The value of an education
What is valuable about an education is a subjective question with multiple answers. The value of an education
is defined in large part by the students receiving that education and, in turn, what they do with their life after they obtain a degree.
Kofi Bazzell-Smith is a Parkland student studying English literature. He explained why an education is valuable to him.
“It’s an interesting question because education can mean two different things,” Bazzell-Smith said. “Education can mean learning in the true sense or it can mean schooling, which I think has become the meaning nowadays. I’m not really interested in schooling but I’m more interested in learning. Just gaining knowledge to be able to use and apply in real life.”
Marietta Turner is the dean of students at Parkland College. She explained why she thinks and education is valuable.
“Education is valuable from what I call a worldview and, from a macro to the micro, it’s important,” Turner said. “All of us come here with gifts and knowledge and things that we have to tap into. So from the micro, from the individual standpoint, the idea is I feel everyone should maximize their potentiality for the benefit of the whole.”
Turner explained that an education helps many students realize what their purpose in life is. “Helping people understand that education is not just about getting a paycheck but being able to enjoy their life and contribute at the same time. Then it has more value. It’s not just a piece of paper to them. It’s not just a job.”
Many students pursue a degree in higher education because they want a career and financial stability. An education can provide that stability and an institution such as Parkland College helps students by informing them of local employment opportunities. Parkland works closely with potential employers within the surrounding community.
“Part of a higher education is learning how to learn and that is what is part of the expectation in today’s global economy with massive changes speeding up in terms of technology and what we need to do. People will continually need to learn how to learn something else so you will not be static,” Turner said.
Turner also explained that the skill sets that employers are looking for are taken into consideration by Parkland and are incorporated into the course curriculums for various majors.
“Many of the skills that the work force is looking for are what we call soft skills. They need people to understand how to relate with others. Good communication and interpersonal skills,” Turner said. “What I explain to people is the expectation is that you have to learn how to play well with others in the sandbox if you want to be successful. You have to be creative; people are looking for creativity. They’re looking for the willingness to help go forward and they want people who adapt well and are willing to learn the next thing they need to learn.”
Turner explained that the relationship that Parkland has with the local work force is part of why community colleges were created.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of recruiting. I think that one of the missions in the development of the community college was to help take care of a community’s work force needs. I think of it more as a collaboration for the benefit of the community,” Turner said. “And I think that the community colleges take that very much to heart as they reach out and try to work with the benefactors of their different organizations, whether they are corporations or manufacturing. I think they strive to work with them while maintaining the highest academic expectations.”
Dr. Brian Nudelman is the service learning coordinator as well as an instructor at Parkland. He explained that it is important for students to realize that certain degrees won’t directly result in employment opportunities.
“If you have a person whose sole focus is to be able to provide right out of college, that art history degree might be tricky to immediately translate into income that supports a middle class life,” Nudelman said.
He advised that these students should learn practical applications of their studies. Teaching is a common profession for students with such degrees.
Students enter college with different goals in mind and different aspirations for their life. Dr. Nudelman explained that part of his job as an instructor is to understand what students want to get out their schooling.
“It comes down to respecting students and what they see as their immediate and long term goals and trying to be helpful towards that,” Nudelman said.
Parkland does offer a number of vocational programs, but it also serves as a stepping-stone to other institutions for students who want to further their studies. Nudelman explained that the work force values the well-rounded education that students receive while at Parkland.
“It comes to the question – Why is a Parkland degree valued more? I don’t know the world of welding or the world of trades but they seem to value it more,” Nudelman said. “College then becomes an addition to creating a solid worker; the ability to successfully communicate and work. That comes from academics. That comes from reading, writing and discussing ideas, I think.”
Nudelman said that regardless of what students hope to gain from their educational experience, higher learning is beneficial to society as a whole.
“The more educated people we have the better the society, I think, will be. I think that’s true. The value of education is that it creates, ideally, a more civil, thoughtful community,” Nudelman said.