Education that works

When it comes to higher education, public debate these days often starts with the question of whether college is worthwhile. And the measuring stick most often used is whether graduates get jobs after commencement.

In that conversation, programs with a strong occupational focus get most of the approval from the news media and politicians.

The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine tackled the subject in a big way, devoting the issue to a collection of stories on the topic. The lead article, written by Jon Marcus, quotes Wheaton President Ronald Crutcher, who spoke up for the value of the liberal arts.

In the end, says Wheaton president Ronald Crutcher, employers largely want what schools like his already teach, although he admits “it sometimes gets lost in translation.” He points out that Bureau of Labor Statistics research suggests that students graduating this year will have held more than 10 different jobs by the time they’re 38. “The truth is, things are changing so rapidly that, to thrive, you have to be an agile learner,” Crutcher says. “You have to be able to think critically, and narrow training for a specific job doesn’t do that. If you’re not focusing on those other knowledge-based skills, you’re going to be doomed to entry-level jobs.”

The subject is not new to President Crutcher, the co-chair of a national campaign championing the importance of liberal education and a frequent commentator on the practical power of a liberal arts education. The liberal arts, he says, drives career success as well as intellectual satisfaction and civic welfare.-