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Utilitarians and College Education Essay

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2022

Utilitarianism is a part of ethics, according to which the moral value of behavior or deed is determined by its utility. The usefulness of action means the integral pleasure or happiness received by all affected parties during the duration of the consequences of the action (Portmore, 2020). Utilitarianism belongs to the consequential group of ethical theories since it judges an act not by itself, but by its results. Utilitarianism is based on hedonism or eudemonism. These are axiological teachings, according to which the highest value is pleasure or happiness. Rigorous definitions of pleasure and happiness remain a challenge for the time being. Another problematic question is whether these concepts are identical (Blackie, 2019). Modern utilitarians tend to identify them. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the value of education in utilitarianism and to answer the question of whether a utilitarian can argue that going to college is morally wrong.

The value of modern education is in question, and many young people are reluctant to it. They understand that the practical skills gained during the work can be much more useful than extensive basic knowledge of various topics. As a result, they are eager to find an interesting job and get all the necessary knowledge there. In addition, the experience is much more important to many modern employers than having a diploma. The document may not reflect the student’s real skills, whereas reviews from previous employers describe them in detail. Consequently, the question of the need for study is indeed controversial.

Thus, this issue becomes controversial for the utilitarian as well. On the one hand, education has been one of the key values ​​of people from high society for several centuries. It allows people to form certain views of the world, have opportunities for professional development, and just be interesting interlocutors. There is also a stereotype that the more people know, the more they can achieve. In addition, the college does not offer students exceptional knowledge and overly complex material. On the contrary, college education involves learning basic subjects that can indeed come in handy in everyday life, and these studies are available to most. People do not spend too much effort on college education, so it cannot be said that it harms them or spoils their lives.

On the other hand, the quality of modern studies is not always high enough to be beneficial. Not all teachers can convince students of the importance of their subjects and convey the material clearly. Unfortunately, many people go into this profession due to a lack of choice or desire to earn money. Moreover, students themselves are often not interested in studies and go to college only under the guidance of their parents. They do not know where they want to develop professionally, and therefore cannot make an informed choice of an educational institution. Unfortunately, this is why do not pay due attention to their studies. They look for all the information they need on the Internet and simply pass it through themselves, while nothing useful remains inside. In other words, college can be a waste of time for many, especially when students themselves are not sure what they need.

Hence, in this situation, utilitarians cannot accurately determine whether going to college might be morally wrong. In other words, they do not know if education is beneficial since it is individual in each case. For some, studies can be the starting point for rapid development and a brilliant career. In this case, utilitarians can confidently assert that college education is morally correct and even necessary. For other people, however, going to college can be a waste of time, money, and effort. Students will not learn anything new there because they simply do not want to, and they will not get any benefit. In this case, college education becomes morally wrong from the utilitarians’ point of view.

Regardless, even if students think they are wasting time in college, they receive a degree. In addition, they gain useful skills, albeit not related to fundamental knowledge. For example, they learn to find information in all available sources and process it according to assigned tasks. They learn to plan and adhere to deadlines because these tasks need to be done and delivered on time. Thus, even seemingly meaningless education can be of significant benefit to students. They can use their education papers to find work and be more successful in the workplace due to certain skills.

Thus, utilitarians can hardly say that education is morally wrong. Undoubtedly, sometimes it can be a burden for students, and the received documents seem useless. Nevertheless, the educational path passed and its results can be useful in one way or another. Hence, they become morally correct from a utilitarian point of view. Undoubtedly, there are situations where college education becomes truly meaningless for the student: for instance, when they studied humanities, and then continued the family business of repairing cars. In other words, utilitarians can call college education morally wrong. However, such situations are quite rare, therefore, this statement is controversial and not widespread.


Blackie, J. S. (2019). Four phases of morals: Socrates, Aristotle, Christianity, Utilitarianism. Good Press.

Portmore, D. W. (2020). The Oxford handbook of consequentialism. Oxford University Press.

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