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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post What Kind of Education Do We Want?
Created by John Eipper on 05/06/12 4:54 AM

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What Kind of Education Do We Want? (Mirjana Radovic, Serbia, 05/06/12 4:54 am)

In traditional education, students are passive participants on all the education levels. Their personal creativeness is not encouraged, nor is they challenged to think critically. On completing the process of formal education they are capable of more or less successfully reproducing the information they learned in the course of their schooling; however, they have not learned to implement the acquired knowledge in practice and use this knowledge as a basis for creating new ideas and making business decisions autonomously. The knowledge students acquired in the course of their education process has frequently turned out not to be really applicable or be rather inadequate to meet the modern requirements of the business environment. Hence it is necessary that the fast changes characteristic of the new economy and the modern business environment be accompanied by changes in the learning environment.

The new learning environment should provide preconditions for independent learning and support human development process. Meeting these challenges calls for an education strategy which seeks to establish new goals of education and place greater emphasis on individuality. In this context, new education strategies should encourage interaction between teachers and learners. In order to prepare students for learning and growth in a technologically fostered and globalized world, schools must evolve from their traditional model of education to a more active, learner-centered approach to learning. Students should have the flexibility in learning since it is a skill, and the reaction ultimately determines the level of perception of the curriculum. Basically, it is an interaction between the teacher and the students which must reflect freedom and not rigidity. Namely, a newly proposed education strategy gives students the freedom to recognize their capabilities and individual potentials.

To move in this direction, schools must rapidly transform from the traditional model of learning, where the curriculum is textbook-driven and facts are memorized, to a new, transformed education strategy based on freedom of learning and teaching.

(Taken from the article prepared for WAAS [World Academy of Art and Science] conference in Podgorica, Montenegro, "Creative Education and New Learning as Means of Encouraging Creativity, Original Thinking," 2012.)

In Serbia, our traditional approach to education should be changed soon. In this context, we must involve all good experiences from other countries as well as to respect educational needs from our students. Therefore, I did one study and asked the following question of my students:

In what direction should educational strategies be developed? The following choices were provided based on the in-depth interviews:

A. To be more oriented towards the individual needs of students

B. To increase an individual's level of independence and freedom

C. To increase creative abilities and original thinking

D. All of the above

The preferred choice for both male and female respondents was D. But the most exciting point is that male respondents considered choice A (i.e. to be more oriented towards the individual needs of students) in second place and with a considerable percentage (i.e. 21% of male respondents). This claim also could be supported by the male respondents' ideas in question two, as most of the male respondents were looking at the "freedom in learning" concept as to have freedom in choosing the course and the course content. Meanwhile, female respondents were mostly arguing for freedom in expressing ideas and opinions, and freedom in learning without religious, political, or any other kind of constraints.

JE comments: I am pleased to publish the first posting from the newest WAISer, Mirjana Radovic of Belgrade, Serbia, a professor of economics and entrepreneurship.  Mirjana was nominated by our colleague Carl Edwin Lindgren.  I will post Mirjana's full bio later today.

For now, Mirjana has raised some questions that go to the heart of our discussions on education.  I am thinking in particular of the recent postings from Rodolfo Neirotti.  How does one foster the development of critical thinking?  What about "student-centered learning"?  The latter has become a mantra of higher education in the US.  (In the foreign language business, you cannot turn in a statement of Teaching Philosophy without including "student-centered" at least twice.)  We know that "student-centered" is good, but what does it really mean?

I would be interested to learn more about educational practice in today's Serbia.  What "religious and political" constraints are presently in play?

Welcome to WAIS, Mirjana Radovic!


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  • What Kind of Education Do We Want? On Doubting (Tom Hashimoto, -UK 05/06/12 11:29 AM)
    Mirjana Radovic's post of May 6 is very inspiring. Critical thinking, in my opinion, starts with the mindset of "doubting." In my mere four years of teaching experience, I have been asking my students to doubt what they read. "Doubting" here does not mean to attack or destroy other people's opinions. Rather, it is the encouragement of modification. How can I modify this opinion to make more sense?

    Almost all of my examinations have been open-book, blessed by the liberty of social science. Some students began to bring notes and materials from other classes in order to be more constructive and creative in answering my questions. I think they finally got my messages. On average, it takes about one to two years for them to get used to "doubting" their source materials or me. Time required tends to get shorter if I have out-of-class encounters (such as supervision, orchestra, coffee, etc.). That is quite remarkable as most professors take an incredibly long time--perhaps a decade--to get used to being doubted.


    JE comments: It takes fearlessness to welcome doubting in your classroom, and the first step for the teacher is a mastery of your subject: otherwise, your students can come off as threatening.


    A great point from Tom Hashimoto.

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    • On Doubting in Education (John Heelan, -UK 05/07/12 5:02 AM)
      When commenting Tom Hashimoto's post of 6 May, JE wrote: "It takes fearlessness to welcome doubting in your classroom, and the first step for the teacher is a mastery of your subject: otherwise, your students can come off as threatening."

      Tom Hashimoto is right. My educational policy was to tell students (and now my grandchildren), "Question everything you are told or read--including what I say!" I found it keeps one sharp to have bright minds challenging your thoughts and beliefs.


      JE comments: Absolutely. Although there are very few educators who don't relish the opportunity to win over students to our point of view!



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      • On Doubting in Education (Henry Levin, USA 05/07/12 3:43 PM)
        I am not quite sure that John Eipper is correct about wanting to win students over to the instructor's point of view. (See John's comments to John Heelan's post of 7 May.) Even if the instructor is "successful," much of what the student demonstrates is lipservice rather than commitment. As Robert Graves said in "Joan and Darby" (a magnificent poem), "Little children, parasites and God may flatter me with absolute agreement, for no one lives more cynical than God."

        A good teacher and scholar is an iconoclast, constantly challenging their own point of view and doing the same with students. What is far more important than teaching a point of view is teaching the reasoning and identification of evidence that underlie a point of view. The worst form of teaching is required memorization and mimicking the teacher, absolutely the worst, and then grading exams on the basis of this liturgy. This is a form of social control that undermines agency and responsibility of the student. In Spanish we call it the "tragar y vomitar" theory of learning. My focus on gagging and nausea is intentional.


        JE comments:  Very eloquently stated!  I fear that tragar y vomitar is probably still the rule in the majority of the world's universities; this was the point brought up by Mirjana Radovic in her post of 6 May.


        It was a pleasure to meet with Henry and Pilar Levin on Saturday, where we enjoyed a Cinco de Mayo lunch at Michelle San Román's marvelous La Fiesta Mexicana restaurant in Ypsilanti, next to Ann Arbor.  The highlight of our afternoon (besides the conversation) was a visit to the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage museum, where one sees examples of Ypsilanti's myriad contributions to automotive culture:  Kaiser-Frazer, Corvair, Tucker, GM Hydramatic.  The ageless proprietor of the museum, Jack Miller, was a Hudson dealer through the 1950s, and the museum continues to showcase that legendary marque.  I hope Henry Levin doesn't mind if I share a bit of his personal automotive history:  his first car was a LaSalle.  To channel Archie and

        Edith Bunker, I bet it ran great.  (Hank then traded up to a...Packard.  I am envious.)


         


         



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      • On Doubting in Education (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 05/08/12 2:45 PM)
        Kudos to Tom Hashimoto and John Heelan (both from 7 May).



        As an older student, I was surprised by the insecurity of some professors and filled with admiration for those who were open to challenge. In fact, the professors who were never afraid of being challenged had the most lasting effect on me. One may be tempted to think that it was easier to listen to an older student versus being challenged by a 20 year-old; but in these particular professors, I noted the same respect for individual viewpoint--or "challenge." It is easy to learn from people one respects and admires. If a teacher (professor/educator) is willing to show students that there is no end to learning by welcoming "challenge," then that educator has passed on a valuable lifetime lesson.

