Having gotten better at asking questions via interviews for the first two assignments, we now interrogate the university industry in the USA. In the five primary source readings and the five secondary source blog posts, writers make a variety of wake-up calls. Some insist college has abandoned its moral obligation to develop self-aware, critically reflective citizens. Others reveal how obsolete is our banking concept of education and suggest college is the training ground for a boring, alienating job and that we have lost our ability to imagine our future. Are we rejecting discovery-insight-transformation (digestion) for obedience (vomit) to a questionable status quo and an exam score? While some equate the diploma with an entrance into the educated, middle-class life, others demonstrate with compelling statistics the uncertain economic future graduates face. One wonders: Is college a con game that justifies exorbitant costs by promising one a credential of smartness while exploiting one’s ignorance only to bankrupt one’s future? Has the university as a center of learning morphed into a corporate brand, a degree mill, a status symbol? Some warn us that schools act in ways that threaten our moral growth and career goals.
Choose one of the four challenges (A-D) below. Describe, assess and evaluate the challenge and deliver a persuasive proposal, whether a reform or a revolution, to make that challenge disappear.
Admissions: Regarding student demographics (who gets to go where), does Hofstra (or the American university) live up to its billing as a place that promotes diversity, rectifies our social, racial, gender and economic injustices and delivers to international students the best gateway into the global village? (A)
Cost: Is cost killing college (or just its students)? This generation may be the first to be crippled at the starting gate with more debt and less work. Have skyrocketing increases in tuition as well as dorm, food and year abroad study, coupled with pressure for academic/athletic scholarships and work study limits, as well as government and bank policies regarding loans, created conditions unfavorable to learning? (B)
Career Training: What is the value of your undergraduate degree in the marketplace? What are your prospects for employment? Should the university connect students to employers, workers in the field, seminars, internships, career guidance, jobs and learn-by-doing programs? Have students become so passive or afraid that they cannot connect a career with a major or with a mentor? What is the likelihood that the technical data one learns will be obsolete when one graduates? (C)
Community: Should the university seek to make its students well rounded? Should the degree program include “imparting the tools to live a principled, significant and meaningful life and thereby to ultimately and collectively improve society?” What matters more: becoming a more responsive, humane and engaged member of a democracy or learning to cope in a competitive capitalistic society? (D)
Primary sources from the internet:
Thomas Frank, “A Matter of Degrees,” PDF
John Smitanka, “A Reflection on the Purpose of Higher Education”
Paolo Freire, “The Banking Concept of Education,” PDF
Thomas Frank, “The Price of Admission,” PDF
Roksa & Arum, “Life after College”
Secondary sources at Taking Giant Steps Blog:
Jiahe Wang, “The Three Tools the University Forgot to Give Us,” July 12, 2015
Nguyen Dinh Giang, “Two Ends, Too Obtuse: An Essay on the Well-Roundedness of the American Higher Education System,” July 2, 2015
Shoujing Zheng, “Running off the Rails,” August 18, 2015
Samantha Brookes, “Rusted Gears: My Triumph over the American Education System,” June 29, 2016
Yunfei Feng, “Crawling Like a Snail,” January 10, 2016
Please feel free to do further research. If you find something useful, please share with us all.