Lower Education?

An excerpt from a sobering essay by Anthony Grafton at the New York Review of Books:

Vast numbers of students come to university with no particular interest in their courses and no sense of how these might prepare them for future careers. The desire they cherish, Arum and Roksa write, is to act out “cultural scripts of college life depicted in popular movies such as Animal House (1978) and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (2002).” Academic studies don’t loom large on their mental maps of the university. Even at the elite University of California, students report that on average they spend “twelve hours [a week] socializing with friends, eleven hours using computers for fun, six hours watching television, six hours exercising, five hours on hobbies”—and thirteen hours a week studying.For most of them, in the end, what the university offers is not skills or knowledge but credentials: a diploma that signals employability and basic work discipline. Those who manage to learn a lot often—though happily not always—come from highly educated families and attend highly selective colleges and universities. They are already members of an economic and cultural elite. Our great, democratic university system has become a pillar of social stability—a broken community many of whose members drift through, learning little, only to return to the economic and social box that they were born into.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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3 Responses to Lower Education?

  1. Susan Soesbe says:

    Where does that leave those people who cannot afford to go to college? No signal for them, no matter how clever, resourceful, well-read, or skilled they are!

    Did you read Joel Klein’s piece in the Atlantic? In brief, he argues the public school system (K-12) is designed to serve the adults, not the children. He makes a good case.

    Sounds pretty much like the colleges are just out to get parents to shell out big bucks so their kids can get out of the house and “earn” that signalling mechanism.

  2. Thomas says:

    This exactly what David Brooks wrote about in his recent NYT op-ed “The Wrong Inequality.” He discusses how college kids produce new college kids and high school kids/college dropouts produce kids who don’t make it to college, and that the college attendance is a marker of what class you are in that is becoming increasingly fixed.

  3. Tori says:

    Well, that’s a dismal outlook on the future of America…not to mention the future of most other countries. What exceptionally sad about the reality of this in the US and Western Europe, esp, is the amount of money wasted as Tuition increase…as students sail through their education Ill-educated and incredibly in debt. Maybe that’s why Grad programs are becoming more essential…a second chance at one’s failed attend in an undergrad program?

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