About Me

Find out more about me here.

09 May 2012

College Is Classist

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who argued that my idealized notion of a liberal arts education was classist. I was articulating how professional majors (e.g. teaching and nursing) were contrary to the mission of liberal arts institutions. She countered that we had a duty to graduate employable students and that those who sought out liberal arts majors were privileged in a way that not all students are.

First, let's be clear: most students matriculate to colleges because of classist motives; they aspire to upward mobility, and by getting a college degree, they are positioning themselves quite well for that opportunity. A college degree might not have the same value that it once did, but it's still a far better investment in terms of time and money (or, more often, debt) than not going to college. College is classist.

Moreover, we shouldn't apologize for this. College, like all institutions in a capitalistic society, is about distinction. It is capitalism, not higher education itself, that insists on the creation and reproduction of class. We do run into trouble, however, when access to a college education becomes restricted based on class. Education should be a meritocratic equalizer in this way. When I write that college is classist, I mean this in the sense of output, not input, although the latter is too often true as well.

But, should college be classist? I say no. The means to that is through social change, not higher ed reform, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment