A blog about ideas, popular culture, philosophy, and personal enthusiasms (or "springs of delight") of all kinds.
Monday, August 17, 2015
How college sold its soul to the market
If college is seldom about thinking and learning anymore, that’s because very few people are interested in thinking and learning, students least of all. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report in Academically Adrift, the number of hours per week that students spend studying for their classes has been falling steadily for decades and is now about half of what it was in 1961. And as anyone associated with a college can tell you, ambitious undergraduates devote the bulk of their time and energy, and certainly of their passion, to extracurriculars. Pinker, in the response I mentioned, wonders why he finds himself addressing half-empty lecture halls. I can tell him why: because his students don’t much care about the things he’s trying to teach them.
Why should they, given the messages that they’ve received about their education? The college classroom does or ought to do one thing particularly well, which is to teach you to think analytically. That is why a rigorous college education requires you to be as smart as possible and to think as hard as possible, and why it’s good at training people for those professions that demand the same: law, medicine, finance, consulting, science, and academia itself. Nor is it a coincidence that the first four of those (the four that also happen to be lucrative) are the top choices among graduates of the most selective schools...
Instead of treating higher education as a commodity, we need to treat it as a right. Instead of seeing it in terms of market purposes, we need to see it once again in terms of intellectual and moral purposes. That means resurrecting one of the great achievements of postwar American society: high-quality, low- or no-cost mass public higher education. An end to the artificial scarcity of educational resources. An end to the idea that students must compete for the privilege of going to a decent college, and that they then must pay for it...
"I want death to find me planting my cabbages, not concerned about IT or - still less- my unfinished garden" Montaigne
(I would always have a man to be doing, and, as much as in him lies, to extend and spin out the offices of life; and then let death take me planting my cabbages, indifferent to him, and still less of my gardens not being finished.)
I believe, in truth, that it is those terrible ceremonies and preparations wherewith we set it out, that more terrify us than the thing itself... we seem dead and buried already. … Happy is the death that deprives us of leisure for preparing such ceremonials.
“If you could forget mortality... You could really believe that time is circular, and not linear and progressive as our culture is bent on proving. Seen in geological perspective, we are fossils in the making, to be buried and eventually exposed again for the puzzlement of creatures of later eras. Seen in either geological or biological terms, we don't warrant attention as individuals. One of us doesn't differ that much from another, each generation repeats its parents, the works we build to outlast us are not much more enduring than anthills, and much less so than coral reefs.Here everything returns upon itself, repeats and renews itself, and present can hardly be told from past.” Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
“At the core of every habit is a neurological loop with three parts: A cue, a routine and a reward. To understand how to create habits — such as exercise habits — you must learn to establish the right cues and rewards.” nyt
1. William James 2. John Stuart Mill 3. John Dewey 4. David Hume 5. Michel de Montaigne 6. Bertrand Russell 7. Ralph Waldo Emerson/Henry David Thoreau (a tie, and a couple) 8. Aristotle (mostly because he contradicts Plato)
Where are the women? Up until relatively recently, they weren't invited into the conversation. But I'm doing my homework. Thanks to Jennifer Michael Hecht's wonderful Doubt: A History, I know the names of some 19th century women who'd likely have become favorites of mine and many others, in a better world: Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, Annie Besant, Ernestine Rose, Etta Semple, Helen Hamilton Gardener...
Great nickname for the pitcher who shut out Hillwood in the postseason opener!
It's her time
The clock on my office wall
He walked much and contemplated, and he had in the head of his cane a pen and ink-horn, carried always a note-book in his pocket, and as soon as a thought darted, he presently entered it into his book, or otherwise he might perhaps have lost it."
"It cannot be always seaside...
...even as it cannot be always May, and through the gaps thought creeps in." H.G. Wells