Business mentality to blame for college students’ lack of learning

By Cal Colgan |

Opinion G logoThe eggheads are at it again.

The New York Times recently review a book published by two professors called, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” In it, the authors found 45 percent of current college students show no gains in critical thinking during their first two years at college. According to the Times article, the study also found that 32 percent of students surveyed did not take any courses with a significant amount of reading per week, and half of them did not take any courses with more than 20 pages of writing per semester.

In other words, the students want a degree, not an education.

The authors ask whether or not colleges and universities are focused on goals too much. But like a bad surgeon putting a bandage on a bullet hole, they are only attacking the surface issues. Like so many of their fellow academics, the authors would rather bury their heads in research than dig into the gaping wound  of higher education’s failures.

The problem is not the students, nor the faculty. Higher education has become a business, one that is more concerned with credentials than with fostering critical thinking skill in the student body.

In her article, “Students as consumers: the commercialization of higher education in the United States of America,” Daria Hejwosz, a blogger for the Polish-centered Liberte! news site, references several professors who say the American university has become little more than a marketplace. There was a time in higher education when universities were lead by deans who were passionate about learning. They would steadfastly adhere to shaping students into intellectuals who hopefully use their education to better society.

But those halcyon days, when the administration viewed students as philosophers-in-training, are over. Sure, the mission statements remain with all their flowery language about shaping students to be future social and political leaders, but they carry no weight.

After all, professors and deans don’t run universities anymore — the boards of directors do. To increase their standing in their communities, colleges have turned to financial institutions, corporations and individual high rollers. Because these moneymen are the biggest investors in American colleges, they are the main decision-makers. And fostering critical thinking is not on their top 10 list.

“In this brave new academic world, in which a sort of commericialised newspeak has been created, every individual is called a revenue center, every professor is an entrepreneur, and every institution is seek as a seeker of profit — whether in the form of money or in the form of human capital,” Herjwosz said in her blog.

And when students are seen as nothing more than human capital, their intellect suffers. It is not wonder that to the students, a bachelor’s degree is just a piece of paper.

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