Usefully Useless

I have heard it said that:

“An education is that which remains after you have forgotten everything you learned in college”

This is an interesting quote considering the amount of discussion that goes on in departments about the “importance” of the classes that students are required to take.  There is a debate between the sciences and humanities.  Which will better prepare you for the “Real World” everyone is eventually headed to?  What is more useful?

Professors talk about the syllabus, tests, readings, and homework sets that make their class more effective, more useful than that other disciplines courses.  Hours and hours are spent grading these endless assignments in order to provide effective feedback to students in an attempt to facilitate learning.  Is this time well spent?  Are these the right discussions to be having?

Assuming the role of the university is to provide an education, and assuming that you, the reader, agree with the quote above the debate of Useful vs. Useless takes on new meaning.  If you still have an education after forgetting everything you ever “learned” what remains?  It can’t be the knowledge that was the topic of the useful vs. useless debate at your university.  You forgot that.

Perhaps what remains is the confidence that you can learn something.  Rector Loprieno of the University of Basel shared that while a particular course of study may be deemed Useless by outsiders or industry an individual participating often comes away having retained something Useful.

What is it that separates the Useless from the Useful?  What and who defines that which is called Useful?  And knowing that Useful things often emerge from seemingly Useless exercises how should the university respond to the Useful vs. Useless debate?

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