summer school: that’s an extreme of the idea that an education has general as opposed to specific value.
You’re more than likely reading this blog because you know the more specialized we get, the more things like “civics,” “religion,” “our heritage,” “treating people like human beings,” “literature” and “asking serious questions” fall away. The more specialized we get, the more we have answers that could fix everything, if only people would just admit we’re completely right about everything.
In other words, education has some value that is indeed more general. But not only is that tough to pinpoint, but it looks like it flows from something far more specialized.
Anyway, I’m just rambling. Your thoughts are welcome.