Archive for July 29, 2010

What’s Wrong With the American University System – The Atlantic

The Atlantic this week interviews Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus about how higher education in America is “wasting our money and failing our kids.”  I found the interview fascinating, and their critiques are often spot-on.  Where I think they missed is the last part of the subtitle of their new book “Higher Education?” and that is “And what we can do about it.”  I find their proposals to be unconvincing, like this one quoted below.  To get everyone to think more and focus on vocations less, we should have everyone get a liberal arts degree and not try to get jobs coming out of college. They dislike majors in engineering or business (or computer science?).  (They explicitly say that they want kids to go spend a year working at Costco or Walmart after graduation.)  That just doesn’t make economic sense.  I can’t imagine how we could get there from here, and the authors don’t really paint a vision for how to do it, either.

One of your more controversial points is the idea that every student should major in liberal arts. You’re not fans of majors like engineering or business that try to set a student up for a career right after college.

There are two ways to look at it. First of all, freshmen come in at age 18. Let’s suppose they’ve decided to major in sports management. What’s an 18-year-old going to do in a freshman course in sports management? I’ve attended some undergraduate business courses. The students are young; they don’t have business experience. Really very little is imparted.

The second way to look at it is that liberal arts, properly conceived, means wrestling with issues and ideas, putting the mind to work in a way these young people will only be able to do for these four years. And we’d like this for everyone. They can always learn vocational things later, on the job. They can even get an engineering degree later—by the way, in two years rather than four.

via What’s Wrong With the American University System – Culture – The Atlantic.

July 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm 5 comments


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