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Eugene Frier

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How can we best engage college students in the idea of learning instead of just getting a degree?

I work at a 4 year, public university and I see a great deal of students who come to school to get their degree (which they equate to money/success) and do not care about learning. What are your thoughts on the best way to engage them in the actual process of learning. I have my thoughts, but would love to hear my fellow TEDsters thoughts.

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    Mar 13 2013: I'm an engaged and idealistic learner who entered college incredibly scornful of students who only wanted a degree and had no love of learning, only to realize I was painfully ignorant of the socioeconomic factors involved. My ideals of learning for the sake of learning came from a place of extreme privilege, and I found that by and large the students who simply sought a degree were those who didn't have the luxury of thinking differently.

    I think there are some important curricular shifts that need to happen in order to address this issue. Both courses of practicality and courses of passion need to be requirements in a four-year degree, so that schools aren't divided between liberal arts students with no concrete career goals and preprofessional students who aren't being inspired in class. I think there's a lot that structural reform can do to encourage risk-free exploration.
    • Mar 14 2013: I get what you are saying but I think it comes down less to SES (socio economic status) and more to the individual. I came from a lower SES (my families expected contribution based on my FAFSA was 0), but I still wanted to learn to improve myself. This is based on how I was raised. I know that a lot of factors can drive this sort of thing (SES, culture, etc.), but I think its less about privilege and more about values (which aren't always tied to SES).
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        Mar 18 2013: Eugene, thank you for making this point. You're absolutely right. I certainly didn't mean to imply that I thought all college students without privileged backgrounds were uninterested in learning for the sake of learning. It was just my realization that a utilitarian approach, when present, was often fueled by factors beyond the student's control.

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