I have been thinking more and more about the state of the education in the U.S. Recently I have read a few opinion pieces, from those that say one should only go to school in order to learn a trade (primarily business related), to those that think the advance of science and technology is the only real value of a University, to those that believe that one should engage in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Why are there so many differing opinions on education? Well, because its a controversial issue.
I have also read a few articles concerning education that make me cringe. The Denver Westword recently ran an article covering the problems facing charter school acceptance to Denver Public Schools. Interestingly enough, it was only the educators and the DPS board officials who seemed to care at all about whether a school is added to the community. There is all this talk about bettering our schools and getting more kids a better education, but where is the public in all this?
What this really comes down to is my own set of frustrations with the higher education school system. After leaving a private school where I was unhappy for a myriad of reasons, I found myself back at a local university, the University of Colorado Denver (UCD). I have been much less happy with my education here. I have found less interest in my classmates and I have seen professors failing to engage their students. Instead of really trying to understand if we can work with the material, most professors here like to use different online resources: mainly, the Mastering suite of Pearson products. To be honest, I don’t entirely blame them. Who wants to actually grade papers and see where students are struggling? Who wants to spend extra money paying TA’s and various professors to grade homework? Isn’t online education the wave of the future?
Maybe I’m being too ridiculous about this whole thing. I mean, who cares if some class uses online tools to get rid of work that could be done in the classroom? The thing is, when I’m required to take an online Ethics class because all the other philosophy classes are filled up, I see the problem more directly. Online learning, in my opinion, doesn’t teach people the material and it surely doesn’t get students excited about the material. It makes students search for a way out of doing the work necessary to master the material. Post a comment here, write an excerpt there, look up the answer online: I have seen all of these activities first-hand. And it scares me that we’re moving to a place where online learning may become the norm. Just today the Denver Post published an article saying that “While full-time enrollment in Colorado’s colleges and universities has increased more than 23 percent over the last five years, state funding for higher education has decreased by $216 million, or 31 percent, over the last two years alone.” Bruce Benson (University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor) has said that he is afraid CU Bolder will run out of money and Nancy McCallin, the Community College of Colorado president has said, ” I truly think one of the key pieces of higher education… is online Because you can spread the class out a lot more, you can meet people when they want to take a class at 11 at night or in the middle of the night. It really is a cost-effective way of providing education.”
Perhaps one really needs to consider whether or not the goal of education is going to be providing students with a real tool they can use to succeed or whether its about getting people a degree, a piece of paper which tells employers, ‘pay me more!’ People will always need to eat and people will always need a place to sleep at night: we need money because of this. But why do we derive the success of a college education today from the money it produces? Why is the cult of money the only thing that keeps it going? Can one keep the quality of an education while cutting costs so drastically that the education becomes filling in an online worksheet? Can one really tell employers, yeah, in college I learned how to look up answers with Google? And in the end, do we really want to go to an institution for four years just to sit behind a desk job and be given a paycheck every week?