I like the way Tim Lee, a CATO Institute scholar, thinks about undergraduate education:
[T]he primary function of an undergraduate education is to allow the student to join a scholarly community, and in the process to soak up the values and attitudes of that community. There are a variety of character traits—intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, self-direction, creativity—that are best learned by being immersed in a community where those traits are cultivated and rewarded. They’re not on the formal curriculum, but they’re implicit in much of what happens on a college campus.
Spending four years at a good college makes you a certain kind of person. A college graduate is more likely to read books in his free time, pay attention to spelling and grammar, know how to recognize and fact-check dubious statements by authority figures, juggle multiple deadlines, and so forth. And for a variety of reasons, people with these character traits tend to be good choices for white-collar jobs.
This kind of cultural transmission is really hard to accomplish via the Internet. An online course can probably teach you facts about history as well as a flesh-and-blood professor could do. But a website won’t exhibit the kind of infectious enthusiasm that turns students into lifelong history buffs.
Here’s his list again of the habits that an undergraduate student should be cultivating:
- intellectual curiosity
- critical thinking
- book reading
- careful attention to language
- the ability to juggle multiple deadlines
- doubt (toward those putting forth evidence, facts, and assertions of authority)
To his “and so forth” I would add these habits:
- the practice of reading texts closely
- self-assertion (“Here’s what I think . . .”)
- Socratic dialogue
- thinking and theorizing in solitude
- Keats’s negative capability (being comfortable in doubts; imaginatively walking in the shoes of others)
- building cultural capital by having a passport (and using it), visiting museums, attending live lectures and the theatre, etc.
Are there some others that are key, but aren’t caught above?
It’s for redistributing hypothetical future earnings from the students to the school administrators and professors so that the students end up heavily indebted with no earnings prospects.
A simple question: in a recession would you like to be in the 25% cohort of Americans with a four year college degree or the 75% cohort without a four year college degree?
If I’m not mistaken, those with a college degree have an unemployment rate right now substantially under 5%. And (from what I understand) those in the college cohort never saw their unemployment climb above that 5% (even at the lowest point in the recent downturn).
Perhaps to learn how to write a sentence without ending it with a preposition?
I know that’s a hobby horse of yours, but there really is no hard and fast rule about never ending sentences with a preposition.
In many cases, refinement of language skills is placed below that of obtaining a scholarship for the sake of an athletic advancement. And even then, most basketball courts (all that I have seen) don’t give adequate room to enjoy the game as originally intended. But the show must go on.
Then there are the languages that are over-refined, having onerous contraptions of gender to articles and nouns. But the show must go on.
But really, I know where you’re comin’ from.
That’s show biz.