Response to Inside Higher Ed Article

Article is here. Here is my response:

Ken Hahn nails it when he writes:
...Institutions of higher education spend huge amounts on junk education while spending as little as possible on education that actually helps students earn a living.

As a businessman who hasn’t stepped foot in academia since I graduated a generation ago I’ve seen how ill-prepared students are when they first make it into the workforce. However I don’t blame liberal arts per se; in fact I believe that the liberal arts can be some of the best prep courses for the real world that an institution can offer.

In my field of business intelligence, looking back at my own experience the class that best prepared me for my field was a freshman year philosophy course on logic. Other courses that prepared me well were mandatory writing classes and even the odd creative writing course.

For the most part these were basic courses meant to prepare students for academic success. However their impact continues to be felt today decades after they were taken.

I believe that the root of the problem is not missing narratives as Marthers asserts but the isolation of academia from overall society. Unfortunately many of those smaller liberal arts colleges mentioned are actually some of the worst offenders. I recall visiting some of these smaller schools back in the 1980s and was struck by the lack of connection they had with the communities they were embedded in. I often found that the students and the locals rarely mixed, and when they did there was often trouble. Isolation breeds resentment on one hand, and a kind of intellectual inbreeding on the other.

Academia functions best when it is open and serves society. When the walls of the Ivory Tower tumble down and it is no longer separated, both it and society will be healthier.

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2 Comments

  1. Naftali:

    Does anyone know at what point in history the focus of higher learning became to earn a living?

    My hunch is that it has something to do with the recent phenomenon of population wide education. I believe that the percentage of the modern student body with no real interest in knowledge in and of itself so dwarfs the percentage which thirsts for it that it has come to determine the character of the modern system.

  2. Scott Kirwin:

    Naftali
    My understanding is that the state school systems were set up with employability and the broader improvement of society in mind. Hence the focus on agriculture and mining at some state schools. Because of this I have always viewed the American university system as distinct from the European system, since employability didn’t seem to be important in the latter system.

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