When I was asked what is the “one” thing you would like to change about higher education, tens of issues and questions came to my mind. To make everything easier I narrow down this question to a certain context and from a certain perspective. I consider to answer this question in the context of United States. To think about one thing to change in higher education it is important to know from whose point of view; students, professors or other stakeholders? Here I look at the issue at hand as a student.
In thinking about this question I acknowledge that I try to be aware of my privileges and limitations as an able-bodied non-white, middle-class female from a Muslim country in Middle-east, with English not being my first language. One of the thing that I really like to be changed in higher education, is its perspective towards humans as robots who have to be trained for doing their small jobs perfectly.
According to Henry Giroux the “historical legacy” of the university conceived “as a crucial public sphere” has given way to a university “that now narrates itself in terms that are more instrumental, commercial and practical.” We are specializing our higher educations so much that everyone are experts of their small silos! I think the reason behind that is that in our neo-liberal world, the more we narrow the concentrations in the fields the easier we can get rid of “inefficient” workers in the system. While inter-disciplinary projects are getting more and more prominent in higher education discourse, aside from how really they integrate the knowledge of different academic disciplines, still it does not respond to lack of holistic view at individual level.
Even in my field, urban planning, which is considered to be interdisciplinary, yet we are so focused on our own concentration (transportation, urban economy, environment,and etc.) that we really cannot think about the projects/decisions in a multifaceted way, while in reality, cities are multifaceted entities. My point is, although we need experts to solve “technical” issues, however, more importantly we need people who knows how to think more broadly about problems and their deeper roots. Universities, specially in higher education must move towards more interdisciplinarity instead of training unidimensional automatons.
Giroux H.A. (2010) Academic Unfreedom in America. In: Carvalho E.J., Downing D.B. (eds) Academic Freedom in the Post-9/11 Era. Education, Politics, and Public Life. Palgrave Macmillan, New York