Scribbles in my HeiNous notebook, Friday 30th April 2021: observations and writing I have found interesting in the last week.
There has been a lot written recently about vocational education, thanks to a Social Market Foundation essay doing the rounds at present (worth noting it’s based on pre-pandemic data). There’s some good initial commentary noting some of the issues with the phrasing of the survey by the always-engaging Mike Ratcliffe on his blog. There’s more to say on how valuable (or not) this data is, but it’s not surprising I’d think that given I’m currently based in Scotland where the college model is quite different (the word ‘Scotland’ doesn’t feature in the essay at all).
One benefit of vocational education being on everyone’s tongue right now, though, is that someone at Slate commissioned this article by David Epstein, discussing his 2019 book, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”. There were certain quotes that I found particularly interesting, because they chimed with some things I have been considering recently.
Firstly, I’m trying to remember if I ever knew the second half to the ‘Jack of All Trades’ saying:
“A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Being a folklorist, it’s not surprising I love this.
“The early specializers often won in the short-term, and lost in the long run. Workers who received general education, the economists concluded, were better positioned to adapt to change in a wicked world, where work next year might not look like work last year.”
As someone interested in narratives surrounding careers and development for humanities graduates, I feel there are definitely interesting linkages to be made between the concept of a general education and a humanities background: namely, the transferability of experience and application of skills. Adaptability. (On a related note, Emily Beugelmans Cook’s ‘Hired Humanities’ newsletter is always worth a read.)
“Development is not linear, and diversions that set you back in the short term frequently become powerful tools in the long term.”
I have, for the last several years, described my career path as non-linear. That is entirely by choice, as I have at several points in my life chosen a certain direction based on what was the right decision for me at the time (choosing to study a PhD by distance-learning part time whilst also working full time is the most obvious example of this). As a result, I have a breadth of rounded experience under my belt and, equally as importantly, my passion for the Higher Education sector has only grown over the years. I have a tendency to seek out projects and roles which interest and challenge me, rather than those which may be the most logical or expected in terms of career path at any given time. I don’t count any of these “diversions” as having “set me back” in any way (surely this third quote invites a conversation about what success looks like?), but I certainly feel that all of my career and personal choices have provided me with powerful tools which are undoubtedly of use now, and will continue to be so in the future.