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01 September 2012


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I didn't see that comment, and now I'm not sure where I'm supposed to respond to it, but here goes - the nursing school here in Denmark is different than in the US. (Which I know because I did an English-language summer program here where there were about 20 American nursing students and 5 Danish nursing students.) They had a LOT more emphasis on pathology, pharmacology, all those hard -ologies. (They did have some nursing theory though too.) We had 1 semester each of anatomy, pathology and pharmacology - the rest we expect to learn on the job or in our practicums. In comparison we had lots of nursing theory and philosophy and humanities-type stuff. So in Denmark nurses not only have medical ethics, but also epistemology and basic philosophy and pedagogy and epidemiology & methodology and statistics, etc, etc. (Including being forced to consider the role of Christianity in nursing history and theory - google for example Katie Eriksson's caritative caring theory.)

The struggle with these types of degrees is always to create a balance between practical and theoretical knowledge, but someone who is interested in the humanities' side of these professions will definitely have plenty to take hold of.

More on point to this post: Personally I think *everyone* needs this kind of education (otherwise watching TV wouldn't make me want to rip my eyes out), and that these kinds of critical thinking and writing skills are what a lot of people are thinking about when they insist that everyone who can should go to college. The problem is it's so difficult to teach well and that the high school (and college) system is based SO much on bullshitting and regurgitating your way through it, and even in college your papers are probably being graded by some graduate student who is not the most rigorous thinker him/herself. (There was a run-on sentence that really meant it, eh.) I had non-obligatory philosophy classes in community college and it was terrible. The teacher was a pompous little you-know-what who couldn't have taught his way out of a paper bag to save his life. I can't imagine trying to teach epistemology and rhetoric to a room of high school students who don't care.

Here in DK you have 9 years of schooling before people go their separate ways. Then you go to "youth education" (ungdomsuddannelser) which lasts between 1-5 years. The business-preparatory youth education prepares you, as you may guess, to begin working as soon as you are finished - these are typically transportation, retail, cosmetology, cooking, construction, etc. At the close of the study-preparatory youth education, by which is usually meant the 3 year gymnasium, you are ready to apply to an institute of higher learning. (But there are also technical gymnasiums and business gymnasiums, so it's not all humanities. And there are schools that provide a gymnasial equivalent degree to adults that are going back to school (no stigma on this at all).) I think it would be easier to tailor the classical liberal arts training in schools if the students were divided up like this, but that's probably not going to happen ever.

Sorry for this, the world's longest, most incoherent and poorly translated comment ever.


Rebekka. This is a fascinating comment.

We can't very well gripe about the US system without at least considering how it works in other countries, can we?


Btw - I had never heard of Katie Eriksson, but I did what you said and googled her, and WOW that sounds intriguing!


As someone who started a master's program two years ago, I have several times had the thought that Plato and Aristotle are wasted on 18 and 19 year olds. You want to expose young people to these ideas and help to form their character, but you understand them so much better when you are more mature.

As we're talking about alternative routes of education, I wanted to mention that it was so very common for the wives of graduate students who were staying home with small children to take one or two graduate classes. I'm not sure we have to focus on getting this education before you go out and start your family or career. For these women in my community, continuing their education when they transitioned from school to being a stay at home mom provided mental stimulation at a time that they were in the drudgery of babies and toddlers.

I'm probably coming across as anti-college in my comments, but really, I'm just anti-large debt, and I want people to be able to have the flexibility to buy a house or have a parent stay home. I think that insisting on going to college for the experience is similar to saying you should take out a massive loan to travel the world for a year. Sure, there's nothing like it and you would learn so much, but is it really worth crippling the future of your family? There are lots of paths to education, and I think making an idol out of college can be making a similar mistake to saying that focusing on a career is too utilitarian.


Now that I have had a chance to think about it, I want to walk back what I wrote here:

"The parts of a liberal arts education that are truly necessary for full human development, it seems, ought to be provided before age 18. Otherwise, we're all but saying that high school graduates in all kinds of fields aren't fully developed persons."

I take that back because, of course, you should continue developing all your life, and as an emancipated adult it's you who assumes the responsibility and the freedom to set the course.

I think what I mean to say here is that, since we know that college is not the right choice for everyone, it seems a stretch to say that college is necessary for anyone -- necessary in the sense that it is the only way to acquire the *basic* liberal arts education that they have a right to expect their parents to provide.

LeeAnn B

I want to get back to this topic when I am home with a keyboard and not a touch screen. :) I am amazed at the profound and detailed output of late. Pour me one of whatever you're having!


I'm fascinated by what Rebekka says about the differences between English and Danish nursing programs. The state college I taught at had a nursing program and I had several nursing majors in my classes during the time I taught. They were among my favorite students, some of the most thoughtful and empathetic and serious students I had. I so wish they could have had the kind of education you describe that has room for the humanities and a broader education that examines not just the how but the why of nursing.

I am definitely with Kelly in being anti large debt and pro flexibility. I like the idea of anyone being able to go to an affordable liberal arts program that can. And by affordable I mean something that you could pay for in full with a part time minimum wage job. A pipe dream, I'm sure; but that's my ideal. I think you might be able to do something like that with more mature high school students; but not everyone is that mature. Though I wonder which comes first immature students or schools which treat teens as if they were incapable of serious intellectual pursuits? The students at the state school I taught at all struck me as very immature compared to my classmates at the Great Books liberal arts college I attended. Sure, there might be some bias in my perception; and definitely some selection bias. But there were many students who could have stepped up had they been challenged and sadly were coasting in an educational environment that often pandered to the lowest common denominator.

I do think that your original statement about providing the parts of a liberal arts education truly necessary for full human development before one is 18 is right on if you consider that what you are providing is an intellectual foundation on which the student will continue to build his whole life. Certainly he can't read all the great books but he can begin to engage with them. He can learn how to read them and learn to love them so that he will want to spend the rest of his life in the pursuit of greater knowledge and deeper understanding.


I have a good friend who is a public health nurse and sometimes comments here, and I may bug her to read and respond to Rebekka's comments!


Okay, I am just going to throw this out here because I truly feel I am out of my league conversing with people with Masters and PhD's.
I'm actively pursuing my Liberal Arts education myself. And, I will be thrusting my high school aged kids through it (with me.) What about the free college classes available? I love that MIT, and many, many others offer free college courses on line. What is missing is the dialogue, which I choose to get with other moms who are also trying to better themselves.
Just curious. We're broke. Can't take on debt for me to get a further degree...So options like MITx and Courseara look extremely tempting. And, then I wonder why this wouldn't be an option for those in technical fields (like I was before homeschooling.)

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