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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is College a Waste of Time?

THIS ARTICLE from the WSJ seems to think so:
Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:
First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn't meet the goal. We will call the goal a "BA."
Personally, I don't believe the idea of higher education, in itself, is a waste. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, prayers and peace be upon him, said, "Seeking ‘Ilm (knowledge) is incumbant on every Muslim."

I think that the American system of "College" is flawed, and the article seems to take an interesting perspective. It is unfortunate that college is such a "business" with many institutions charging students hundreds of thousands of dollars for 4 year educations. And for many lower to middle-class income families, college or the armed forces are the only measures of success. At least thats the way it seems to be for my extended (non-Muslim) family.

Although, I have friends, two brothers, who are successfully running a construction/real-estate management business with only a formal high school education. Both have been in and out of college, but have not viewed "college right out of high school" as necessary or key to the immediate operation of their business. However, both value education and recognize the importance of obtaining degrees within their respective fields. And obviously, college has not been a measure of their success.

So what about the Islamic Perspective...Some Muslims would have a problem with the stress Americans place on degrees in various fields above a formal Islamic education. Is an American system of college key in the life of a Muslim? Should we place this above Islamic and Arabic educations and degrees? Would we better please our Lord by memorizing Qur'an or studying Consitutional Law?

My Islamic Perspective:

To put things simply, obtaining a degree in Engineering so that you can get a well paying job, with the intentions of providing for your family and establishing community life for Muslims, is not only Halal, it is exactly what you should be doing as a Muslim. Their must be a balance within the community. Certain individuals are talented in certain areas and should be pursuing higher education in those areas with the intention of bettering the life of others as well as themselves.

Islamic education is not just fiqh and hadith. Islam is universal and education in Islam means education as to how to establish community life. With clear intentions, pursuit of higher education in most fields is needed just as much as Hafiz and Imams. FIND YOUR BALANCE AND FIND YOUR PURPOSE.


T-Ann said...

I personally don't think any form of education is a waste of time. But as one of my favorite artists Ben Harper said "you can give a man an education but you cannot make him think." So I think each individual or community has to decide how a college education can be good for the benefit of the individual or the community.

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