Is Education for Employment a bad thing?
This is, however, a serious matter. Because the longer the educators continue to sleepwalk, the trade is filled up with charlatans of all kind, because there is an attractive opportunity to satiate a social demand. That knowledge needs to be harnessed for the goals of employment isn't a lesser goal, nor is it a worldwide conspiracy to undermine education: This reflects the new social imperative that the institutions must satisfy. In context, it is time to interrogate the vocabulary of Higher Education and join the debate in all earnestness: Denying that this is even important, as some educators still tend to do, yield the space to those who may truly undermine the business of education.
What about the two cultures inside the academe then? It may seem that the science and technology disciplines are more ready to engage in the business of the economic value led domain of practical education, but humanities are not. However, this is not the disciplinary boundaries that constrain such engagement, but vocabularies that are primarily grounded in the past. Today's competences are still centered on the search for truth, beauty and morality, assisted by a keen eye and an agile mind. Employment in today's business organisations may indeed appear like slavery to the critical eye, but professions are indeed changing fast and whether individual corporations may or may not want sentient students, they would still push the boundaries of the profession and help build new standards and trades. The good news for humanities is that almost all employment is like entrepreneurship now (or going to be), each one being an individual agent, enabled to take decisions and imagine new possibilities. The moment the humanities disciplines re-imagine their vocabulary, and instead rediscover their values (which somewhat got buried in the technicalities of bureaucratic education), it would be evident that they have not been left out after all.
Indeed, despite many tragedies and wasted lives, that's what many pragmatic students are doing. The successful Sociology student, who highlight their experiences in behavioural research and experiences of working among disadvantaged communities in London, rather than hiding behind the fashionable names and luxuriously obscure theories, is building on his education in the context of social need. The Literature Graduate who have used the power of the language and metaphors into a successful small business of content writing, the History graduate who has taken on policy research for an investment firm, are not surrendering to the neo-liberal values: They are just being pragmatic, as people through generations have always been. They are using the powerful tools that education has equipped them with and making a difference, in their own lives but also in the lives of others around them.
So, instead of holding out and feeling besieged, educators need to engage in this debate. It is they who should hold the others - the employers, the governments - accountable: They should assume their responsibility to build successful lives and successful societies. They should stop hiding behind the disciplinary idyls and stop playing the game of entitlements that they have got so used to. An educator's success, by their own definition, is manifested in that of its students; it is time to remember the core value of the profession over and above the privilege of public purse and bureaucratic entitlements that everyone got so used to.