        JE comments:  Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has identified one of the positive habits of the lifelong learner:  never fearing to challenge, and never shying away from challenges to one's own worldview.  To this I would add the all-important trait of curiosity.  (All WAISers are curious.)

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  • What Kind of Education Do We Want? (Alain de Benoist, -France 05/06/12 5:34 PM)
    I am pleased to read the first post (6 May) from Mirjana Radovic. Welcome to WAIS, Mirjana!

    Mirjana wrote that in Serbia students have not learned to use their knowledge "as a basis for [...] making business decisions autonomously," and that this knowledge is "rather inadequate to meet the modern requirements of the business environment."


    The idea that students have to learn how to meet business requirements is abhorrent to me.


    Universities are not waiting rooms for hiring agencies. Students have to study to acquire general (and specialized) knowledge and to foster the development of their critical thinking.


    JE comments: I don't think Alain would have been happy in an MBA program! But Alain de Benoist and Mirjana Radovic have staked out two contrasting positions for future discussion: should the university view its primary mission as preparing students for gainful employment? US universities are increasingly going in that direction; for parents paying for college, the "waiting room" factor is self-evident.  Interestingly, both Alain and Mirjana celebrate critical thinking, but for different ends.



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    • What Kind of Education Do We Want? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/07/12 4:49 AM)
      This discussion on type of education/decision making/critical thinking is extremely important for global socio/political/economics, democracy, and humanity as a whole. Some excellent observations have been made, but the most striking conclusion to me is the need for balance, since we are dealing with critical conflicting objectives. On the one hand, we need educated people who understand the broad picture necessary to choose honest, intelligent leaders (or perhaps become such leaders). On the other, we need to produce workers/managers who can directly participate in society upon graduation.

      My university is presently heavily involved (major government grants, several teams) in efforts to measure and promote critical thinking. As someone who always has had one foot in industry and the other in academia, my students and I benefited greatly by catering to industry needs. However, the importance of Alain de Benoist's view (6 May) must not be underestimated. To me personally, critical thinking is the ability to identify the relevant perspectives to successfully address a specific issue, and to effectively incorporate these perspectives into the decision-making process.



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      • Skills and Freedom of Learning (Mirjana Radovic, Serbia 05/07/12 5:28 AM)

        I do agree with Tor Guimaraes (7 May). New approaches are also needed to find a way to promote students' motivation, self-esteem and the skills. To all these we would add the need for greater emphasis on individuality, whose development is conditioned by encouraging freedom of learning.


        JE comments:  We tend to view the "skills" as the opposite of critical thinking.  Think typing or sewing versus philosophy or literary analysis.  We language educators are pulled in two opposite directions:  although language study fosters higher-level critical thinking, we suspect that universities tolerate us because we give students the skills to compete in the global marketplace.  Therefore we must stress our utilitarian value to recruit students and justify our existence, but such a marketing strategy simultaneously lessens the prestige of our programs.

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        • Self-Esteem (Robert Gard, USA 05/07/12 10:06 AM)
          It seems to me there is too much emphasis on self-esteem. (See Mirjana Radovic, 7 May.) It often is employed to excuse lack of effort and accomplishment.

          Maybe there should be more emphasis on esteem for others.


          JE comments: The line between self-esteem and an obnoxious sense of entitlement is often murky.  But a healthy self-esteem is vital for the individual to reach her potential--believing that one can succeed is half the battle.



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    • Are Universities "Waiting Rooms"? (Tom Hashimoto, -UK 05/07/12 5:09 AM)
      Alain de Benoist (6 May) states that universities are not the waiting rooms for hiring agencies. As much as I respect Alain's opinions and general philosophy behind the institutions called "universities," I disagree with him.

