Thursday, April 2, 2009

Higher Education.

I'm employed in higher education. My husband is a college professor. We've both worked at a Christian college and at secular schools. We both deeply lament the loss of a coherent liberal arts core in most institutions, and wish there were a way to bring that kind of curriculum back.

A new blogger on Mere Comments has posted this brilliant piece here. One particular snippet stands out to me:
At the same time, formal higher education is under competitive pressure from alternative sources. The number of online options continues to increase. Students in many fields may find themselves pursuing Microsoft certification (or the equivalent) in a corporate setting rather than at a university. To make matters worse, the evisceration of the classic liberal arts core curriculum has left many scratching their heads at why they have to spend two years taking a cafeteria style core that imparts no particular foundation of knowledge. Unless it can answer these challenges, higher education may be in store for a major reversal of fortune.

He goes on to talk about Christian institutions, and how they can answer the challenges by emphasizing their intellectual and moral formation. I would change that to "emphsizing their intellectual and moral foundations". I don't think you can do the former unless you do the latter. I am seeing first-hand what happens when you don't teach students how to reason, how to write, and how to think critically. The author goes on to say:
[T]he Christian schools should place a heavy emphasis on a rigorous and classical liberal arts core curriculum. This curriculum should not have a lot of choice in it. Students should journey together under expert guidance through the great conversations of the ages. The teachers should look for opportunities to connect their teaching to their understanding of the Christian faith.
Amen! Yes! A smorgasborg "core" doesn't build a foundation. To do that you need students taking the same classes in sequence, so each class builds off the other. Once the students complete the core, they go on to their chosen disciplines with a solid background and a deeper appreciation for all those fields they didn't choose.

And I do have a small quibble with our current Christian liberal arts institutions. To teach *philosophy* in the core means you need to have a professor with a *philosophy* degree. Too often Christian colleges are staffing their philosophy positions with theology profs, perhaps with the ill-conceived notion that the two subjects are comparable in education and content. Philosophy and theology are not the same, however, and to teach philosophy in no way undermines the Christian basis of the college itself. Alas, I know a deeply commited, conservative Christian philosophy PhD who would excel at the things this article espouses, if ever he's given the opportunity once again. ::Sigh::

1 comment:

Frufrock said...

I think the onset of compartmentalized education begins way before higher ed. Junior high and high school students don't read classics anymore. Nor are they introduced to much outside of what they will encounter on the most immediate standardized test they must endure. What happened to the idea of teaching a man a to fish instead of giving him a fish?