Monday, June 02, 2014

College at its best?

A few weeks back I read this post by Anne Curzan, professor of English at the University of Michigan. In the post she wrote:
College at its best is about taking the time and the chance to find what you’re passionate about—from a major to a profession to a cause to a place in the world, and the list goes on. It’s about taking control of your experience and education (in the broadest sense) to make it what you want it to be—not what you think someone else thinks it should be.
I've been thinking through these ideas ever since.

You see, some of the ideas resonate within me, but others hit a nerve or two. Some of the ideas do both. Unfortunately, I've been having difficulty putting words to my reactions.

Is this college at it's best?

I'm very pro vocational colleges. I'm very pro trade schools. I'm very against what too many colleges and universities have become: glorified trade schools where people go to train for jobs.

I'm very pro creativity. I'm very pro critical thinking. I'm very against the idea that merely expressing one's thoughts is the final goal in itself.

I'm very pro diversity. I very pro freedom of speech. I'm very against the mob rule that has become the modern concept of inclusiveness, which is neither diverse nor freeing.

So in that vein:
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve training young minds to think?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve a pursuit of higher standards for self, for others, for the world?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve the developing the rigor needed to push into new frontiers?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve challenging ideas and having one's own ideas challenged?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve learning to disagree academically and with civility?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve listening to others who may be smarter or wiser than yourself?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involved being humbled?
  • Shouldn't college at its best involve more than just what you want it to be?
Maybe college shouldn't be all of these. Maybe Curzan is correct. Maybe her thoughts don't conflict with these other goals as much as I think they do. Maybe I'm simply thinking too specifically about her intentionally vague admonitions.

Nevertheless, college at its best is more than what I thought it should be when I was there, and I would guess that it should be more than what many of today's students think it should be as well.

Follow me on Twitter @MatthewTShowman

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