Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Education v. training

Gaye Tuchman, on narratives of American higher education:

Here’s what matters: These and other treatments of grand trends insist that higher education is one of the last revered Western institutions to be “de-churched” ; that is, it is one of the last to have its ideological justification recast in terms of corporatization and commodification and to become subject to serious state surveillance. Universities are no longer to lead the minds of students to grasp truth; to grapple with intellectual possibilities; to appreciate the best in art, music, and other forms of culture; and to work toward both enlightened politics and public service. Rather they are now to prepare students for jobs. They are not to educate, but to train. To be sure, some of the great American private colleges and universities — such as Harvard, Yale, and the much younger Duke — still discuss past values when they define their current missions. But even when Nannerl Keohane, the liberal political theorist and past president of Duke University and Wellesley College, expresses her admirable vision for the education of students at research universities, she seems to be differentiating between the sort of education that may be offered at the elite private colleges and universities and the kind of training available to everyone else.

Wannabe U:: Inside the Corporate University (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).
Tuchman’s book is about life at the University of Connecticut. But it’s really about the University of Anystate. In other words, the story it tells has wide application. How best to keep the possibilities of genuine learning — not training — alive for all: that’s the question for American higher education in the early twenty-first century.

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