Higher education should value civic responsibility

We are at the University of Minnesota to pursue higher education and to critically engage with the world around us, while at the same time preparing to take on the âÄúreal world.âÄù

The education we receive in the classroom is certainly necessary for our participation in the workforce. However, many students fail to realize that training to be a biologist, or a psychologist, or an architect or a business person is only part of what education is about.

Job markets today arenâÄôt looking very bright. The Star Tribune reported that the recession, which supposedly ended in 2009, is affecting those seeking full-time employment in the United States now more than ever before.

This means that even if you spend thousands of dollars to earn a degree, you may spend months working very little or for very low wages before actually finding suitable and sustainable work.

If our higher education was only supposed to facilitate job training, weâÄôd all be wasting our time and money. But the beauty of education is that itâÄôs meant to inform students about ways to change the system, how to engage with government and democracy and how to suit the needs of all citizens.

 We all have a vote and we all have a voice. Those votes and voices count just as much as those of our parents, grandparents, professors and employers.

Civic responsibility is a value that should be instilled through higher education programs. Our livelihoods, our careers and our futures depend on our ability to have a voice, not just to get a job.

When higher education ceases to inform students about their rights and responsibilities as American citizens, or ceases to critically and actively engage students with the democracy they have equal claim to, then higher education fails.

 

Melanie Williams

Co-Chairwoman,

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group