The Core and careers

John Stein, Contributing Writer

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Senior Joseph Watson reads for class in Haggar University Center. Do Core texts like “The Republic” help graduates get a jobs? Photo by Elizabeth Kerin.

Is anyone going to hire me after I graduate?” It’s a question that all University of Dallas students — if not all college students — ask themselves at least once during the four years after their high school graduations. Especially for those studying fields that aren’t usually considered big moneymakers, this question starts to become very worrisome as May of senior year approaches.

There’s no doubt that most of us cherish the time we spend studying here at UD. Reading Dante with Father Maguire, discussing Lincoln with Dr. Hanssen, exploring Delphi and Athens with Dr. Hatlie — the education we receive here is one-of-a-kind, especially in a world that is becoming increasingly specialized, tending to neglect the liberal arts.

And yet, in spite of this, many a troubled UD student is tempted to ask: does UD’s Core curriculum really matter? Will it have any residual value? We often speak of how it helps to shape us into better human beings, how it trains us to think and how it grounds us in the foundations of the Western tradition. These are all wonderful things. And yet, there is often a running joke around campus that far too many of us are setting ourselves up for unemployment when we decide to major in philosophy, English or any of the other humanities.

Some of us act as if the prospect of unemployment or underemployment later in life doesn’t matter that much. We confidently tell ourselves that we don’t need much money to be happy. And yet, as my dad used to tell me, it’s tough to philosophize on an empty stomach. It’s difficult to actually live the good life that one has been taught to live without the basic necessities needed to live and to raise a family.

So, though the Core curriculum of UD is indeed important for learning what it means to live the good life, the question remains: Is one in a position to make enough money to live the good life with a UD education? There is at least one voice from the mainstream media that would say so. A writer by the name of Tom Lindsay recently penned an article in Forbes Magazine entitled “New Report: What Do College Students Learn? Answer: Too Little, Too Often.” He argues that a broad education like the one found in UD’s Core is actually more valuable when looking for a job than a highly specialized education. In other words, this guy thinks that a UD education is actually quite practical, even though we’re sometimes tempted to think otherwise.

Lindsay is drawing on information from a recent survey of college curricula conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The survey, titled “What Will They Learn?” evaluated colleges in terms of how well they “give college students a firm grounding in the areas of knowledge they will use for a lifetime.” Practically speaking, this means finding out whether these schools have requirements in seven key subjects: composition, literature, foreign language, government or history, economics, mathematics and science.

The survey gave schools like UD, which does require classes in all seven of those subjects, a much higher grade than those schools that do not require all of these subjects. For Lindsay, a Core curriculum like UD’s is important not only for the sake of a well-rounded education, but also for becoming informed, effective leaders and competitive, driven, 21st- century workers.

Is Lindsay right? Do students who study a broader range of subjects make better workers than those who do not? It’s difficult to know for sure, but Lindsay’s perspective is certainly a reassuring one — giving mainstream credence to the genius of a liberal arts education.

That said, I do not bring all of this up so that we can pat ourselves on the back and feel good about ourselves. Rather, I think this information is a call for us to strive to validate what the article already says: We must take this opportunity to renew our drive to succeed in whatever career paths we choose to follow after UD. The education we receive here is not for naught; but it’s up to us to prove that to employers and the rest of the world.

In any case, I appreciate Lindsay’s article because it’s nice to know that we here at UD are not the only ones who love the way we study.

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