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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Go to college, but not to learn ‘how to think’

Kinjo Kiema, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

When I visited GW for the first time, the busy and competitive atmosphere was one of the reasons I chose to enroll. I wanted a pre-professional environment that would prepare me for the cutthroat media industry, and I knew this was the school for me.

Many choose GW for this environment in the hopes that, combined with our often-touted location, they’ll emerge in four years well-prepared for a similarly stimulating career.

But others lament the atmosphere at upper-tier universities like GW. William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, argues in a New Republic piece, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top schools are turning our kids into zombies,” that a university should not just serve as a training ground for a lucrative career. He writes that “the first thing college is for is to teach you how to think.”

Of course, development of critical thinking skills should be a key part of higher education. This process does not, however, diminish the importance of career preparation.

The romanticized notion of college as four years of “learning how to think” is idealistic, almost naive. Deresiewicz says that in his ideal education system, college is financially feasible for all who wish to attend, while the quality of education is as good at public universities as in the Ivy League and at other private universities.

But we aren’t anywhere near this academic utopia yet. Amid soaring costs at both private and public institutions, it’s difficult to see college outside of the world of career preparation.

More than half of GW’s class of 2012 graduated with some form of debt, and individual students left campus owing an average of $33,398 each. When you consider these realities, “learning to think” is secondary to landing a job that will allow you to pay back those loans.

The author pessimistically describes college applications as the process in which you selected “the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth – ‘success.’”

What he doesn’t address is why applicants think this way in the first place. A college degree is still a worthwhile investment because graduates are proven to earn much more over their lifetimes compared to those who only graduate from high school. In a shaky job market, students select the school they think will give them the best chance at securing a good salary.

It’s reassuring that a school like GW emphasizes career services as well as academics – with plans to put money from its fundraising campaign toward both.

Unfortunately, “learning to think” cannot be students’ only priority.

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