      Today, universities in small cities and small countries, especially in Europe, are competing in at least two markets: students and professors. Such universities need a certain amount of students to survive (as public financing has decreased in this decade), while the majority of local students aim for universities in the UK, the Netherlands or France if they can pay, or in Sweden, Norway and Germany if they can receive scholarships. As a result, universities in Central and Eastern Europe (perhaps with the exception of Central European University in Budapest) gather students from the nearby regions, Asia, Africa and the Caucasus. Due to their previous education, those students are not necessarily well trained, unfortunately. Of course, some of them are very strong, but they hardly stay in Central and Eastern Europe--thus, universities are required to spend money and effort to recruit students all over again.


      Likewise, the lack of funding hardly attracts skilled professors and researchers. Universities cannot produce high quality of teaching and research to make their name known in the world--thus, negatively affecting the above recruitment process. It's a vicious circle.


      That is why universities in small cities and small countries have to act like a hiring agency, so that many students will come to them in order to ensure the institution's future health.


      JE comments: Tom Hashimoto has taught at more universities in European "small nations" than any academic I know--Slovenia, Albania, Poland, and now Estonia. He should really consider writing a book on his experiences. Though we're on-line only, we'd be overjoyed to give his book a home on WAIS.



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    • What Kind of Education Do We Want? (David Gress, Denmark 05/09/12 4:00 AM)
      Alain de Benoist wrote on 6 May:



      "The idea that students have to learn how to meet business requirements is abhorrent to me."

      I utterly agree. Except that I understand that to get jobs in today's world you have to pretend to want to meet "business requirements," something, as Alain says, abhorrent to any true intellectual or scholar.


      98-99 per cent of our students have no hope, and no ambition, to be academics, that is, searchers of knowledge. There's no money in it, almost no one gets hired, and the college administrations despise it. They want jobs, in my case mostly in the EU-apparat, and can't tell Homer from a handsaw, to paraphrase Shakespeare. They are culturally illiterate, and we--you, professors--allow them to remain so. I say "you" because I have no teaching job, precisely because I want to teach the great matters, not repeat idiocies.


      Of course students should have self-confidence. That, however, comes from hard-earned knowledge, not from pep-talks. You have to possess the substance. Our JE is a language teacher. Languages take effort. I spent years of my otherwise misspent youth to learn Latin and Greek, I mean really learn them, and I can tell the lazy young of our time that it's hard to get into the spirit of a strange, perhaps ancient, and therefore more exciting, language. We have in WAIS those who know Mandarin and Japanese, and they will agree.


      But again, there's no money it in, and no careers. Therefore indulge in empty rhetoric about individual learning and releasing potential, all void of form.


      The decadence of the West knows no bounds.


      JE comments:  A harsh appraisal from David Gress.  I am surprised to hear such a negative view of (presumably, Danish) students' motivation for language study, as the Danes enjoy a reputation for their ability to master English (and often German).  The ancient languages, admittedly, are a different story.


      But with the world employment situation the way it is, how can we blame students for seeking utility in their fields of study?


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      • What Kind of Education Do We Want? (Robert Whealey, USA 05/09/12 3:13 PM)
        I agree with the definition of the scholarly ideal set out by David Gress and Alain de Benoist. I was lucky to have lived in the US in 1950-1953, during the Korean War when I was 20-23. I was the typical American student in 1948, who thought college would open the door to a skilled job. My first ambition was dentistry, my second, law: I got my BA in history, thinking it would open the door to law school.

        My first and only year in law school taught me the meaning of Law, as a practical, manipulative art--except at the level of a judge. The role of judge in Denmark and France is much different from the position of judges in the US. The law students were mainly motivated by money, and really did not think much about Oliver Wendell Holmes or John Marshall. The bungling Truman and Eisenhower administrations' failure to understand the difference between Marx, Lenin and Stalin pushed me into learning more about a comprehensive understanding of war, peace and diplomacy. I stumbled into the topic of the Spanish Civil War in 1952 and became a scholar of that complex problem by default. An understanding of the Spanish Civil War forces one to re-read the story of a broader Western Civilization.



