Thursday, June 9, 2011

American Universities Under Ethical Microscope

Matthew J. Milliner

Augustine, Aquinas, and Alexandria offer forgotten ideals regarding what learning is and the scale at which it flourishes.

Summarizing the latest round of complaints about higher education in The New York Review of Books, Peter Brooks describes an “indiscriminate flailing about in criticism of the university, some of it justified, much of it misdirected, and some pernicious.” Certain authors appear to be shocked that education doesn’t automatically make one a moral person. Others are bewildered that the effects of a liberal arts degree can’t be quantified like in any other industry, as if students were products on an assembly line. Indeed, in the last half-decade, observers of American academia have identified two equally lamentable pitfalls: expecting too much from a university education, and not expecting enough.

Stanley Fish (Save the World on Your Own Time, 2008) chastised modern professors for attempting a “character transplant” in students who had “signed on for something more modest, to wit, a course of instruction.” Charles Murray (Real Education, 2008) made similar points, rebuking the impossibly high ideals of what he called “educational romanticism.”

Read it all here.

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