by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Those who’ve read Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart will recall a key theme: the decreasing likelihood that the affluent and members of the working class will interact regularly in their daily lives. Murray laments that change in American life.
Two physicians writing in the latest issue of Barron’s magazine share similar concerns. Dr. Robert Doroghazi is a retired cardiologist who publishes the Physician Investor Newsletter. Dr. Joseph Alpert is professor of medicine at the University of Arizona-Tucson and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Medicine. They challenge the notion that college students should fill their summers with academic pursuits.
As physicians of an earlier generation, we have seen students entering medical school who have never held a job that involved regular hours with regular paychecks. The percentage of such individuals is rising.
If this trend continues, many of the leaders of tomorrow may finish their prolonged educations without ever having held a real job, never encountering a demanding boss who was not primarily a teacher, and never finding out how long a workday really is.
Things are valued in direct proportion to the costs of obtaining them. People who live in their parents’ basements and work full-time while attending a local community college part-time to avoid student debt are likely to have a greater appreciation of the value of their educations than those who have never held a job in the real world.
Exclusive year-round school-based activities might produce a generation of cloistered individuals out of touch with the real world. In this season of beginnings in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools, students and their families ought to place at least as high a priority on having experience in the real-world workforce as they do on extracurricular activities such as music and sports.
Future leaders of business, government, and academe should not spend their formative years in a bubble. Even if they read about the French and Russian revolutions, they may not really understand popular resentment of their elite majesties.
The idea to have students go to school year-round sounds intellectually appealing but could well cause the leaders of tomorrow to be even more separated from the real world. Working with real people, seeing what they must do to make ends meet, day after day, month after month, often for their entire adult life, offers a chance for an important lesson to be learned.
We are not suggesting the U.S. undertake a Maoist cultural revolution, banishing students to dig ditches or work in mines. Rather, we suggest that exposure to the real work world and ordinary Americans would be an enlightening educational experience. If students experience an elite educational environment 12 months a year, they might never understand how society really functions.