        Teaching jobs were good in the US for a PhD in history from 1961 to 1969, when the American empire began to decline. Economic decline leads to political decline, and political decline leads to moral decline. Today most BA students are totally ignorant about the American Constitution and the reasons for America's victory in 1945. I dare say that 99% of the TV pundits are living in the world of Big Brother and the police state. Neither Obama nor Romney have a clue as to how to roll back the growing American debts. Obama speaks to the pundits. Romney speaks to Wall Street. It seems likely that neither candidate took much history in their undergraduate years. The November 2012 election will be an exercise in "Newspeak," and neither candidate can be believed.


        JE comments: Robert Whealey mentions the boom years of university expansion in the 1960s. Senior colleagues used to speak of how new PhDs would receive academic job offers without even applying for them. This came to a stop in the '70s, when the PhD cab driver became a cultural trope.



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        • What Kind of Education Do We Want? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/10/12 10:46 AM)
          Regarding "scholarly ideals" (see Robert Whealey, 9 May), in my area (business administration, management of innovation, management of technology, and information systems), being close to companies/industry is a must. At Tennessee Technological University, individual faculty can choose to have their productivity evaluated in different areas: teaching, research/publications, service to the profession, and service to the university. Most faculty select at least 50 percent weight in "teaching" by teaching 3 classes per semester and getting favorable student evaluations. As a "reserch" professor, I have to declare at least 50 percent weight in this area. Unless you know what the presently critical issues are in industry, how to study them to produce practical results, one will have great difficulty publishing anything in respectable journals. Further, I discovered over the years the need for a team approach, where team members have top expertise in specific business areas, specific products and/or processes, relevant technologies and possible policies.

          In the last 20 years, my research focus has broadened considerably into management of business innovation and away from IS, and no research productivity studies are available. However, in the Information Systems (IS) area the research productivity of individual institutions and researchers has been measured by various studies. In the first 20 years of my professional life, my partners and I have discovered and tested a considerable amount of knowledge publishable in the top Information Systems (IS) journals. Based on research reports published only in IS top journals, a summary of my personal research productivity ranking is shared below.


          Worldwide Research Productivity Ratings For

          Researchers in the Information Systems Area


          (Based only on research published in the leading information systems [IS] journals)


          Rankings for: Tor Guimaraes


          Jesse E. Owen Chair of Excellence


          Tennessee Technological University


          Time Period


          Encompassed


          Ratings Published By


          World Ranking


          1992-1996


          Athey, S. & Plotnicki, J., Communication of the Association for Information Systems, Vol. 3, Article 7, 2000. (Ratings based on research published in the top ten journals)


          8th Place


          1991-1997


          Im, K.S., Kim, K.Y., & Kim, J.S., Decision Line, September/October, 29(5), 12-15, 1998. (Ratings based on research published in the top six journals)


          12th Place


          1984-1988


          Remus, W., University of Hawaii PRIISM Working Paper no. 89-006.2, September 5, 1989. (Ratings based on research published in the top four journals)


          13th Place


          1980-1988


          Shim, J.P., English, J. B. & Yoon, J., Socio-Economic Planning Science, 25(3) pp. 211-219, 1991. (Ratings based on research published in the top eight journals)


          15th Place


          Acknowledgements:


          1. Most of the research publications rated here have been produced with the invaluable assistance of business practitioners, co-authors, reviewers, editors, and personal assistants.


          2. Since 1991, due to the mission of the Jesse E. Owen Chair, research projects increasingly became much broader in scope, thus targeting non-IS journals without author productivity rankings.


          JE comments:  A most impressive scholarly record for our colleague Tor Guimaraes!  Concerning the annual reports on "excellence" that academics are required to produce, a few days ago Francisco Ramírez sent me a copy of his essay, "Accounting for Excellence:  Transforming Universities into Organizational Actors."  I'll post Francisco's essay later today.


