“Higher” education that is reduced to learning useful job skills, may be education but it’s not higher

5 Jan

Ironically, both a dominant Marxist and Capitalistic society can reduce men to worker ants fit for nothing more than service to the state, self-interest, or profit for others.  From Peter Lawler in the Imaginative Conservative (excerpt):

Tocqueville hurt our feelings by adding that there’s no higher education in America. Our first impulse is to say that’s not true: Many or most twenty-year olds in our country are in college, and we call college higher education—just read The Chronicle of Higher Education.

By higher education Tocqueville meant reading the great books of our tradition in their original languages and being accomplished in the high culture of art and music and so forth—the higher education of, say, Thomas Jefferson. He also meant being on the cutting edge of theoretical science—particularly theoretical physics—which Jefferson also surely was.

Tocqueville didn’t mean reading textbooks, taking multiple-choice tests, doing problem-identification group projects, absorbing PowerPoint presentations, being edified by self-helpy TED talks, or for getting squishy credit for internships or being civically engaged or picking up technical or entrepreneurial skills through random life experiences.

You have to admit: From Tocqueville’s point of view, there might be less higher education in America than ever. Fewer than 10 percent of students are majoring in the traditional liberal arts or theoretical science. Fewer and fewer of our colleges brand themselves liberal arts colleges, and some that still do aren’t really mostly liberal arts colleges anymore.

Not only that: Our general education programs—the education we believe all college students should share in common—have shrunk in size and been emptied of real content.

What remains of genuinely higher education is America is under relentless attack from a middle-class point of view. If education is unproductive—if it doesn’t make a contribution to working effectively or making money or being healthy, comfortable, or safe—it’s worthless, a waste of valuable time.

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