Today I took the train with a friend of mine, and we reached to the following question:
What is the university?
I already had this conversation with some other people before, but it drew my attention that, maybe consciously or unconsciously, our understanding of the university was a bit… limited. In fact, we agreed that nowadays (at least in Spain), it is just a procedure to get a job in the future.
Let’s just consider how the contents in some subjects are treated. Apparently, some years ago, some subjects were quite more dense (they even had Part I and Part II!), but nowadays, just the “required basic concepts for the job market” are taught, as most students will learn them when they manage to get a position (if they manage to…!). And it is easy to understand why that happened: more positions require for further specific knowledge, so more specialists are on demand.
However, I do ask myself:
Where is that concept of university of the past which tried to generate and gather knowledge?
As there are some universities that do invest a lot in research (benefiting from brain drain, reputation, etc.). Despite that fact, I do believe that there is an increasing amount of students that are in these educational institutions because they need to have a Degree on something to work on something “useful”, as they are generically known here in Spain.
Because of that, I have to admit that education has been losing some of its sense for a long time (in fact, this is not a recent topic; it was already criticized by the writer Pío Baroja in the book “The Tree of Knowledge” via Andrés Hurtado, the main character of the novel). I know people that, even if they seem to be so cunning or knowing, they don’t have as much chances to thrive on their lives as the educational system has blocked them. On the other hand, I know some people that are going to end their Degrees who tend to act as stupid people, as if they never had to tackle any issues on their lives. I find that totally infuriating.
But what becomes totally maddening to me is that this situation has been created due to the social pressure. It has been said many times that the “university is better”, or even more foolishly, “the university is the place where people grow up”. Come on, really? It seems that we are forgetting some other existing figures in our society to give a temporary fix to the work stagnation issue, such as the Job Trainings.
And indeed, I do refer to this fix as a temporary fix, because anyone that can spend some time reading the newspapers and tendencies will notice that the improvements in the technology related to drones, robots, machines, AI development, …, as well as the will of some businesses to fire people will cause many people to quit their jobs.
But, something that certainly happens (and which I have tested with some friends of my age) is the following. If someone asks you:
– What are you doing?
– I’m studying at the university.
Alright, then you will be “cool”. However, if you answer:
– I’m studying a Job Training in X.
Some people won’t be looking at you in the same way. Some nice people might even react as:
– Get out of here, you dumb.
When maybe, the guy that is studying the Job Training is deciding what to do with his/her life, or even trying to find a solution to his/her economic problems to make a living, while you just study what you are studying because you were told to do so, without any special will nor responsibility on you.
To conlcude, I do have a feeling of rejection towards the current educational system shown at the universities. On the one hand, we can find some people that really want to learn about the contents of the Degree but have to wait until Graduate or PhD levels to have further contact with the concepts they want to learn. While, on the other hand, there is another bunch of people that are almost “forced” to study something to apply for a job, because they need to feel superior to some other people that have studied a Job Training, who might probably be more practical and useful than the former ones.
[Originally written at March 18th, 2016]