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        • Accounting for Excellence in the University (Francisco Ramirez, USA 05/10/12 7:06 PM)
          I have several interrelated papers dealing with changing universities. Some of these I have presented in various "universities in crisis" conferences in Europe. This may be too long to burden WAISers with, but it is neither a critique of European universities nor a defense of American ones but instead an attempt to explain why universities are under pressures to change and look like formal organizations. My most recent rendition is a collaboration with a Norwegian colleague, and compares changes in the University of Oslo and Stanford. It is currently under review.

          University rankings plus the Bologna process undercut universities in Europe. Faced with abstract "best practices" and "good governance," European universities change: MBA programs emerge, research assessment schemes emerge (they are rather high-stakes ones in the UK), mission statements and strategic plans also emerge. These things happened slowly in the USA and mostly as a function of competition and the American belief in progress.


          See my book chapter, "Accounting for Excellence: Transforming Universities into Organizational Actors," which was published in the following:


          Val Rust, Laura Portnoi, and Sylvia Bagely, eds, Higher Education, Policy, and The Global Competition Phenomenon. Palgrave. 2010.


          https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zWKWzBK_PZJzyTivIz22pCzz1FaWPpzezKPs7UYWZEM/edit


          JE comments: I uploaded Francisco Ramírez's essay into my "Google docs" account. I'm pretty sure the link will work for everyone. If there's a problem let me know and I'll try a different method.


          Francisco describes a fascinating process in recent years, whereby the "national university" is losing its distinctive characteristics in favor of the "rationalized university":  rankings-driven, answerable to stakeholders beyond the students and faculty, and increasingly corporate. Universities throughout the world are therefore growing more and more similar. Europe is following the US model of adopting such (familiar to me) trappings of academic life as the student evaluations of professors and the "annual report" of a faculty member's scholarship, teaching and service.


          Thanks go to Francisco for forwarding his essay.

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      • Thoughts on Education (David Duggan, USA 05/17/12 5:56 AM)
        I hazard to weigh in on educational matters because 1) I am not a scholar (my academic achievements have been modest, at best), 2) as a former practicing lawyer in a city where the "legal establishment" is a case study in anti-intellectualism, I earned my daily bread by dumbing myself down in a profession that some have described as the most practically humanistic, and 3) any opinion I might offer could be construed as either the blatherings of a wanna-be, or the self-serving justifications of one who "couldn't cut it."

        Nevertheless, a couple of independent occurrences inspire me to offer the following. The education that "we" (whoever is encompassed by the first person plural) want is that which motivates us to keep at it regardless of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I was a Vietnam-era college student who took advantage of the deferment and a high-enough lottery number to avoid the consequences of that conflict. During that time, colleges, including the one my parents were paying tuition to, went on strike over Cambodia; the professors seemed more interested in advocating the end of the war than imparting the wisdom of the ancients; and the students were more interested in drugs (legal and illicit), sex, and rock and roll than in learning anything that would matter later.


        I reacted by devoting my college career to sports and journalism, practical and finite in their scope, yet grounded in work-a-day discipline. That took me to journalism school, which gave me a first job, but not a career path. Newspapers were folding right and left, journalism had adopted a "you are the story" model (Hunter Thompson and others: the opposite of the Scotty Reston model to which I attorned), and I decided that I needed something more intellectually stimulating than what shopping center was going to be approved or disapproved at that week's village council meeting.


        Law school, which I had consciously avoided while in college, beckoned, and by the grace of God, I was accepted (I had no back-up plan). In the late 1970s, law schools generally, and mine (Northwestern) in particular, were in the midst of their periodic navel-gazing over whether they were "trade schools" or "academic establishments." This debate was especially acute at Northwestern because it was in the intellectual shadow of the University of Chicago and its "Law and Economics" philosophy, while the "local" law schools (Kent, Marshall, DePaul and Loyola) controlled the local administration of justice through their political connections. Northwestern, which counted more than a few Illinois governors, and two Supreme Court justices among its alumni, was neither fish nor fowl in this persistent conflict. Feeling that law school was my personal redemption from an indifferent undergraduate academic record for which I was a bit ashamed, I gravitated toward the intellectual side.


