Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Value of Education

followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. [They] found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.
They point out that resources at college are increasingly directed toward fitness centers and sports complexes, not on academics. They also argue that
[t]he authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.
Who's to blame, here? It's easy to point fingers at the students. After all, it is their responsibility to take advantage of their classes and instructors, to make their learning meaningful. While I often questioned my own skills as a teacher, I reminded myself that students will get out of a class what they put into it: I can't open up a student's head and deposit knowledge into it. And I regret that I didn't make the most of my own undergraduate experience: while my grades were good, I rarely put 100% into my studies. If I could get away with not reading the text, I would. But then I might have missed out on watching "Pulp Fiction" at 4am, or traipsing across campus at midnight for Taco Bell.

There was never a question of whether I would go to college, and I didn't think twice about the price of tuition, or student loans, or choosing a practical major. The four years I spent there would help me transition from a shy little girl to a more confident person with a degree. I know without a doubt that my learning there was meaningful and essential.

But considering the rise of for-profit colleges and the increase of high school graduates going on to college (and taking out huge loans to pay for it), the lack of value suggested by the NYU researchers should give all of us pause.


Muay Thai Los Angeles said...

It's true- I went to college and found it to be more of a business than an academic feat. It's really a shame, especially with the rising costs of tuition itself. Do you think it will ever change or has the "higher education" just become a business scam with a pedigree?


Dave said...

I agree.

There seems much in what we see on screens and paper that dramatizes,"I got mine. The hell with the other guy."

Service is, for me, the opposite. I hear from teacher-friends that service is not being taught, experienced or demonstrated by or for students in basic courses.

The kids are not the schools' customers. They are the product being created, imbued with skills. Society is the customer. Society has few ways to acquire skills of effective change.

Educators do not generally have the social skills to serve (change) society or to serve (change) students. Discussion, debate, and Roberts' Rules are restrictive, not expansive or imaginative skills with which we serve (change)each other.

There are ways of teaching skills of change. It is easy to find people who don't want them even when they're offered free of cost.