August 26, 2015

For most of us, the word “Education” conjures up a positive response.

Yet, I would maintain that higher education, as currently practiced in our country, is seriously flawed.

Unfortunately, our colleges have become quite similar to successful business operations and have, largely, turned away from their traditional roles.

But, it’s not the obscene cost of today’s college education that this post will address. Rather, it’s the loss of purpose that is even more disturbing.

When did our institutions of higher learning begin to lose their way?

“In a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Berrett traced the history of when the purpose of college shifted from that idyllic vision to today’s view that it’s all about getting a job. He pegged the origins to Feb. 28, 1967. That’s when Ronald Reagan, then the new Republican governor of California (which boasted the best system of public universities in the country), told reporters that taxpayers shouldn’t be ‘subsidizing intellectual curiosity.’” ( ‘What’s the purpose of college: A job or an education?” by Jeffrey J. Sellngo, WASHINGTON POST)

American colleges and universities are no longer as committed to the education and liberation of the human mind.

They are no longer as dedicated to challenging the students they encounter.

Rather, American higher education has turned inwards on itself in an attempt to quantify — trivialize — and, formulaize — their young learners.

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 the preponderance of facts are 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” will 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. They believe today that if knowledge cannot be subjected to an objective and measurable test, it cannot be valid. Today’s students no longer have to understand Sophocles, 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 “education” and moving toward a “training” activity as their typical goal.

Both have a valid place in our society. Training, of course, gives us skills and a pathway to a more secure future. Education should open the doors in every individual’s mind in order that society can continue its slow but steady advance.

More on Monday – – –

Bill Walton: co-Founder, ITC Learning
(Mondays & Wednesdays)