Solomon Salvatore is attending his 25th high school reunion. The high school, called The Academy, is a respected New England private preparatory school. The Academy is also celebrating its 100-year anniversary, which has prompted school officials to hold the reunion at the luxurious new All Seasons Health/Beauty Resort and Spa. This upscale resort caters to individuals who wish to achieve the pinnacle of health. Solomon has found a couple of old classmates and has organized lunch with them at the resort’s restaurant. The first is Roger Simpson, a newly appointed president of Haverford, a large public university. The other, Bud Sager, is the academic dean of the smaller elite private college, Brownstone College. They are seated at a small table.
Bud Sager: So how have you two been getting along?
Roger Simpson: Superbly, though I am frightfully overextended.
Sag: It is that time of life.
Simp: My new position as university president is exciting but challenging. Personally, I think my secretary accomplished a herculean task to find time in my schedule to allow me to come.
Sag: I am with you 100%. One’s duties as dean never seem to stop. But I wouldn’t miss this trip down memory lane for anything.
Simp: Solomon, my crazy friend, I haven’t seen or heard from you since graduation. It’s been too long.
Sag: It has. I miss all of those adventures you led us on. To this day, I’m guaranteed to get a room full of laughs when I tell the stories of the ingenious and elaborate pranks you got us mixed up in. You were always so clever. I’m dying to hear what great things you have accomplished.
Solomon Salvatore: I’m an auto mechanic.
Simp: Oh. … That’s great. Really?
Salv: Yep. But I’ve enjoyed it. Soon after graduation, I got married and had a couple of kids. So college was never in the cards. My eldest, Charlotte, though, is looking into college now, and so I’ve been poking around trying to help her to find the right school.
Simp: Well you’re at the perfect table then!
Sag: Has Charlotte got her eye on any particular school?
Salv: Not yet. We have been looking together, but it’s a bit overwhelming.
Simp: I’ll say. There are many options. Is she interested in any particular major or area of study?
Salv: She isn’t really sure. What I have been telling her, though, is that what is most important is getting a really high quality education.
Sag: Exactly. Fortunately the Northeast has an abundance of excellent schools.
Salv: So I hear. But the more I look, the more confused I get.
Sag: Why is that?
Salv: I can’t figure out what high quality education is. For that matter, I can’t even figure out what education is supposed to be for.
Education Imparts Knowledge and Skills for Career
The server approaches.
Fabio: Good evening. My name is Fabio, and I will be your server this afternoon. Welcome to Diete, our premiere restaurant, where your health is our first concern. Would you like to hear our menu offerings?
Simp: I don’t think I will be interested in any specials today. I will order off the menu.
Fabio: Ahh, I am sorry. I was not clear. You see at Diete, we offer a variety of distinct menus. You can order from any one of them.
Sag: Different menus? How novel.
Fabio: Yes, we have the Vegan menu, the Paleo menu, the Meat and Protein menu, the Fruitarian menu, and the Liquid Diet Shake menu.
Simp: Ahh. I don’t suppose you serve Cobb salad?
Salv: Why so many menus, if I may ask?
Fabio: Of course. Our patrons seek perfect health and have a variety of dietary needs. Naturally we seek to provide service for all approaches to dietary health.
Salv: But these menus seem contradictory. How can they all promote health?
Fabio: Each patron has a specially designed program which they select with the help of their beautification advisor.
Sag: Beautification advisor? What in the world?
Salv: So the patrons come to the resort already knowing what is healthy, or do you teach them?
Fabio: Ah. Perhaps you would like to speak to our resident nutritionist. He would be glad to help you if you would like to hear more about our programs.
Sag: Look, could I just get a Cobb salad as well?
Fabio: Of course. And you sir, would you like to look at one of our menus?
Salv: No, thanks. I’ll go with the Cobb.
Fabio: Wonderful. Is there anything else I can get you? Drinks, appetizers?
Simp: That will be all I think.
Fabio: Thank you.
Sag: Odd. But if I may pick up where we left off, what is the source of your confusion about education?
Salv: My daughter’s got me thinking. What exactly is education, and what is it for? I have been looking for someone to help me sort it out but have not had any luck. I have this bad habit of asking too many questions, and my conversations go nowhere. To be totally honest, it was my hope that I might get some help from you two, which is partly why I tried to get us all together.
Sag: Ahh. Well I am glad you did. I am sure we would be happy to help.
Salv: The problem is that I have heard so many conflicting ideas about education. I am having trouble making sense of it all.
Simp: Well, I don’t think it is all that complicated really. At Haverford University, we seek to impart knowledge, knowledge that opens up opportunities, knowledge that leads ultimately to a career of the student’s own choosing.
