Well, for starters, the business buildings probably wouldn’t be the fanciest places on campus. There would be a whole plethora of social justice classes with cool titles like “How Katrina Could Have Been Prevented 101,” “Stopping the Darfur Genocide 210,” “Feeding the Entire World With Sustainable Food Production 320,” and, the senior capstone, “Putting an End to Corporatization 500.”
However, at the moment, colleges are instead tending to focus on how much bang for your buck you can get out of such and such a degree rather than the ways in which university study can be used to better the world. This is why when someone share’s they are getting a degree in Women’s Studies, the response is invariably “What are you going to do with that?!?”
I remember my father being heckled by his friends at a family BBQ some 20 years ago when they learned that I, his youngest daughter, planned to major in English. One friend looked over at me and smirked “Why don’t you get a REAL degree?” Another claimed I must be going to college “Just for fun.” Well, “so there!” to all dad’s chums who heckled him (and me) about my trivial degree – turns out there ARE things you can do, like be a professor, thank you very much.
Sadly, the attitude displayed by these people 20 years ago has been upped to a much higher wattage today. Parents and students alike seem to look to college as some sort of ATM of degrees where you deposit your dough and withdraw your ticket to a well-paying career. Sure gives Paulo Freire’s notion of “the banking model of education” a different spin! While the student as empty vessel where the professor deposits knowledge model of education has thankfully waned (at least in many disciplines), what has not is the degree as ticket to a bigger bank statement model.
As another academic year is about to begin, and as I think about all the problems that plague our world, I so wish that more students would choose world changing as a life goal. Happily though, more students seem to be very interested in social justice and attack the activism project I assign in my Introduction to Women’s Studies classes with relish. This coming semester they will take part in an activism forum (the campus’ first) and here’s hoping they carry this change the world message with them as they continue their college careers. If you ask me, changing the world is a lot more important (and rewarding) than changing the numbers on one’s bank statement via a shiny business degree meant to serve as ticket into the corporate machine…