College Sucks

July 25, 2006 at 5:57 pm Leave a comment

This comes from Daniel Drezner and I don’t necessarily connote the entiry of his post, but his sniplet from the journal of higher education does make me think about why college sucks:

new students are required to take a class called “The Global
Experience,” taught by faculty members drawn from departments across
the campus. One of the central objectives of the course is to break
students out of their bubble by forcing them to think about the
interconnectedness of our world.”

Now compare this to Seth Lloyd’s writing on requirements at MIT:

“Fifty years ago MIT freshman used to arrive full of knowledge about internal-combustion engines…Twenty-five years ago they arrived full of knowledge of vacuum tubes… Now they arrive chock-a-block full of knowledge about computers” Hence they have adapted and require a course called “Information and Entropy”.

Now these are two very very different schools and obviously MIT takes in some of the more ambitious and prodigetic students, but the assumption MIT makes about the preconceptions and past learnings of their students seems to be much less redudant than what the previous school does. They assume that students coming in haven’t considered things like globalism or slave-labor etc. My point being, what is taught at school is important, but more important is how you teach it. The former school seems to have lost a lot of their creativity and are merely recylcing ideas from the media that most high-schoolers already know. Yes it’s a big connected world… yes world trade has it’s moral downside… yes it’s terribly homogenous that children all over the world love hello kitty and McDonalds etc. But the point of college is to expose students to new thinking, Mr. Lloyd’s class takes on the universe from informational and complex systems angle, which is certianly a thought experiment worth having, but from the description of “The Global Experience” it just sounds like it’s ideas we’ve already heard. I can already imagine just the redunancy of it all, but I might be wrong, but frankly like a lot of liberal arts colleges, I think providing an alternative or counter-view to the prevailing preconceptions of your society is an experiment that might make the college experience deeper and perhaps more lasting. For instance it is perfectly possible that homogenousizing of the world has positive effects in liberating people from their original culture. Cultural identity or differance is assumable and if people in Tokyo want to be more mongolian or Americans more Asian or Taiwanese more Japanese or Indians more American or really any individuals in any land mass like individuals from another land mass then why not. But also while the values of pluralism are often assumed in the wake of the liberal mindset (and while political blogs use liberal by different means I mean the historical development of a mind-set that uses pluralistic values to avoid the absolutish enlightment idealism that we’re still trying to escape from) that the terrorities of different cultures are beginning to share common mass produced products doesn’t necessarily mean that one is colonizing the other. After all rice burgers are big in at McDonalds in Taiwan, but that’s a fairly simplistic metaphor for a much deeper process. And also, as the professor in the article notes, he continues to drink “non-fair-trade” coffee inspite of his moral ambitions and similarly despite the fact that pluralism and cultural relativity are heralded as the prevailing ideas of our times, how many people actually appreciate the difference in thinking and values that seperate us and how many people still want it their way? Anyway, that was a rant that took away from  my original point, I think globalisation has been pretty well digested by Americans and if you want require something at your college worthy of their time, then introducing them to new ideas or critical theory that’s a tad bit deeper than don’t shop at Walmart might be a good idea.

p.s. Drezner’s overviews of the pros of globalisation and the scarcity of abuse is worth reading.

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