Is It Time to “End the University as We Know It?”

Willamette College of Law Grad

In 2009 the New York Times published an opinion piece by professor of religion Dr. Mark C. Taylor titled End the University as We Know It.

In the article, he voices some of his concerns about the modern higher education system. He observes that the modern American University cranks out a lot of students with few marketable skills and an incredible amount of debt. Finally sudents are wondering if they are getting the most “bang for their buck.”

Much like the housing collapse was brought on by people looking at a run-down home and realizing it could not be worth a million bucks, so is the impending “higher education bubble” going to be brought on by parents and students looking at their $24,000 (average) in student loan debt for a degree in public health and realizing that they will not be able to pay off the loans for years (assuming they can even get a job.)

Dr. Taylor also makes a point about the over-specialization of today’s college student:

Each academic becomes the trustee not of a branch of the sciences, but of limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems. A colleague recently boasted to me that his best student was doing his dissertation on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations.

The emphasis on narrow scholarship also encourages an educational system that has become a process of cloning. Faculty members cultivate those students whose futures they envision as identical to their own pasts, even though their tenures will stand in the way of these students having futures as full professors.

This process of cloning, as Dr. Taylor puts it, is another example of teaching winning out over learning. The above example about Scotus and his citations makes me wonder if that student was encouraged into that narrow line of study by the proud professor or if it truly was a passion he’d discovered during his studies as a subject that really deserved a thesis.

I’d be interested in others take on this. I found this article because it is referenced in the book Macrowikinomics, which I will also be writing about soon.

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