One very interesting lecture presented was Jim Duderstadt’s presentation on the history of the institution of “the university,” the university in
A couple of points of interest that came up for me were:
· the continued desire of higher education to continue to require a liberal arts education;
· research universities teaching basic classes; and
· an (apparent) lack of connection between secondary and higher education.
With regard to the first point – the continued desire to teach a liberal arts education – is, I believe, one of the major points of weakness in the
The idea that the US-educated university graduate knows a little about everything, and more about their topic is a good thing to have, but I believe that there are enough students who are in the system that have little desire to learn outside their field. This leaves me at an intellectual fork-in-the-road situation: should students be forced to take courses they do not want to (and professors and lecturers teach courses to these students who do all wish to learn) in order to have a liberal education, or should the requirements of education be changed to be more in line with a different goal?
I feel that a student body should not be forced to take courses for the sake of broadening their education – that is what personal development (for which everyone has a whole lifetime) is for. Instead, the
This last point brings me to my second point of interest: research universities teaching basic classes. Should UofM be offering classes in basic algebra, biology, chemistry, etc? What difference does it make for a student to take such courses at an expensive research university, as opposed to a community college? A lecturer at a community college should have as much knowledge with such foundational material as any professor, lecturer, or graduate student at a research university. Indeed, I would make the argument that a professor at a research university who is interested in the cutting-edge of science might be less inclined to be interested in re-hashing the basics of his or her field every four months. If this is the case, it makes little sense that such a professor would teach such a class, leaving it (or as much of the running of it as possible) to his or her graduate students – which is what happens in many of these introductory 100-level courses around campus. So why should a student (or the parents of a student) pay thousands or tens-of-thousands of dollars to learn material from a graduate student when they can pay a fraction of the cost to learn the same material at a community college? Although Jim didn’t go into it very much in his presentation, I subsequently learned from him that the original setup of the University of California system was set up to focus only on upper-level and graduate courses, but was eventually scrapped due to recruitment concerns.
Of course, this could potentially all be solved by having a much-improved secondary education system in the
And this leads me back, full-circle, to the questionable insistence by