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Sunday, 2 February 2014

'Non-vocational' courses have their advantages!

There is a time in every man's [sic] education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.... The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proprtionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is releved and gay [sic] when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt, his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no intervention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men [sic] have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) 'Self-Reliance'

Originally 'vocational' meant that a person experienced the sense of being 'called' to a certain line of work for which they felt a natural aptitude. A former community education drawing class teacher (ca 1984-86) demonstrated a keen understanding of my nature when she said to me that she was not surprised that I wanted to go much further in my pursuit of an Arts career while my mum and jobcentre staff argued, "But there's no money in it." The late Jane Trevelyan — the tutor concerned — said to me, "You are well-suited to an Arts career because you have a contemplative approach to life." (Sadly, however, I went on to experience less support and too much jobcentre harassment in the part-time college Fine Art & Ceramics course I entered upon, as well as problems related to my disability.)

The 'calling' associated with the term 'vocational' nowadays comes increasingly in the form of orders from jobcentre staff all too keen to make some sort of impact on the lives of JSA claimants even if that impact is to stifle the claimant's prospects for course completion and the long-term, lifelong prospects that completion can bring when the claimant/student keeps within the arbitrary 15 hours per week maximum study commitment that JSA rules now dictate and their disability access requirements are appropriately addressed.

Anyhow, what of Arts courses that are now termed 'non-vocational'? I quote from the Preface to Howard Figler's (2001) 'Keys to Liberal Arts Success':

Why Should I Study Liberal Arts Rather Than a More "Vocationally Oriented" Curriculum?

A liberal education offers both career benefits and personal benefits. It allows you to have the best of both worlds — an appropriate education for the fast-changing, diverse world of work that exists today, and a breadth of learning that attunes you to the issues of life that affect everyone, regardless of their career aspirations or personal goals....

What Advantages Can I Anticipate in the Job Market as a Liberal Arts Graduate?

There are numerous ways in which your liberal education will help you progress in your work and adapt successfully to the rapidly changing and unpredictable world of jobs and entrepreneuring....

How Do I Find Social Value in My Career — "Good Work"?

Not many liberal arts students ask this question, but it comes up frequently after graduation, so it is useful to address it now....
[N]onvocational courses, liberal arts, can enable you to progress greatly in the world of work. This is because liberal arts courses go above and beyond the mere acquisition of information or technical skills. They enable you to learn intellectual skills and adopt a creative perspective that you can apply to any new body of knowledge or set of problems. Even more importantly, you learn to reflect on the impact on humanity of the decisions you make in your work. You're not a mere technician. You're an actor on the stage of life.
All the more reason, perhaps, for those who are into 'only following orders' in their pursuit of Government targets dictated by people who lack the relevant experience or compassion, to hate 'the liberal arts' and what they stand for?



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