Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Knowledge vs. Its Pretense

I walked into class last week and said, "You know, there's something inherently fraudulent in what we're all doing here."

One of my students said to his neighbor, "This ought to be good."

I said, "I present this material as if you're going to learn it, and you sit here like you intend to learn it, but no actual learning is going on. In terms of what it used to mean to be a college graduate, it doesn't mean that same thing anymore. I'm not blaming you; you're just functioning within the system that's been created for you. And I'm not saying I'm dramatically better; I was in the same system not that many years before you. But there's no real education going on here. It's all just credentialism."

Students want a degree to get the benefit of the degree, and the less work the degree requires, as long as it still produces the same benefits, the better. So students push back on instructor expectations and tell me how there's too much math in my course and don't attend class and expect lower standards because they've asked for them, and yet more students are in college and for longer periods of time than ever before.

How do I know they want credentials instead of knowledge? Because knowledge has never been more-widely available and cheaper than it is now, yet the cost increases of college continue to outpace inflation year after year. World-class educations are available for free, so why are we paying for substandard ones? Because the substandard education comes with a credential.

The reason I brought this up was because I was walking to class behind a seemingly extremely unintelligent college "student"* and it reminded me of Paul's description of people in the Last Days: "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Stay in school for 20 years and then vote for statists once you graduate, thereby proving you didn't learn a single thing at all.

* = In Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind he mentions a college president who liked to respond to the question "How many students does your school have?" by answering, "Oh, probably six or seven."

1 comment:

Alanna said...

One of my favorite professors would talk about how a college education is the opposite of buying a car-- most students want to spend as much money as possible and get as little out of it as they can. It would be like saying, "Please, no stereo for me, no automatic windows or locks or doors or anything. I just want to spend a lot of money and get absolutely NO perks whatsoever!"

So true.