Prepping for a Career or Prepping for Life

Every now and then I have to remind the students in my photojournalism courses that I am not there to make them into photojournalists, that I am not giving them career training. They look confused until I remind them that the purpose of a university education is not to get you a job, but to make you into a productive member of society.

Most of the time they get it, but some, alas, do not. What I do in my classroom is teach them to observe their communities, record what is happening and try to bring an understanding to their fellow citizens so they can make reasoned and informed decisions. I talk about our “Constitutional responsibility to commit acts of journalism” often.

There is an entire other realm of education out there that is designed to prepare you for a career and, for the most part, there is nothing wrong with that. While we do a lot of technical training here, we do it so they can use these tools to better their community.

Photo District News has a pretty deep piece up by David Walker that looks at the lawsuits against The Art Institutes, a chain of schools that offer degrees in creative fields at 45 locations around the country. It is not a pretty picture, to say the least.

I want to have some deep thought here, some warning or piece of sage advice … but I don’t. I don’t have a problem with The Art Institutes on principal, though I think I have some serious ethical and moral problems with the way they appear to be recruiting. And while I think those who enroll in these programs without understanding what they’re getting in to are at fault, I also think their earlier education (wait for it, here comes my never-ending rant) probably set them up for this by not teaching them the critical thinking skills they needed. Because they were taught-to-a-test, they aren’t prepared to look critically at something and make reasoned and informed decisions.

There’s some irony in not being educated well enough to understand education.

Mark E. Johnson

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