Monday, December 14, 2009

When Did University Cease to Be?

12:04 AM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I have always wondered when university transferred its mission from education for educations sake to career orientation and training. When did their focus morph from creating thinkers and refining minds into creating employees and glorified merchants?

I think I found part of the answer earlier. After WWII we passed a GI bill that allowed American veterans to go to college free of charge. The rates of student graduation plummeted into the low 40% area and it never made it back to the previous rates in the 80-90% range. We are now hovering just below 60%, which is about 10% lower than our rate in the 70s.

The GI bill permanently changed the nature of the American university system. The young veterans of WWII were not there to study human nature or the course and formation of history. They were there because they thought it was the way to get ahead in life, and the system, led by the enticement of doubled and tripled budgets, changed to accommodate them.

Only about 25% of the WWII GIs ever graduated. That is the number who completed college with free tuition. They didn't even have to pay and the number was still that depressingly low.

But do you thing that the GIs were a lesser sampling of intelligence than the schools found 20-30 years later? Guess again. After receiving that kind of boost to their holdings and empires, their precious research budgets, the kings of the realms of academia were not about to let that money go. They expanded the purpose of the university to include job training for the less academically inclined. Admissions standards were lowered, programs were developed to provide classes to teach professions and careers that were previously handled by apprenticeship.

We do not get that pre-GI bill education. Even the great universities no longer require that you read the classics in the original languages, or even learn the classical languages.

Some might answer to that, indeed, some have responded to my pursuit of ancient languages "How are those useful? What can you do with them?" Which is an illustration of my point. Everything has to have utility now. Young people rarely learn anything for the love of knowledge. For the love of thought. It has become a gateway to material success. People ask first what you are majoring in; then they ask what you are going to do with that.

I am going to pursue reason; I will try.

Ack! I just spent over two hours reading and trying to find a factoid that I now absolutely must know! The thing that bugs me is that the sources who could actually help me are all asleep.

In sight of my obsession, I think that the last phrase that jumped out at me sums things nicely.

"No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness."

Though I do not think that genius is probably a prerequisite for said madness...


1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with you, sir.
    When will the day come that youth look to college as a learning experience, and not as some trivial necessity that is required for a six digit--or more--job. Personally, there are so many things in this world that I would love to get the opportunity to learn about. Yet I am herded with the rest of the lot into the monotonous routines of secondary education...