Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Jane Jacobs on credentialing, not educating, as “the primary business of North American universities”:

Teachers could not help despairing of classes whose members seemed less interested in learning than in doing the minimum work required to get by and get out. Enthusiastic students could not help despairing of institutions that seemed to think of them as raw material to process as efficiently as possible rather than as human beings with burning questions and confusions about the world and doubts about why they were sinking time and money into this prelude to their working lives.

Students who are passionate about learning, or could become so, do exist. Faculty members who love their subjects passionately and are eager to teach what they know and to plumb its depths further also exist. But institutions devoted to respecting and fulfilling these needs as their first purposes have become rare, under pressure of different necessities. . . . My impression is that university-educated parents and grandparents of students presently in university do not realize how much the experience has changed since their own student days, nor do the students themselves, since they have not experienced anything else. Only faculty who have lived through the loss realize what has been lost.

Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead (New York: Random House, 2004).
I realize what has been lost. I’d call it intellectual space: a less hurried atmosphere in which greater numbers of faculty and students availed themselves of ample opportunity for conversational exchange about ideas and questions — burning questions, idle questions, odd tangents.

You can read “Credentialing vs. Education,” Jane Jacobs’s chapter on education from Dark Age Ahead (or something very like it, perhaps with minor differences) at the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Two related posts
Michael Oakeshott on education : Review of Academically Adrift

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