Clayten Christensen on What We 'Need to Know'

Clay Christensen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Clayten Christensen, one of the most widely cited business theorists today (Harvard University professor, author of a number of books including The Innovator's Dilemma) recently spoke to Business Insider about a range of topics, including education. He had some intriguing things to say:

In the universities, we teach you what we decide you need to know. And the employers find out when they hire people that students didn't learn what we needed them to learn. Online learning offerings, like the University of Phoenix, have relationships with employers and teach what you need to know. So things that we thought were important, like having a degree, get supplanted by achievements because a degree per se doesn't mean as much.
 

Christensen hits upon questions that have long kept philosophers in business: What do students need to know? Ensuring some meaningful relationship between employers and education seems fairly intuitive, but education cannot be conceived of only or merely as the vehicle to obtain a W-2. A well-rounded life, a life that wrestles meaningfully with the nature of God and the human being; a life that becomes self-directed and free, while at the same time embracing larger obligations to family and society: this kind of life will necessarily require an investigation of texts and subjects that lack an immediate connection to finding a job. One of the most influential classes I ever tookmedieval philosophy, during my junior year at Saint Louis Universitydidn't hone a technical skill but it helped me understand why God exists, how my free will could be compatible with God's foreknowledge and how reason has a capacity that many in the modern world not only do not understand but often constrict. That semester was one of the most important in my life and has saved me from many confusions and unnecessary detours. And in ways that I cannot quite define or measure, it has helped me as a lawyer, a writer and educator, and most certainly as a pilgrim searching for the ultimate truth about this existence. 

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Christensen is a practicing Mormon, so I imagine he would approve of an education that integrates authors and material beyond what's good for finding work, authors and material, in other words, that speak to the formation of character and the soul. But what, in practice, does that mean? Would Christensen include, within this course of studies, an Introduction to Aristotle? 

 

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