written by David Young
Of no practical use? What does Quintilian’s The Orator’s Education have to do with modern business? How do translating Cicero’s Latin speeches into English assist in landing a good job? Of what practical value are the Plantagenet Chronicles (Hallam, 2000)?
The only constant is change. Consider the pace of modern life. Obviously technology changes extremely fast and many jobs require continuing education. In 2003, computer science was on the verge of a paradigm shift (Zambonelli & D., 2003). The same has happened with ever-changing accounting standards. According to the Cato Institute, corporate accounting is “still evolving after all these years” (Edwards, 2003). As this was written before the subprime mortgage crisis and credit crunch, surely more change is on the horizon. Back in 2002, the nursing industry was “in the throes of revolutionary change” (Van Sell R.N., 2002). With the march of globalization, business management has evolved dramatically (Ball & al., 2008). As the recession continues and the full affects are felt, the banking industry certainly will not remain static. Change is imminent. The question is how to stay on top of all this flux.
Conventional Undergraduate Education. By pursuing a conventional degree in college, one is limited to a particular field. Should that field be in a mature industry, negative effects will be felt at the next cyclical economic downturn. And that person may find himself working in an industry entirely different from his degree. A recent study at Swansea University in the U.K. found that the difference between total wages earned by university graduates over their lifetimes and wages earned by those who did not go to college has fallen 65% (Sloan & O’Leary, 2007). The incentive to get a degree has fallen, due to student loan debt and decreased job prospects during a recession. Further, in a recent study by GRADdirect, part of the U.K. based Reed Consulting, findings showed that recruiters value soft skills the most. The ability to work well with others, respect others views, and communicate clearly received higher marks than GPA scores and the degree received (Reed Global Consulting).
In defense of critical thinking. By now, it should be established that particular knowledge changes quickly. Additionally, a conventional degree, typically specialized, can easily become outdated. What appears to be needed is the ability to work well in a fast-changing environment, where knowledge is evolving. This requires the ability to ascertain and implement a lot of material that will be outdated eventually. This requires critical thinking and is called logic. It is not enough to just read and digest material, being able to input data ad nauseum. Software skills like Excel, Argus, and others will also be outmoded, and users must re-acquire the new knowledge.
However, modern education does not give users the ability to think, rather it gives users what to think. And this is often done without placing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’: this can be called epistemological reasoning. Modern American education serves to position its candidates, or users, to be data entrants, not entrepreneurs, innovators, or critical thinkers.
Consider a study conducted in April and May 2006 (Corporate Voices for Working Families, 2006). A total of 431 HR officials were contacted, and asked how the future workforce is performing, compared to the baby-boomer generation workforce. The report cited a considerable lack of good writing skills, communication skills, and general inabilities to work with others in a team setting; cooperating towards a mutual goal. In short, “this [the findings] ultimately makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable in the global marketplace.” (ibid).
In defense of communication skills. Currently, there is a deep and identifiable lack of communication skills in the marketplace. During Greek times, rhetoric was considered a high art. Now, it is not the case. Instead, numerate degrees such as finance, engineering, econometrics, and others have replaced the ‘science’ of rhetoric. Yet, does this mean that rhetoric is no longer important?
In a research study, surveying 139 Texas business executives, “business communication” was rated very important scoring 85%, which placed far ahead of “knowledge of management principles” scoring a mere 20% (Penrose, Rasberry, & Myers, 2004, p. 3). According to the Managerial Auditing Journal, a guide for accountants, “communication skills are critical” in the auditing process to ensure effective understanding of the data and to mitigate ethical issues (Managerial Auditing Journal, 2005, p. 513). Did you catch that? Communication skills assist the bottom line! Additionally, in the Journal of Environmental Health, the author reminds scientists about the importance of writing well (Nelson, 2001). “Our identity, our essence—in sum, who we are—becomes apparent by virtue of the entire presentation we make when we are interacting with others” (ibid, p. 70).
These skills are not typically taught in a conventional classroom setting, where students ingest material and little discussion ensues. Little chance is given in a conventional collegiate atmosphere to defend a position taken. However, executive leaders are required to take positions, defend them, and implement them in changing environments constantly. But, is a Christian, classical education the answer?
Taking it into scope. It is just not that easy. Christian, classical education is a far cry better than the conventional collegiate setting, but it provides only a foundation. There is no specialization in classical education, at the current state of its existence. Graduates often are either teachers or pastors. Anyone wanting to do something else is required to either pursue simultaneously a Bachelor’s in Science in another college; or they apply to law school or business graduate school to pursue a MBA after graduating with their BA. Additionally, graduates who do take this route are faced with the real difficulty of getting top tier, or second tier graduate schools to officially recognize the classical education they received—assuming they went to a private Christian, classical college. While this is a real concern, it is still the author’s contention that the benefits of the classical degree outweigh the costs involved in getting an additional degree and facing setbacks due to the newness and untested state of the Christian, classical paradigm.
One cannot weigh the value of a Christian, classical education from just the perspective of a Bachelor’s in Arts. The classical student is taught to pursue a lifetime of learning. This does not stop when he enters into the work world. If anything, it starts. This is where he builds his house. Christian, classical education merely gives you a bigger foundation. It teaches you how to know, not what to know.
Ball, D. A., & al., e. (2008). International business, the challenge of global competition. McGraw-Hill Irwin.
Corporate Voices for Working Families. (2006, Oct 2). News and Events. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from Corporate Voices for Working Families: http://www.cvworkingfamilies.org/node/153
Edwards, C. (2003). Corporate accounting: Still evolving after all these years. Washington D.C.: Cato Institute.
Hallam, E. (2000). The Plantagenet Chronicles. London: Barnes & Noble Inc.
Managerial Auditing Journal. (2005). Communication skills are critical for internal auditors. Managerial Auditing Journal , 513-519.
Nelson, F. (2001). The importance of writing well. Journal of Environmental Health , 74-6.
Penrose, J. M., Rasberry, R. W., & Myers, R. J. (2004). Effective executive communication. New York: Thomson.
Quintilian. The Orator’s Education, Loeb Classical Library. (D. A. Russell, Ed., & D. A. Russell, Trans.) Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Reed Global Consulting. (n.d.). Reed Global Consulting. Retrieved June 29, 2009, from http://www.reedglobal.com/consulting/graddirect.php
Sloan, P., & O’Leary, N. (2007). Graduate earnings in the U.K. Swansea University. Swansea, Wales: Swansea University.
Van Sell R.N., S. L. (2002). Nursing: Receding and evolving paradigms. ICUs and Nursing Web Journal .
Zambonelli, F., & D., P. H. (2003). Towards a paradigm change in computer science and softawre engineering: A synthesis. The Knowledge Engineering Review , 329-342.