        Fast forward more than 30 years. I have shuttered my downtown legal practice, thanks in part to the beneficence of my parents who had fronted a good slug of my education, but also to the "legal economy" which has been moribund for four years and shows no signs of recovering any time soon. But last week, the outgoing president of my college, Dartmouth, was in town to talk about his new role as the president of the World Bank. Lacking prior ties to Dartmouth, he had tried to remold its image with the notion that its students could "change the world." Using a Powerpoint presentation, he spoke of the three-fold mission of Dartmouth as "Pedagogy, Scholarship, and Engagement." Putting aside the hubris on which the change the world notion is based, one might wonder why someone who had spent four years in the New Hampshire hills would feel any compunction about doing so: all the world really needs is more rock-ribbed rugged individualism of the sort the Granite State promotes.


        Coincidentally, the week before, one of the more academically inclined Dartmouth graduates, Charles Whelan '88, who teaches public policy at the University of Chicago, had just written an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal which declaimed that among the 10 things new college graduates will not hear at their commencement addresses: "the time you spend in a fraternity basement is as important as the time you spend in class or a lab." His point was that it is the connections to other humans which makes our lives worthwhile, not who won the Peloponnesian War.


        So, during the Q and A segment of Pres. Jim Yong Kim's remarks, I asked where amidst his triad of goals was room for undifferentiated fun or goofing off, using Whelan's article as the peg. (I didn't know he was in attendance; it was a large banquet hall and the sight-lines were pretty bad.) Pres. Kim responded: Dartmouth students will find the time to have fun and probably need no more excuses to do so.


        So, there you have it. Nearly 40 years after I graduated from college, I fill my days with trying to run my local neighborhood association (I was just re-elected for a third term), playing tennis and golf (I'm back playing tennis tournaments), riding my bicycle, free of the concerns over making a living. Perhaps my education has been a waste, but I am grateful that the time I spent in class, fraternity basements, gymnastics practice, and college newspaper writing and editing gave me the tools to get to my 7th decade with my body and mind reasonably intact. Oh, and I also made phone calls for Charles Whelan when he ran three years ago to replace Rahm Emanuel as my congressman.


        JE comments: Charles Whelan and I overlapped for two years at Dartmouth, but we never met. (Perhaps we bumped into each other in a fraternity basement--is there anything more iconically Dartmouth than the fraternity basement? Check out the brouhaha surrounding Andrew Lohse.)


        I do give a thumbs up to Charles's book Naked Economics.


        But back to David Duggan:  my thanks for this honest and gripping appraisal of his educational journey.  I agree with David that President Kim's stressing of "pedagogy, scholarship, and engagement" should be put under the microscope--does such a statement have any meaning at all?  Of course a university teaches and does research.  What does "engagement" mean?  Supplying the Treasury Department with its Secretaries?  Dating the mayor of New York?


        Let's rephrase the question:  can elite universities, so largely based on exclusion, make the world a better place?


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        • Can Elite Universities Make the World a Better Place? (John Heelan, -UK 05/17/12 2:03 PM)
          Commenting on David Duggan's "Thoughts of Education" (17 May), JE asked, "can elite universities, so largely based on exclusion, make the world a better place?"

          An excellent question but one that is likely to go unanswered in practice, owing to the elite education system having been, and continuing to be, a mechanism to keep the Establishment in power.


          As JE suggests, access to elite education often uses exclusion techniques on similarly qualified applicants such as high course costs as well as those making the admissions decisions favouring applicants from similar privileged backgrounds.


          Three UK examples. First, statutory statistics on admissions show that in 2011 Oxford University received 38% of its applications from the Public Schools sector (i.e. Independents)--24% of those were successful. Although some 63% applications came from the State sector, only 19% were successful. (Figures for 2010 show little change.)



          http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/facts_and_figures/undergraduate_admissions_statistics/qualifications.html



          Secondly. the fact that in the current House of Commons "Half of the Cabinet and a third of all MPs went to private school; there are 20 Old Etonians in the Commons, eight of them in the Government. Of the 119 ministers in the Coalition, two-thirds were privately educated. It's not that different on the Opposition benches. A third of Labour's front bench went to Oxford or Cambridge; all the contenders for last year's leadership race went to one of the two universities."



