Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Teaching and higher ed

Bill McClay has smart things to say. A taste:

It will be a good thing if parents and students become more demanding, and it will be a very good thing if more sources of information are made available to them about what constitutes good teaching and where it is taking place--and not taking place. There is a huge and completely unanswered need for college guides that are as frank, intelligent and unsparingly honest about the quality of undergraduate instruction as consumer guides are about, say, cars and stereo equipment. Unless, that is, we think of higher education as nothing more than a credential and a badge, a source of social prestige that we buy for ourselves and our kids. In that case, we will continue to get what we pay for.

Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 1 Comment

Being in the military I am always struck by the mindset many people take towards the tasks they have before them.

If two soilders are cleaning a weapon one of them thinks that the task consists of removing carbon from the bolt, and perhaps cleaning the star chamber so that his NCO doesn’t make him redo it. The second soilder might tell you that he is cleaning his weapon in order to be ready to fight, so that it does not let him down in a time of need.

Now I believe that what a good university can accomplish vs. what a poor university can accomplish depends more on the outlook of the students they recruit than any other factors... I guess a good university could be like a good NCO, holding soilder number one accountable for cleaning his weapon, or student number 1 accountable for doing his homework... Alright fine, maybe in the end the job gets done... but only so long as there is a club... Just as you can’t depend on soilder number 1 without him knowing that he will be inspected....

"Unless, that is, we think of higher education as nothing more than a credential and a badge, a source of social prestige that we buy for ourselves..." I believe the author here agrees with me, in that he points out that what higher education is depends upon what we think of higher education as being(in other words it all depends on what the student expects to get out of it)... A student who reads books to get good grades to graduate from an institution that confers upon him a badge.... he might honestly respond to the question: Why are you reading Aristotle(or Foucault)? Because being well versed in Aristotle confers upon me such and such status... (of course would the answer ever be so frank or would it be disguised?)

Since almost everyone who goes to Harvard does so for the prestige (not to mention the student body is already more intelligent than average) you can expect that the animating force in learning would be a mindset that considered the end of the education to be status and perhaps power. I am not just reading a book, I am studying to become a Supreme Court Judge, an activist, a business leader, I am doing this so that I can take charge of the familly business, so that I can become president, vice-president, senator, CEO... so that I make not just a "living" but a "killing". This is certainly not education for its own sake... but in so far as the student finds the material pertinent... what is the real difference?(I am kidding, somewhat...)

Do you expect to find Socrates wandering around Oberlin? Maybe, but probably not... in any case there is a sort of shared perception among the students as to what an education there consists of. The same would be "partially" true in political science, history, and philosophy classes at Ashland. Among those with a shared perception or ambition towards education an intelligent conversation is possible.

The main problem with higher education is that people don’t know what they want to do with it.

I don’t think you could evaluate Universities as you evalute stereo equipment or cars... plus even if you could, you would fall victim to buying into the complex of bells and whitles when it is really the simple conversations outside the structure of the university that make the education. Trust me... people buy cell phones/radios/cars with all sorts of gadgets that in truth they never get around to using...but these things rate higher...since it provides an open possibility...but even if the consumer never uses such features, when it comes time to buy again he will pay more for the upgrade... (just read an incredible study on how people who are computer illiterate overspend the most for new computers...)

Heck, if you wanted a decent education in Political Science both "high" and "low" you could get one simply from reading this blog and its links, not to mention its archived speeches, and the books referenced in articles.

The best way to do this would be to read all serious links/posts do some research and then write an essay either in support of or against the positions/perspectives offered. Sometimes you should force yourself to argue against your general disposition, just to bring the weakness of your views to light...

Of course then you wouldn’t have a paper diploma... and when it comes to power people want the paper... because no is going to believe that you took the initiative to educate yourself...

A college diploma simply means you paid someone to hold you accountable for educating yourself.

The real test of the college diploma is what people do with them once they graduate...

To some people this is measured by the pay of the job they can aquire... Others aren’t worried about doing anything with the diploma per se, but rather with the brains that survived the encounter...

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