Someone, please, help me confirm the foundations of higher education. What is the basic purpose of higher education?
And, if someone says, “to help me get a job,” I’m going to scream. Successful acquisition of employment is a by-product of higher education, not the answer I am looking for.
Three-and-a-half to five years spent obtaining a college education is not merely about obtaining employment. Employment is the proximate outcome. Employment would be the correct answer had I asked about trade or vocational schools, perhaps community or technical schools. Employment is not the answer when 4-yr colleges and universities are considered.
I’m too impatient to await comments, so I will answer. I mention the question to be rhetorical, anyway.
Universities and colleges are designed to provide a breadth and depth of learning and experience to assist people of all ages in the development and enhancement of critical thinking.
The Argument of the Ages asked by multitudes of students, “Why do I need to know this,” and the corollary, “Why can’t I learn just what I need to know,” indicate the failure of people, i.e. parents, faculty, and staff, college representatives, et. al. to adequately describe the underlying philosophy of a university education.
I speak almost entirely to U.S. students. International students arrive in the states expecting the best education, respecting every hour of class time, and devoting the vast portion of their waking hours towards being successful. With great humility, international students typically understand they do not deserve a good grade, or consideration for the language barrier, or being 6,000 to 12,000 miles from home. International students arrive knowing they will work for every point and success or failure hinges upon their efforts. International students understand higher education; they may have witnessed professors harassed, beaten, imprisoned, or executed for attempting to expose ideas and knowledge to people.
Being exposed to ideas, knowledge, examination of cause/effect, logic and reasoning – the philosophies of learning – those are the elements of higher education.
Higher Education is about “Destroying the Box.”
I do not like the phrase, “think outside the box.” I prefer, “destroy the box.”
“Destroy the Box” implies letting in new ideas, new knowledge, being completely open and receptive to thoughts and notions not only different but alien, looking for solutions outside of normal channels. “Destroy the Box” implies being vulnerable to having your notions changed, modified, altered, or validated. “Destroy the Box” implies constant vigilance for newness, ’round-the-clock awareness of surroundings and environment. No ability to “hop” back inside our comfortable box and allow our old habits a chance to arise again. Open-minded, thoughtful, and contemplative 24/7/365. Not throwing away all we know, simply holding everything we know up to the light, testing questioning, examining, and scrutinizing. Not once in a while, but all the time.
Learning and education is an ecosystem, as so many educators are so fond of stating. An ecosystem is not a single clay pot growing a solitary tulip (though I suppose scale could play some part in my analogy.) Ecosystems are collections of organisms existing in concert, some competing with each other, others complimenting.
I feel as if educators, while “talking the talk,” of expanding critical thinking skills, limit themselves to the classroom environment, and thus don’t “walk the walk.” Exacerbating the critical thinking concerns are new teachers graduating with the “just tell me what I need to know” attitude augmented by national and state focus on off-the-shelf standardized testing which inspires no one to really challenge students.
Destroy the Box.