Jewish World Review June 9, 2010 / 27 Sivan 5770
Who Killed Scholarship?
By Paul Greenberg
I love a mystery, don't you? Doesn't everybody?
Among her favorites were the quartet of donnish novels by the (alas) late
Ms. Caudwell began the first of her
"Scholarship asks, thank God, no recompense but Truth. It is not for the sake of material reward that she (Scholarship) pursues her (Truth) through the undergrowth of Ignorance, shining on Obscurity the bright torch of Reason and clearing aside the tangled thorns of Error with the keen secateurs of Intellect. Nor is it for the sake of public glory and the applause of the multitude: the scholar is indifferent to vulgar acclaim. Nor is it even in the hope that those few intimate friends who have observed at first hand the labor of the chase will mark with a word or two of discerning congratulation its eventual achievement. Which is very fortunate, because they don't."
These days the scholar gets even shorter shrift at prestigious universities across the country -- as opposed to the academic climber who winds up either in administration or warming an endowed chair to no clear purpose.
The latest institution of higher learning seeking to lower it is the
Scholarship is scarcely the highest priority of this state's public universities. That minor detail comes pretty far down -- if it makes the list at all. A list usually headed by football, the established religion in these parts no matter what the First Amendment says, and followed at a respectful distance by the kind of coveted research grants that have some industrial or commercial application. Or just promise a lifetime stipend.
These days the biggest concern at this state's four-year universities is their low graduation rates. It seems many are called to these schools, but only 38 percent are chosen to graduate within six years. That statistic -- statistics are very big in higher ed -- made the front page of the paper a few weeks back: "
But some of us are less concerned about the number of graduates from
Citizens are supposed to be shocked, alarmed and moved to action by the low number of entering freshmen who manage to become graduating seniors in this state. But what else would you expect when you consider how poorly the kids are being prepared for college?
Last time I checked, more than half the graduates of the state's high schools (54.6 percent last year) needed to take remedial courses in math, English or reading to learn what they should have learned in high school.
The reaction of the state's educators has been pretty much what you'd expect: Churn out more graduates by lowering standards even further. (I say educators because scholars seem to have been largely replaced by educators, just as learning has been replaced by expertise, teachers by facilitators, and education by educanto.) For sad example, the chancellor of the university's
The university's core curriculum is to be reduced from the current 66 to 35 credit hours. "What we're trying to do in the state," explains the chancellor, "is get more students with baccalaureate degrees. Anything we can do to make it seamless and make it an easier transfer (from smaller colleges) to the university is good." And he may mean anything.
After all, why should a scientist know something of Shakespeare, or a student of foreign languages take geometry? Why study a foreign tongue at all when everybody in the world now speaks English, or should? Why should a degree of familiarity with the King James Bible be expected of any but pre-ministerial students? Or a course in genetics be of any interest to students in the humanities? Such notions are so … classical.
A broad liberal education is the antithesis of a technical, specialized education, which is what results when each department of the university decides for itself what general education courses it will require for its specialty.
Education, like modern society itself, is now to be broken down into specializations. What are
But now we know that the important thing is to make a good living, not how to lead the good life. Economic development is what counts, right? Even at the cost of any other kind. No wonder the highest desideratum in a thoroughly modern university president is not that he be a great scholar but a great fundraiser.
Why should not all students, whether in physics or phys ed, be required to have much the same core curriculum, or liberal education? They're all going to be citizens and voters, aren't they? Lest we forget, the term liberal education derives from the concept of an education suitable for the free -- those who enjoy liberty. Rather than being enslaved by their own ignorance.
If there is any consolation in having lost a
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© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.