Well, universities are the longest running institutions in the Western World, so they’re not dead:
‘Two related but separate issues revolve around the inner metabolism of higher education, in particular its astronomical and still escalating costs and—an even bigger reality—the wave of technological innovation that is poised to break over the entire institution of higher education like a tsunami.’
Much like the housing market was sitting atop unsustainable debt levels and questionable lending practices underwritten by our government, so too may be our universities by sitting upon unsustainable debt levels and questionable lending practices, underwritten by our government. The dream of everybody owning a home and everybody going to college and taking out loans to do so is not sustainable, and certainly not in our current economy. The ground has shifted beneath our feet, and our politics is failing to provide decent solutions.
Technology, however, is going to provide many more solutions.
There are also other issues ideological. We’ve seen the rise of the 60’s generation through our universities, the rise of excessive egalitarianism, feminism, and the growth of questionable fields that mostly end with ‘studies.’ Continental philosophies have made deep inroads into higher ed, and into our culture. I believe they can unnecessarily politicize and narrow higher ed and shortchange students.
We’ve also seen more recently the rise of the administrators, who are often overseeing budgets and hiring, and who can easily get in the way of what I would define as the core educational mission:
‘Writing in the current issue of The American Interest, Nathan Harden puts it dramatically but not hyperbolically: “The End of the University As We Know It.” In the space of a few decades, Harden writes, “half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist.”’
Add to that a deeply ailing K-12 public education system, and we’ve got some serious change coming our way.
Many more people will be learning online, and without the brick and mortar classrooms and dorms. The Ivies will do fine but they are also unrolling their own online learning programs to stay ahead of the curve.
Related On This Site: Should you get a college degree?: Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism…
The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill: From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.
Louis Menand At The New Yorker: ‘Live And Learn: Why We Have College’…Repost-Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?
A deeper look at what education “ought” to be: Let’s be like Europe! A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’
Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind, at least with regard to a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’
Perhaps some of the problem is due to the ideological interests holing up at our universities; at least in the liberal arts: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-
2 thoughts on “From The New Criterion: ‘Higher Ed: An Obituary’”
I have my personal doubts about libertarianism as an end in itself, but you do raise some important points here and I enjoyed reading this.
Higher education in America has become too utilitarian for my comfort, whether its economic utility or political activism. We too often think of college as a place to “get things done,” and we give too little time for detached contemplation. In short, we neglect the spiritual aspect of education in favor of the technical. Not that the technical is “bad.” This is a question of proportion, not the quality of kind.
But, this is from the perspective of an old-fashioned “Arnoldian.” My biases are evident in the title of my own blog, so take them for what they’re worth.
I really do think that you raise important issues about what we are even supposed to be doing in college and how new technologies are forcing us to adapt. Nice post!
Danny, thanks for reading and commenting.
I’m pretty libertarian no doubt, but I always appreciate a healthy skepticism.
I see the university model like partialIy like I see the old media, not fully understanding nor having adapted yet to just how technology is changing our lives. It used to be only a few hundred people were the ones capable of organizing the resources to reach millions.
They’ll be plenty of need for teaching, learning, reading, writing and thinking and yes, connecting young people to higher things and ideas which clearly taps into spiritual longing and betterment. There are many practical considerations like structure and culture for young people, grading, pedagogy, and getting everybody on the same page. I’m not sure how it’s going to look but I recommend a lot of experimentation.
You’re talking to someone fairly sympathetic to the liberal arts.