“And the purpose of the University is nothing less than to procure a moral, intellectual, and spiritual revolution around the world. . . the specific task of the university is the development, release, and direction of intellectual power. . . . The total resources of the university must be focused on the problem of raising the intellectual level of the society which it serves.” (Robert Maynard Hutchins by Milton Mayer, p.328)

Hutchins (president of the University of Chicago, 1929-1945 and chancellor, 1945-1951) made those remarks in 1944. But, unfortunately, times have changed — and, not for the better.

Like the word “Peace,” the word “Education” conjures up a positive response in our minds. Yet, I would maintain that higher education, as currently practiced in our country, has become seriously flawed.

American colleges and universities are no longer as dedicated to “the liberation of the human mind.” Rather, American higher education has turned inwards on itself in an attempt to quantify — trivialize — and, formulize — the human intellect.

Informed passionate advocacy has historically characterized the exceptionally educated citizen. Unfortunately, today’s typical college graduate can only communicate by reciting a meaningless litany of quotations and numbers.

And yet, truly educated women and men know that a preponderance of facts is temporal — and, that human reasoning is empty when it has no cause at its center.

Today’s undereducated society has embraced the antiquated principles of “uniformity” and “conformity.” Our young people are being taught to rely on “rules of conduct,” “guidelines,” “statistical probability,” and “list making” as safe substitutes for thought and informed passion. Our own “Age of Reason” can only breed its own historical share of mediocrity — and, it is our colleges and universities that have dropped the ball. They have embarked on a disastrous path to “graduate all” — while, “educating few.”

Certainly the most recent actions of many BBA and MBA degree holders have ignored the very precepts of any purposeful business: “The building and fostering of an ever-increasing customer base combined with the continued opportunity for growing employment.”

But it is not just in business that we have moved toward narcissistic goals. Law schools and medical schools are becoming more concerned with their professional practices than with their roles as protectors and healers. Schools of journalism are emphasizing the fame associated with the role of “investigative reporter” rather than with their democratic responsibilities for full, objective, and accurate reporting.

Even liberal arts colleges have assumed a defensive posture. Too often, they assume that if knowledge cannot be subjected to an objective and measurable test, it cannot be valid. Today’s students no longer have to understand Socrates, Aristotle and Thoreau — they only have to be able to memorize them.

In short, too many of our college and university programs are moving away from an “education” focus and shifting too close to “training.”

Each has a valid place in our society.

But when the mission of higher education becomes too greatly influenced by the needs of the State and when many of our brightest and most committed young people are driven away from professions such as “teaching” — due to the repayment obligation of the student loan debt loads they have been forced to assume — civilization has a big problem.

While “training” gives us skills and a pathway to a more secure future, the goal of education should be to open the doors in every individual’s mind in order that society can continue its slow but steady advance.

More on Tuesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com