I watched the shorter of the two videos today and found it really disturbing. As someone that wants to go into higher education, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the problems I see on a daily basis. Apathetic students, apathetic teachers (they have checked out years ago), teaching Institutions run like businesses where efficiency always wins out over effectiveness.
I’ve taught at both Virginia Tech and Radford University. I would say that I spend 10% of my classes at Radford trying to convince students that a liberal education has benefits to them, their families, and the world. That’s a lot of time. I used to give two or three big speeches a semester talking about all the ways that this subject can help them. Now I just have one at the beginning of the year and try to say a little something at the end of every class. The students I have struggle with basic reading and writing skills. They are overwhelmed and disinterested in the material and have very little understanding about the broader world they live in. The rate of graduating is very low relative to the rest of Virginia.
Increasingly I believe that the major problem is that many of my students are not ready to be in a 4-year liberal arts program and would be better served getting the experience and job skills that are offered at vocational programs, community colleges or the military.
I do not look at any of those options as a step down the prestige ladder. I think that they are great options and options that would suit many of my current students better. If a student pays thousands and thousands of dollars to a four-year program and they leave after 3 years without completing a degree or gaining an education, the system has failed them. They have essentially gone to a three-year-long party and are not any more prepared for the world than when they showed up.
I think part of the problem with higher education is students are being funneled into expensive 4-year programs when their interests are not being served by being there. I think it’s time that we started looking not at making money for universities but at helping students reach their full potential, whatever that may be.