          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8277371/How-politics-got-posh-again.html



          Lastly, the substantial increase in undergraduate course fees (tripling in most cases) is likely to dissuade poorer students from entering tertiary education altogether. This facet implies that students from richer families will face less competition for university places.


          The situation will not change while the Establishment continues to prolong and renew its ongoing power infrastructure though controlling access to elite education.


          JE comments:  We could say the same thing about US Presidents.  Reagan was the last non-Ivy Leaguer:


          http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/254847/20111123/ivy-league-harvard-yale-obama-clinton-bush.htm?page=all


          The Ivies have their bases covered this November, too:  Obama (Columbia, Harvard), and Romney (Harvard MBA and JD).


          Which takes us back to our original question:  do elite universities change the world for the better, or do they merely better the elite universitarians?


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          • Elite Universities (Cameron Sawyer, USA 05/18/12 3:41 AM)
            In response to John Heelan (17 May), I am not sure why anyone is surprised that 24% of applicants from "public," that is, expensive private schools in the UK, get into Oxford, compared to 19% from state schools, particularly given the fact that there are nearly twice as many applicants from state schools. I am surprised, actually, that the difference is not greater. It means that most Oxford students come from state schools. My guess is that this reflects the opposite of what John is asserting, namely that there is a conscious effort at Oxford to increase representation of students from state schools. I would otherwise expect a much bigger difference between the prospects of private and state school students, given the very high cost of private education, the smaller classes, the higher-paid and better qualified teachers, and the much greater investment which goes into preparing the students of private schools.



            I don't think that the Ivies in the US are such a class perpetuation machine as John asserts, either. The best schools advertise that no one who is admitted will fail to attend because of money--there is so much student aid available. If anything, the Ivies perpetuate a kind of technocracy, that is, the domination of our society by people with "book smarts"--people who perform well in educational situations. The correlation between wealth and educational level is high and growing all the time, as far as I understand. I'm not sure that there is anything bad about that--on the contrary, it is probably only natural in a knowledge-based economy. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, it becomes harder and harder to be productive and it becomes less and less possible to earn a good living without having a certain amount of educational success. Instead of complaining about this inexorable trend, we should do more to improve the standards of education in our society, especially in the early years.

            JE comments: A question about teacher salaries in the UK. Private school teachers in the US tend to earn less (often far less) than their counterparts in the public system. This is the case even with the top-tier elite prep schools. Is the situation reversed in the UK?



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            • Are Elite Universities Increasingly Inclusive? (Francisco Ramirez, USA 05/18/12 5:43 PM)
              Cameron Sawyer (18 May) is right about effort to be more inclusive at Oxford. Source: Joseph Soares, The Decline of Privilege at Oxford. He is less kind to Yale, but then he did not get tenure therein. I find this quote illuminating as to what a genuine class-rooted perspective involved:

              Well into the 20th century the literary luminary T. S. Elliott would write:



              "The idea of an educational system which would automatically sort out everyone according to his native capacities is unattainable in practice; and if we made it our chief aim, would disorganize society and debase education. It would disorganize society by substituting for classes elites of brains, or perhaps, only of sharp wits." (1968: 177 Cited in Soares, 1999: 49)


              The Ivies used to be more a bastion of class privilege. These used to be exclusively white male Anglo-Saxon Protestant institutions. A comparative analysis of changing admission standards at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton may be found in Jerome Karabel, The Chosen. The changes in the direction of greater inclusiveness were triggered by the social movements of the sixties and seventies. If you use SATS as one indicator of academic standards, then greater inclusiveness went hand in hand with higher academic standards.


              JE comments: At my Ivy institution (Dartmouth), I still had the sense that most of my classmates were from elite prep schools such as Andover and Exeter. There were precious few of us country bumpkins from rural Missouri.

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