This simple question is probably the most debated among academia and society as a whole as college graduates grapple with burdening student loan debt and degrees that are turning out not to be worth the investment.
The answers to this question could almost be framed along a spectrum defined by two extremes. One side is marked by the intrinsic value of intellectualism and enlightenment, the purely self-fulfilling value from learning. The other would be defined by practical and professional preparation, with a focus on career centers, credentials, and even career selection.
Academics seem to approve of the side that values the intellectual life, no doubt because they themselves are living a blended lifestyle where learning is their job. But students and their parents seem to care far more for the other side, hoping to advance in careers that are secure so they can withstand the effects of recessions, a hope no doubt born out of the difficult challenges from the 2008 crash.
Fortunately, as with any spectrum, there is a middle ground, a place where the two extremes are able to meet in a well-balanced approach. At Fairfax University of America, we believe we have found that approach.
We have completely redesigned the general education curriculum to focus on our motto, “Learning to learn, learning to be.” We’ve developed 10 key courses that cover nearly 60 competencies that are broken into values, concepts, and skills.
We’ve accomplished this feat by building on two tenets for students, which we believe are the answer to the question, “What is college for?”:
- Critically analyzing and discovering your identity and worldview
- Designing a life of social impact and self-fulfillment
Note how these two tenets have the potential to satisfy both extremes. An examination of identity and determination for impact and self-fulfillment certainly helps students to cultivate a rich inner life based on their own inner desires, rather than a forced appreciation that punishes them for not buying into it via grades.
To further satisfy the intrinsic value of a higher education, we’re incorporating the development of consciousness – we don’t know what we don’t know, so college should reveal to us what we don’t know that we don’t know.
Rather than just asking students, “What do you want to be?” we’re asking them, “Who do you want to be?”
For the sake of the professional, our curriculum includes micro-credentials, which focus on specific skills and competencies that employers are looking for in the incoming workforce. Additionally, we are exclusively offering degrees in business and computer science. These are some of the most in-demand degrees with fields that are expected to keep growing as our society moves further into a globalized, tech-driven economy. If these students are able to receive an education that helps them develop their inner selves while also preparing them for a successful professional life for in-demand fields, we can satisfy both extremes of the spectrum.
We’re focused on both the original intent of creating intellectuals and current expectation of launching careers. We are excited to be part of the movement to redefine higher education so it’s better able to accomplish what it’s for: developing consciousness, discovering who you are, and discovering who you will be.
This is the first in a series of articles discussing the philosophy and practicality of Fairfax University of America’s revolutionary curriculum.