September 12, 2016

American colleges and universities are no longer fully dedicated to the liberation of the human mind.  They are no longer as interested in challenging the young minds they encounter.

Rather, American higher education has turned inwards, on itself, in an attempt to quantify — trivialize — and, formulaize — the human intellect and the human spirit.

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 under-educated 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.

Certainly many BBA and MBA degree holders on Wall Street 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.

However, to be fair, parents of today’s college students may also be playing an active hand in dumbing down higher education as an oasis for intellectual enrichment and thought:

“  .  .  . I was aware, of course, of the drift toward pre-professionalism on college campuses, of widespread concern over student debt, of stories about college-educated baristas living in basements, of governors threatening to cut off state funding for French literature and anthropology. Even so, I found it shocking that some of the brightest students in Virginia had been misled — by parents, the media, politicians and, alas, each other — into thinking that choosing English or history as a major would doom them to lives as impecunious schoolteachers.

 And it’s not just at state schools like Mason. Harvard University professor Jill Lepore recalled hosting an information session at her home for undergraduates interested in a program she directs on history and literature. One student who attended, Lepore told the New York Times, kept getting text messages from her parents ordering her to leave the meeting immediately.

 “I have heard from many different colleges that there is now a considerable — and disturbing — amount of parental pressure against the liberal arts,” reports Debra Humphreys, a senior vice president at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  .  .  .

 Parents are becoming more deeply engaged in nearly every aspect of their children’s lives, and it’s carrying over even to their choice of major.  .  .  .”  (“Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature” by Steven Pearlstein, Robinson Professor of Public Affairs at George Mason University, The Washington Post, September 2, 2016))

Higher education should open the doors in every student’s mind in order that society can continue its slow but steady advance  — and, parents should stop interfering with that learning process.

The world needs more young minds who can think, reason and contribute to society in ways other than bank account balances.

More on Wednesday –  –  –

        — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

      www.itclearning.com/blog/  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner, jhbillwalton@gmail.com, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)