Sag: Exactly. Knowledge broadens perspectives. As they say, knowledge is power.
Salv: So they say. I wish I could remember half of the knowledge I learned in school. It all seems to have faded away, most of it about a week after the exam. But maybe with high quality schools, students don’t forget. Is that right?
Simp: Forgetting is a problem, no doubt. But it seems clear that if the students forget they have not been educated.
Salv: So how long do they have to remember?
Sag: I am not sure there is any clear length of time so long as they remember long enough that their knowledge becomes useful to them.
Salv: Oh. So are you saying knowledge that is not useful to them is not part of education?
Simp: This whole conversation needs to be put into context. The knowledge that students gain during their university education is directed to their career. They need to have the kind of information that will allow them to be successful in their chosen career path. As they pursue their career, those things that they learned and continue to use will be remembered. Other things may become less important to them, and they will forget.
Salv: Seems like the job is the goal then.
Salv: Then you offer students job-specific classes.
Sag: More or less, yes. That is what the major is for, of course.
Salv: Charlotte has one friend that has his sights set on being a computer programmer. Another has been saying he wants to be a chef, like that Ramsay guy on TV. So do they take only computer and cooking classes?
Sag: That is not exactly what I meant.
Salv: Oh. What did you mean?
Simp: Obviously, we don’t teach cooking classes.
Salv: How can he learn to be a chef?
Sag: Besides there are things that a student must know that don’t directly pertain to the specific job.
Salv: What sort of things?
Sag: How to write essays and work in groups, for instance.
Salv: Why must a cook know how to write an essay?
Simp: Well a cook does not come to a university for an education.
Salv: A cook needs no education?
Simp: He needs on-the-job training or to go to a culinary institute.
Salv: Is on-the-job training education?
Simp: Of a sort.
Salv: But, if Charlotte’s friend can learn the knowledge he needs on his job as a cook, what is the reason for going to a university for an education?
Simp: There is no reason, if he wants to be a cook. But some jobs are much more demanding that cooking. They require years of education and the development of complex skills. Employers in these fields are looking to hire someone who is ready to work right away. It is up to the employee to obtain those skills.
Salv: Seems like a raw deal to me.
Salv: Restaurants will pay their employees to learn the skills they need, but these other employers expect their employees to pay a whole heap of money for job skills. Cooking doesn’t sound so bad, if you ask me.
Simp: It just wouldn’t work for the employers to do the training. That is best left to those who specialize in skill development, universities and colleges.
Salv: Hold up a second. I think I am confused again.
Salv: I had thought you said that education is imparting knowledge. But now you say that a student learns skills at a university. So I can’t tell which it is—imparting knowledge or gaining skills?
Sag: I would think both skills and knowledge are important.
Salv: I see. There are certain skills, like writing essays, and various kinds of knowledge, like programming languages that comprise education.
Salv: And since there are many jobs, there must be many different educations: one education for the programmer, one for the teacher, and one for the cook.
Salv: Hmm, I know I’m probably missing something, but I don’t see why a programmer would go to a university.
Sag: What do you mean that a programmer would not want to go to a university?
The Server arrives with lunch.
Fabio: Here you are. I have your salads for you. Is there anything else I can get for you now?
Simp: Not at the moment. Thanks.
Fabio: I do not want to impose, but based on your earlier questions, I have asked our house nutritionist, Lemuel Gullet, to come over so he can address any concerns you might have about health. Lemuel?
Lemuel: I understand you had some questions about our menus?
Salv: Just that the approaches to nutrition and health in your menus seem, well, if I may say, rather contradictory. So I was wondering what you meant by health.
Salv [to his companions]: I hope you don’t mind if I ask.
Sag: By all means.
Lemuel: I am tickled you have taken an interest. At the All Seasons, our motto, taken from the famous poem, is “Health is Beauty and Beauty is Health.”
Sag: You mean truth.
Lemuel: Indeed I do. For our motto expresses a profound truth. Look around you. Are not those who are healthy also beautiful? The beauty they display from their pleasing gait to their rosy cheeks speaks of their health.
Sag: No, “Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth.” I meant that you substituted health for truth. … In your motto.
Lemuel: Exactly. It is true that there is no substitution for health. I agree completely. We thus design our menus in a way that will help our guests to achieve simultaneously health and beauty. Now different guests have different desires as to how best to achieve those dual goals, and so we cater to their desires. It is all rather beautiful.
Salv: Can an ugly person be healthy?
Simp: You know, Solomon, perhaps you could take this up later with our sage nutritionist.
Salv: Of course. Perhaps later, Mr. Gullet.
Lemuel: I am available any time.
Server and Lemuel Gullet leave.
To be continued…