Higher Education is notoriously attacked on the Right, somewhat on the Left, and even those within the Universities have their criticisms.
And all of these criticisms are well deserved, I might add.
A common critique from the average joe is that universities should teach the skills necessary for the workforce. Many institutions reject such notions, claiming the purpose of higher education is to develop the mind and, to some degree, spirit…knowledge for the sake of knowledge, if you will.
Naturally, I tend to agree with the latter view…individuals shouldn’t be developed for “workforce” purposes, to be a mere tool of corporate America. YET, at the same time, I have a hard time seeing students developing their mind and spirit…to be a well-rounded individual…in modern universities.
This might just be my personal bias. I attended 5 universities in total, and I never observed any sort of “mind development”. “Knowledge cramming”, yes! But personal development? Whatever personal development that did occur only occurred IN SPITE of the university (like coping mechanisms to handle the stress). My experience isn’t universal of course, but I never saw anything close the philosophy that academics use to defend the purpose of their institutions.
If “personal development”….or even LEARNING….is your aim, then I recommend not going at all. As I’ve said before, I graduated a pissed off, stressed out person…hardly worth the thousands that I spent.
There’s reasons for this. Schools are under political pressure to produce a skillful workforce. Additionally, they have to compete with countless other schools for applicants. For the more “elite” colleges, they know that they are selling you a name so they have to maintain an air of “elite-ness”. In short, the student exists for the purpose of the institution, not vice-versa.
I’ve always maintained that colleges and universities are in an awkward spot in the Internet Age. Once upon a time, if you wanted pure “knowledge”, you went to a library or a university. But now that information is no longer contained within brick and mortar institutions. Just pull your phone out of your pocket and find out whatever you need to know.
It’s here where somebody usually evokes the word “education”…or something like “you have to have the education to apply that knowledge”. Fine. But personal bias again, there’s a difference between “knowledge cramming” and “education” and I’ve mostly experienced the former.
But universities are failing to live up to their own integral standards. They want to develop people, to create a better society, yet also want to be “elite”….I suppose a Platonic holdover of a by-gone era…where they can serve ONLY “the best and brightest” rather than develop people into “the best and brightest”.
I suppose that makes their job easier.
But as a result, they’re not creating a better society…they’re contributing to an unjust one.