Recent reports increasingly show that bachelor’s-degree graduates are unprepared for the workplace. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education/American Public Media’s Marketplace survey of 50,000 employers, half said they had trouble finding recent graduates qualified to fill positions at their company, saying that many lack basic qualifications such as adaptability, written and oral communication skills, decision-making, and the ability to solve complex problems.
Among the study’s recommendations for universities is providing rich experiential opportunities that truly integrate the liberal arts with real world learning. Internships, employment, and experience, say hiring managers in nearly all industries, outweighs academics.
Said the report:
Colleges should go beyond a vision of majors articulating to specific careers. Majors matter to some extent, but in many cases, college majors is not the determinant of career entry. A college should approach career development as career exploration for a great many of its students guiding and supporting students with the right mix of solid liberal arts skills and content knowledge.
Part of the problem, note educational leaders is a cafeteria-style approach that trains students for specific careers without providing a strong liberal arts foundation. According to many Newman Guide schools, the answer lies in a cohesive program. Daniel Kempton, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University of Steubenville spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society about the revised core being offered to all of its graduates.
“We see the purpose of higher education as preparing you to get a job, but we’re also passing along a rich intellectual tradition, and a third element, which Cardinal Newman described as “shaping a man,” or developing character. In so many areas of our lives, values are important. They aren’t teaching values at so many universities today.”
“A minority of schools offer a true core,” said Kempton. “It’s less and less common. There’s a desire to be more inclusive, which waters down the canon with modern philosophers or literature. The result is you get core education on one side of the spectrum with smorgasbord education on the otherside.” Kempton added that most schools are moving in the direction of “smorgasbord education.”
Franciscan University of Steubenville recently revised its core curriculum after a 20-year on-and-off again initiative. The revised core will begin being implemented, in phases, next fall.
“Over the last decade there’s been a lot of advancement in our science programs – pre-med, chemistry, nursing,” explained Kempton. “If you’re only taking two or three theology courses, which ones those are really matter.”
Franciscan’s revised core, Kempton explained, is guided by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and the University’s philosophy and mission.
“We wanted a core that didn’t do any harm to any of our existing majors,” said Kempton. “It had to be one that our majors could finish in four years.”
As a result, the University’s revised core includes three philosophy courses (The Philosophy of the Human Person; Foundation of Ethics; and Metaphysics) and three theology courses (Foundations of Catholicism; Scripture and Tradition; and Christian Moral Principles). In addition, every student takes a history course in western civilization, two courses in classical literature, and a course in Catholic traditions in the fine arts. The core also requires six credits in the natural sciences, three in the social sciences, and three in America’s foundations.
“When a college is merely passing along technology as skills, they can’t always teach them what they’ll need tomorrow,” explained Kempton. “The technology they learn today will be different five years from now.”
Therefore, he explained that a core liberal arts education is one that educates students for a lifetime.
“In career-specific education, the requirements of accrediting bodies and the government sometimes prevent room in the curriculum for the content that students are supposed to learn,” he said. “We want to teach them the fundamental ideas which can transfer” no matter their position or where they are working.
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