The week@work – Essays about work & class, what to learn in college, & paying tribute on Memorial Day

This week@work invites us to pause and remember those whose unselfish commitment to our way of life motivates them to sacrifice immediate career aspirations, family and in some cases, their lives. On my ‘honors list ‘this year, in addition to the active members in the military and veterans, are the doctors and nurses who travelled to Africa to fight Ebola and the medical personnel who treated the Ebola patients who returned to the US.

These folks allow the rest of us to go about pursuing our own ‘American dream’ while they ensure our right to do so. We apply to college, launch careers, struggle with work/life balance and do our best to contribute to our communities. And on one day, Memorial Day, in towns across the country there will remember with parades, 5k races and wreaths set on memorials to the war dead.

Work & Class (‘Essays About Work and Class That Caught a College’s Eye’, Ron Lieber, The New York Times, May 21)

Very few college admissions essays address issues of work and class, but each year, a selection of those that do are published in The New York Times.

“The single most memorable line we read this year came from an essay by Carolina Sosa, who lives in Centreville, Va., and will attend Georgetown University. In writing about her father’s search for a job, she described the man named Dave who turned him away.

“Job searching is difficult for everyone, but in a world full of Daves, it’s almost impossible,” she wrote. “Daves are people who look at my family and immediately think less of us. They think illegal, poor and uneducated. Daves never allow my dad to pass the first round of job applications. Daves watch like hawks as my brother and I enter stores. Daves inconsiderately correct my mother’s grammar. Because there are Daves in the world, I have become a protector for my family.”

What to Learn in College (‘What to Learn in College to Stay One Step Ahead of Computers’, Robert J. Shiller, The New York Times, May 22)

Professor Shiller addresses the central question in higher education today. How do we ensure that those who attend college are transformed by the experience, not just with a utilitarian skill set, but with a broader understanding of the human condition and a commitment to improving their local and global community?

“What can young people learn now that won’t be superseded within their lifetimes by these devices and that will secure them good jobs and solid income over the next 20, 30 or 50 years? In the universities, we are struggling to answer that question.

Two strains of thought seem to dominate the effort to deal with this problem. The first is that we teachers should define and provide to our students a certain kind of general, flexible, insight-bearing human learning that, we hope, cannot be replaced by computers. The second is that we need to make education more business-oriented, teaching about the real world and enabling a creative entrepreneurial process that, presumably, computers cannot duplicate. These two ideas are not necessarily in conflict.”

His conclusion reflects a recognition of the value of integrated, adaptive learning.

“The developing redefinition of higher education should provide benefits that will continue for decades into the future. We will have to adapt as information technology advances. At the same time, we must continually re-evaluate what is inherently different between human and computer learning, and what is practical and useful to students for the long haul. And we will have to face the reality that the “art of living in the world” requires at least some elements of a business education.”

Paying Tribute

This week The 9/11 Memorial marked it’s first anniversary since opening. News organizations were given a preview of the observation deck atop the new One World Trade Center. A good time to revisit the intention of the original architect of the twin towers, and his quote preserved on the wall of the memorial museum.

“Beyond the compelling need to make this a monument to world peace, the World Trade Center should, because of its’ importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his beliefs in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness.” 

Minoru Yamasaki, World Trade Center Architect, 1964

This week@work we make connections. The architect’s desire for his building to represent man’s belief in humanity, Carolina Sosa’s hope to recover her father’s human dignity from ‘the Daves’ and Professor Shiller’s intention to preserve the values of higher education to ensure each graduate’s opportunity to find greatness.

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