Monday, May 5, 2008


Below is a letter I sent to the Chicago Sun-Times on a topic that is among the nearest and dearest to my heart:


It is a reflection of our times that the 5/5/08 Sun-Times article on the value of a college education focused on the economic value of such matriculation. Fortunately, the Sun-Times chose as its lead example in the article a young man who truly understands that education transcends the merely monetary; in reflecting on his college experience, recent Loyola graduate Karnell Black said “I expanded my knowledge about the world, I found my calling.” Fortunately for young Mr. Black, and for our society, at least the Jesuits at Loyola continue to educate, rather than merely train, our nation’s young learners.

Career preparation is necessary, and indeed admirable. But we have gotten into the habit of calling what would have been called “apprenticeship” in a more enlightened time “education.” Education has to do not with job training, but with examination of the world and one’s self in the context of that world. Education, properly understood, is designed to prepare us for the burdens, long seemingly forgotten, that go with self-government on both the personal and societal levels. Education, as we used to say, has as its goal making the whole person, not merely manufacturing another cog in the economic machine.

In our modern mess of a world, in which solipsism is the dominant philosophy, life’s goals are enumerated in terms of dollars and cents, rap music, banausic “action” movies, and gormless situation comedies are considered high cultural achievements, and “awesome” is the only adjective anyone seems to know, it is easy to see why the Sun-Times fell into the trap of examining “education” almost solely on the basis of what going to school can do for one’s earning power. Further, as the holder of two of the most utilitarian degrees possible, a BS in Accountancy and an MBA, I perhaps am in no position to criticize our society’s inability to distinguish training from education. However, it is difficult to escape the notion that our society is somehow poorer for having lost the true meaning of education. One yearns for the days when scientia gratia scientiae was widely understood…in more ways than one.

Mark Quinn

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