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How Higher Education Fails Us All- do you agree?

Posted by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 10:02 AM
  • 4 Replies

Higher education is often touted as 'the way out' of difficult circumstances. When people say this they usually mean higher education can help the individual elevate him or herself. In the best scenario higher education improves both the life of the individual and society. College is meant to prepare graduates for competition on the job market. It is also intended to prepare graduates to tackle contemporary challenges -- hopefully finding solutions to the social, health and environmental crises of our time. In this respect, higher education is supposed to create the researchers and innovators of tomorrow. If we evaluate the success of higher education based on these outcomes, we are failing.

Fortunately, the skills needed to get a job in today's market are the same skills required to solve the major problems of our time. So, if we can get higher education to function properly we have a real shot at far-reaching success. Here are the skills that research shows all college graduates need in order to compete in the global job market: critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, innovative thinking and a sense of a globalized world. These are the same skills needed to address contemporary challenges. The questions are: why is higher education falling short and how can it be fixed?

Academic institutions are structured around disciplines (each field -- biology, psychology, etc. is housed independently with professors who specialize in a small area of that field). The entire academic enterprise is based on disciplinarity even though this outdated system doesn't work. The majority of courses teach the content of one isolated discipline. Students are required to major in a field of their choosing and often devote most of their education to courses in that area.

Problems in the real-world -- sustainability, health and well-being, violence -- do not fit into the narrow boundaries of any one discipline. These problems require us to pool our expertise and resources and tackle problems responsively, not based on narrow disciplinary training. Let's take a problem that has been getting a lot of attention recently: bullying.

Whether it's on the school playground or Facebook, many young people are being tormented, often with dire consequences. This is an issue that concerns many parents -- myself included. Bullying involves three parties: the bully, the bullied and the bystanders. There have been many studies done about bullying but they are usually limited. For example, a psychologist may look at the effect of being bullied, an education researcher may look at the role of teachers and school administrators in cultures of bullying, a sociologist may look at peer culture, and so forth. However, bullying can only be tackled by considering multiple dimensions collectively. Further, bullying can't be addressed by only bringing academic researchers together. All relevant stakeholders need to be brought into the research process: parents, teachers, school bus drivers, after school program personnel, etc. The organization of higher education doesn't facilitate this kind of research nor does it cultivate these research skills in graduating students. College students are likely to read study about bullying in a psychology or sociology class but it is unlikely they are given the chance to consider the problem in a comprehensive way.

Higher education can be restructured in order to meet our collective objectives -- and this can be accomplished using existing resources. The cost to our graduates and our society is too high to simply maintain the status quo. If higher education is going to be 'the way out' for the individual or society, it needs to cultivate skills with real-world value. 

by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 10:02 AM
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Replies (1-4):
usmom3
by BJ on Apr. 3, 2012 at 12:00 PM
1 mom liked this

 All of it is failing us from Pre-K on up! We are using an obsolete system for our education that is like trying to use an Atari to access the Internet! It is never going to work or get fixed to work! We need to throw it out & make something new that fits our technology & our natural way of learning!

lucsch
by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM

My first thought about this is "rubbish."

To get my engineering degree, I took technical classes, yes; however, I also had to take a wide variety of other classes, supposedly to make me a well-rounded citizen. Getting an engineering degree proves and teaches the  ability to think critically and solve problems. It did not teach me the answer to every possibility that life would throw at me without thinking. I'm not sure any institute of education can do that.

I do understand that there is a whole liberal arts type of education that would not necessarily lead to a job but would lead to society's version of a well-rounded person. These days, getting a degree like that would not be sensible without a lot of money to waste.

So, perhaps everyone should get an engineering degree so all life's problems may be solved. I'm kidding. What I do think is going to college just for college is fairly a waste of money. People who seek a college degree that leads to a specific type of job seem to be able to get jobs over those that choose a more generic degree, like business, history, english, etc. My eldest son is studying pharmacy and will be assured  a job before he even gets out of graduate school. So, even in these hard times, there are careers that lead to a job. Not only that, but he is a well-rounded person. I think parenting has a lot to do with that.

Also missing in indoctrination of public schooling is the belief in hard work. Again, I blame parenting, not schools or higher education.

The whole article seems to be saying that higher education needs to fix all life's problems. I say that the problem is AT HOME. Parents are not being parents, anymore. Morals are missing. Upgrading schools is not the answer.



gacgbaker
by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 2:31 PM


Quoting usmom3:

 All of it is failing us from Pre-K on up! We are using an obsolete system for our education that is like trying to use an Atari to access the Internet! It is never going to work or get fixed to work! We need to throw it out & make something new that fits our technology & our natural way of learning!

Totally agree!  The entire system is so broken!

gacgbaker
by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 2:33 PM


Quoting lucsch:

My first thought about this is "rubbish."

To get my engineering degree, I took technical classes, yes; however, I also had to take a wide variety of other classes, supposedly to make me a well-rounded citizen. Getting an engineering degree proves and teaches the  ability to think critically and solve problems. It did not teach me the answer to every possibility that life would throw at me without thinking. I'm not sure any institute of education can do that.

I do understand that there is a whole liberal arts type of education that would not necessarily lead to a job but would lead to society's version of a well-rounded person. These days, getting a degree like that would not be sensible without a lot of money to waste.

So, perhaps everyone should get an engineering degree so all life's problems may be solved. I'm kidding. What I do think is going to college just for college is fairly a waste of money. People who seek a college degree that leads to a specific type of job seem to be able to get jobs over those that choose a more generic degree, like business, history, english, etc. My eldest son is studying pharmacy and will be assured  a job before he even gets out of graduate school. So, even in these hard times, there are careers that lead to a job. Not only that, but he is a well-rounded person. I think parenting has a lot to do with that.

Also missing in indoctrination of public schooling is the belief in hard work. Again, I blame parenting, not schools or higher education.

The whole article seems to be saying that higher education needs to fix all life's problems. I say that the problem is AT HOME. Parents are not being parents, anymore. Morals are missing. Upgrading schools is not the answer.



That is so true too- it really starts at home and the system won't be fixed if parents keep abdicating responsibility to a system.  

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