I agree with Charles Murray in Real Education that not advocating for everyone to go to university is not the same as saying that most should not have a liberal education. What is missing is a good liberal education in high school or another educational setting. One doesn’t need to take a 300 level university course and know everything about the Enlightenment to know what the Enlightenment was. I’m not one who believes that the past was so much better than now, but I do have a book in my possession entitled High School Self Taught from 1940 that, I believe, would be a real stretch for even the university graduates I know.
I know plenty of non-university educated people, mainly older people, who know a lot about history, but they seem to be a dying breed. I believe you need to have attained the “hooks” (basic concepts that let you appropriately categorize newly learned information) from school, or maybe a learned aunt, in order that one can develop the interest as an adult with self-learning. Unfortunately, we don’t even teach the hooks anymore.
Wouldn’t a plumber or a carpenter or a web developer be a better tradesman if they were to methodically study the history of their craft? I know I would be more likely to use a tradesman who could hold a conversation about something interesting he had recently read about his trade. Or, maybe, someone who understood the guild movements of previous centuries and how they influenced innovation in that trade? I need to give it more thought, but I believe a good New Yeoman would aspire to it.
With more and more people learning specialized technical trades, I wonder if we may not be ripe for a new way to learn the liberal arts while working or learning a trade? Would it ease parents’ fears that their child was not getting a broader education along with their accelerated technical degree?