Value of University Education

The Lethbridge Herald, an an Alberta City of Lethrbidge daily, published and article on August 28, 2013 based on the survey done by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce about the diminishing value of the university education.  It reported that the university graduates are receiving less income relative to other practically trained people.  And have more difficulty finding employment than before.  I disagree with the CIBC’s use of the two criteria, namely the size of pay-cheque and the marketable skill,  as the only measurement to judge the value of university education.  I believe that the goal of the university also is to produce a person who can think creatively and knows how to see beyond what is.  Our world, like a machine, requires two kinds of people: those who competently run it and those who can see the problems with the status quo, and improve the whole system or invent a new one.  We expect the universities to produce such people.

60 years ago, I had a friend who was passionately speaking about cybernetics.  Nobody understood him including me, neither did any corporation: the result was no money for his research.  So he went to Germany.  My friend was about forty years ahead of the likes of Bill Gates, never made big money.  Now digital technology – cybernetics runs the world.  Industries often are so short-sighted that many of them have no patience for new ideas nor creative people.  They want people who fit in and make a big profit now.  That’s why the GM scrapped the development of electric car decades ago.

There are also many people who prefer a meaningful life than a fat cheque.   Artists are such people.  Also I have been surprised by the kinds of people who joined the ministry as a second career.   Among those I met, there were lawyers, medical doctors, and one highflying executive of IBM from New York and an Union Carbide executive from a Geneva based international headquarters.  They all left lucrative careers, went to seminaries and became ministers.  They saw life beyond money.

Let me shamelessly brag a little (you can stop reading this now): I have two graduate degrees, can work in three languages, worked in four continents in church administrations, a secular NGO’s in executive positions, and as an university teacher, but never saw a pay-cheque bigger than a high school teacher’s.    But I would not repeat my life in any other way.  There are people like that.  Crazy? Maybe.  But I have seen too many such people to say they are all crazy.  Stupid?  No.  I believe that the world is a better place because of them.

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