Purpose of an Education

M5.2 Discussion: “This is Water”: The Purpose of an Education

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“The real value of a real education… has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘This is water. This is water.’”

-David Foster Wallace

What is the purpose of a college education? This has been and will continue to be, one of the fundamental questions facing the future of higher education.

Is it “utilitarian”- to prepare students for a particular job or career path, or is it “utopian”- shaping students’ character and values to prepare them not just to be good workers, but also good thinkers, good citizens, and positive contributors to our local, national, and global societies? 

In this module, we learned a lot about the value of general education skills, like writing, ethical reasoning, and quantitative reasoning, for students’ current and future career paths. Excelsior’s general education career competencies even include “career” right in the title to emphasize their utilitarian value. But is that the only value of general education? Is that the only value of an education in general?

Begin by viewing this excerpt of David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement speech “This Is Water” given in 2005 at Kenyon College.

Mosley, CD. (2013). This is Water! by David Foster Wallace (Links to an external site.). YouTube. [Video: 9:22 minutes]. Transcripts.

Discussion Instructions
Initial post: create an initial post that responds to each of the prompts below:

What do you believe the true purpose of a college education is today? What do you think it will be in the future?
Do you believe colleges have a responsibility to teach concepts like “global understanding” and “cultural diversity and expression”? Why or why not?
What do you hope to get out of your general education experience by the time you graduate?
You will not be able to see posts written by your classmates until you create your initial post.

Replies: reply to your classmates’ initial posts and engage with them in a conversation about the purpose of higher education in 50 or 100 years – do you think it becomes more utilitarian or more utopian as our global society changes? Why? Please be sure to reply to at least two of your peers’ posts. 

Evaluation
This discussion will be graded according to the Cornerstone Discussion Board Rubric. Review the rubric and Discussion Board Expectations in advance to know how you will be assessed.
All discussion boards combined are worth 20% of your course grade.
This activity is used to assess one or more general education career competencies (GECC). You will see additional rows in your rubric from your instructor along with assessments of Above/Meets/Does Not Meet Expectations for each competency. These rows do not factor into your grade. For more information on Purpose of an Education visit this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education

Purpose of an Education

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