There is a good chance your child’s future job does not exist – yet. This should make you think harder on the potential $250,000 you may spend to prepare them for it.
Google and Facebook were ideas, not companies, 20 years ago. Today, most graduates would kill for an entry level job at either company. These types of jobs often come with a very steep price.
“In absolute dollars, the price of college has increased by 1,120 percent since 1978, more than any other good or service in the entire U.S. economy,” said the filmmaker Andrew Rossi, who directed the student debt documentary “Ivory Tower.”
However, this trend is stabilizing.
With over $1 trillion dollars in student debt and you can see why parents are so concerned that their children graduate with specialized knowledge that can immediately be translated into income.
Many parents want their children to specialize in a field like accounting or business to guarantee a future return on their investment. This is a perfectly understandable way to ease their anxiety. The problem: This might be bad advice.
The world is changing at a breathtaking pace. The idea of having a job for 40 years and retiring with a gold watch is a fantasy from the 1950’s.
Today, young people will likely have dozens of jobs and end up in a field that has yet to be created.
Adaptability and having an open mind about learning new information are the survival skills of the future.
This will lead to making many mistakes and learning from them.
Any repeatable task, no matter how complex, will be replaced by technology.
Specializing in something that could be replaced by a robot is a very big gamble
You don’t have to take my word for it. Research backs up the enormous benefits of broad learning.
“Psychologists refer to this learning style as broad learning. As children, and even in college, we’re encouraged to embrace many different subjects, immerse ourselves in them and explore. This is in contrast to specialized learning, which “refers to tailored learning for a specific purpose, such as for a particular job,” said Rachel Wu, a professor and researcher at the University of California, Riverside.
Eventually people switch to a specialized learning style. The problem happens if this is done too soon.
Professor Rachel Wu explains this theory:
“According to my new theory, specialized learning encourages efficiency in the short term,” Dr. Wu said. “To be efficient in the short term, we have to prioritize what we already know. When we prioritize what we already know for a long time, we may have more difficulty adapting to new unfamiliar situations. And, this difficulty in adapting to new situations, may lead to decline first in unfamiliar situations, and eventually in familiar situations.”
In addition, specialization at an early age can cause boredom and dissatisfaction. More important, it stifles innovation.
In contrast, broad learning has been found to increase working memory, inhibition, and attention.
Current College trends are departing from broad learning, according to The Wall Street Journal:
“The number of degrees in nursing, social work, education and the holy quartet of STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—vastly outweighs those awarded in the humanities, which is where we’re supposed to find the pure arts of thinking.”
Though this is a very painful concept for parents to understand, the most important value schools can instill in their children is a love of learning.
This is the ultimate unemployment insurance.
Personally, the smartest people I know do not have specialized degrees. They do have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a ferocious desire to improve on a daily basis.
To be fair, children cannot expect parents to spend their hard-earned money on pottery and ancient witchcraft classes.
If a broad liberal arts education still seems like a bad investment, at least make sure your children broaden their horizons in other ways while they are at school.
This could mean joining clubs and going out of their way to meet people from backgrounds unlike their own.
It turns out the calligraphy class Steve Jobs took at Reed College in the 1970s was a pretty good investment.
Emile Wapnick sums things up pretty well, according to The New York Times. “Ms. Wapnick writes about a concept called multipotentiality, the ability to excel in multiple fields that are typically unrelated to each other. Multipotentiality has a handful of practical benefits. For example, learning skills in one area can translate to skills in another.”
I know I have benefited immensely from the combination of economics, statistics, basic math, psychology, history, biology, journalism, computer, philosophy and english classes I have cumulatively taken over the years.
Devoting all of my energy to just one of these fields would have negated the compounding effects of combining them into a powerful nucleus.
A major in multipotentiality just might be the most valuable degree of all.
Source: Why We Shouldn’t Think About College as a Business by Kristin Wong