This time of spring, about a quarter of the student body is crossing their fingers. The most pressing issue on their minds is not finals, but their future. Graduate school, jobs, missions, fellowships. The choices are both vast and incredibly limited.
The fact of the matter is that many of us have spent over 16 years of our lives filling our minds with knowledge, and now a 15-page paper is nowhere near as daunting as re-plumbing a bathroom sink, selling life insurance, or raising a gaggle of kids.
This problem was recently brought to my attention by a talk with the shock-inducing title “How the Liberal Arts at Hillsdale has Failed.” I went for the spicy take, and I came out a semi-convert.
In this talk, 2017 alumna Margaret Handel and chair of the economics department Charles Steele argued that students should seek opportunities to learn a physical trade. They argued that we need to overcome the pride that holds us back from applying for and learning blue-collar jobs because we believe that those aren’t the jobs that will change the world.
The problem is that students spend 16 years trying to grasp the big picture, and in a single summer they are asked to move from the grand questions of the good, true, and beautiful, to the mundane question of how to make money, support oneself, or raise a family.
For the record, questions about the good, true and beautiful should be asked and answered by every human being, some might even argue that fulfilling the potential within every man requires answering these questions.
But what needs to change is our deep-seated belief that once we graduate, we will be prepared to tackle a career: We will have been educated in the highest things and are prepared to spread our knowledge, use it, and change the world.
That outlook is complete fantasy. The reality is that once we graduate, we will emerge into a world where we are unskilled and uneducated infants. Students receive a diploma that assures them that they have now reached the basic level of knowledge required to live a successful adult life. What they miss is the fine print that tells them that they are lacking experience and practical skills both in the office and with a toolbox.
This situation is fine. Nobody should expect a 22-year-old to have years of experience under his belt.
This doesn’t just apply to seniors. Once graduation passes, students should approach their career infancy with the same excitement they approached freshman year. Your professors in life may have never read Aristotle, but they deserve respect for their experience.
The liberal arts aren’t the end of the road, they’re the big picture. So, once you’ve graduated, tuck your diploma on a shelf, stick those high questions in your back pocket, and attack the infancy of your career with the same enthusiasm that you attacked your 15-page paper.
Aubrey Gulick is a sophomore studying history.