Archive for February, 2012

Said the Columbia University student: ” You have to  understand, I’m paying for a degree, not an education.”

And there you have it.  This is what it’s become for so many.  How did we get here?

It’s not far-fetched to see this as the logical conclusion of a system that emphasizes test scores as a measure of who climbs to the next rung.  Teachers teach the test so they get solid student scores (and the school/district gets better/more funding), students cheat and do what they can in order to get the scores because they sense the nature of the game is to get the grades, not the learning. (See here).  By the time they are in college they have mastered the game: don’t worry about asking a lot of questions or really engaging, just find out what’s necessary to get the grade/degree and do that.  Nothing more.

Our culture supports this by having created  this sense that “without a college education you’re nothing”.  Reports of  earning potential as correlated to level of education tell the same tale: if you have a high school education you’re going to be stuck at the bottom.  It’s a funny phenomenon.  Sure, going to college can make you a better and more thorough thinker, more generally informed, more able to function at a higher intellectual/conceptual level.  But this is only true if  you’re in college for the right reasons and taking the kinds of classes that will lead you to this place.  If college grads actually have the above qualities as people then they are likely to do better in their careers.  The problem seems to be that when we started talking about this we focused on the fact that they went to college, rather than on why this mattered.  We were too concrete in our analysis.

It’s what happens while in college that matters, not the fact of attending and graduating.  That is, it’s about learning and becoming, not just showing up for class and getting the grades.


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