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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


BLOG: The case against résumé-building

I’d like to begin by posing a question: why do you think most people are seeking higher education at institutions like the University of Arizona? I’m sure that the reasons are as varied as the different majors being offered: opportunities for service, self-improvement, a better job, fame, money, and far too many other specialized reasons I’m not able to name here.

But it’s occurred to me that, as varied as our reasons are, there seems to be an overall trend that is influencing our choices to go to college. As headlines repeat messages of an ailing economy, heightened youth unemployment and an increasingly competitive work environment, this generation of college students seems to be motivated more than ever to pursue a college education for purely economic reasons.

This desire to attend college, join clubs and pursue a major mainly for one’s future marketability on the job market can be at the expense of a deeper purpose or meaning to be gleaned from higher learning.

I’m sure this is a message that university professors, students and administrators have heard some iteration of lately. William Deresiewicz, a former English teacher at Yale University, calls it a shift in “focus from the humanities to ‘practical’ subjects like economics” in his recent book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

To be sure, economic reasons for going to college should be neither avoided nor demonized. A major reason for pursuing a higher education is securing a sound standard of living, which can give someone more free time in the future to enjoy other activities and seek a deeper meaning within one’s own life.

And it certainly isn’t the case that majors in economically lucrative fields like engineering, business, marketing or technology inherently lack any such deeper meaning or enrichment. The skills and knowledge learned in such majors are indispensable and can be hugely helpful for self-actualization.

The main problem I’ve observed is that my fellow students seem to think their individual passions are at odds with what a future market will demand. In my experience, students who pursue majors in sociology, English, history, arts or the humanities can be dismissed as “economically impractical.” Instead they should focus on certain internships, clubs, classes and majors that appear to offer more immediate economic, yet less personally fulfilling, returns.

But the true case is that, as Deresiewicz explains it, an education in the humanities can provide students immensely valuable lessons in critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal skills. He says that when employers or graduate programs review resumes, what they look for more than a series of clubs, grades, and recommendations are “personal qualities” that showcase a student’s independent thinking.

The point is that students should be prepared to question the reasons for their education. Are their actions built on fulfilling a broader life purpose? Or are there stronger motives to pursue higher learning for purely economic reasons, regardless of whether it’s personally fulfilling? I would argue that there’s no reason the two should be mutually exclusive, and urge students to confidently pursue what studies or clubs they find personally enriching, be it in art, humanities, economics or science.

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