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The Journal Gazette

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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Kasey M. Price holds the American flag during the final IPFW commencement ceremony Wednesday at the Coliseum.  

Friday, May 11, 2018 1:00 am

In the first degree:

College experiences prepare you to live your life - if not necessarily for your eventual career

Abraham "Abe" Schwab

Abraham “Abe” Schwab is an associate professor of philosophy at IPFW.

I remember, as a first-year undergraduate, reading John Steinbeck's “Of Mice and Men” for the very first time. I had no idea what I was in for and found the book enthralling. I finished the book in one sitting. And then threw it across the room.

I remember sitting in an acting class and learning about a team relaxation technique where one person lies on their back while the other person gently pulls on each appendage in turn, stretching each and every joint. I fell asleep halfway through.

I remember the trip my Shakespeare class took to Chicago to watch a stage production of “The Merchant of Venice.” I can still picture Shylock on stage. I also remember, from that same class, when professor Barbara Hodgdon gently chastised me for talking all too much in my analysis of Baz Luhrman's “Romeo and Juliet” (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes).

I remember the academic trip I took to Chiapas, Mexico, and Mexico City. I remember sleeping on the concrete floor of our hosts, hoeing corn rows on the side of a mountain, and seeing what I call a Chuck Dicken (body of duck, beak and legs of a chicken). I also remember playing soccer on the Zócalo (the main square in the center of Mexico City) and being schooled by some 8-year-olds.

I remember the rules I learned in my stagecraft classes (“The pink fleshy things are your fingers”).

I remember reading “Soul on Ice.”

I remember chemistry class with Liz.

I remember being the only kid in Calculus I and II without a graphing calculator.

I remember my public reading of my poem in my university's annual poetry collection.

And all of these memories carry life lessons for me. And none of these memories were part of my training for the job I've had for the last 12 years.

If my college career had been focused on job training, I would not have taken a single class mentioned above; none of them are directly related to my work as philosopher and applied ethicist.

National Public Radio recently released a story with an attention-grabbing headline: “High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty While High School Graduates Line Up for University.” The headline tells most of that story. The story goes on to discuss how misguided it can be to think that getting a college degree is the sure path to a good job.

Any training program, for any occupation, can fail to produce gainful employment. Automation, market shifts and cultural changes can all make a job market disappear.

But college courses are more than job training. At their best, they are an intellectual, social and, sometimes, spiritual exercise. And getting a bachelor's degree entails more than just courses that help you do a job. It exposes you to ideas, experiences and perspectives that no simple training program can provide.

A friend of mine teased me recently. They ran into a young man who graduated with a philosophy degree from IPFW who was selling cars. Not too long ago, I met a young man who has a degree in accounting who's working as a personal trainer. Had these college graduates wasted their time getting a degree for a field they weren't working in? That's a question I don't think we can answer just by looking at the job they have.