Columnists at the NY Times Should Not be Making Erroneous Claims About What Universities Do…

On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem…to widen the system’s narrow definition of achievement. Institutes are popping up…designed to cultivate the whole student: the emotional, spiritual and moral sides and not just the intellectual.

Source: The Big University – The New York Times

Here is my response.

Are you kidding me?

I’m a former math professor. I last taught at an “elite” institution, and have observed universities from the inside for a long time. I ask myself where Mr. Brooks has been when he writes that,

“…On almost every campus faculty members and administrators are trying to stem the careerist tide…” and that “…institutes are popping up…designed to cultivate the…moral side…[of “students]”.

This column is so wrong – and so misleading – about the realities of most universities, that it directs the reader away from the real problems.

Here is how to see how wrong Mr. Brooks understanding is – and to see what is true. Then it will be clear that they can’t be trusted with “moral” and “spiritual” education, not without systemic change.

One could start with replacing the quaint word “students” with “customers”. Most universities see themselves as having “customers”.

Here is David Riesman on the dangers of that.

“…advantage can…be taken of [students] by unscrupulous instructors and institutions…the student estate often does not grasp its own interests, and those who speak in its name are not always its friends…the “wants” of students to which [they] cater are quite different from the “needs” of students…”

That was 1980. It has gotten worse. To see that read my “A Tale Out of -School” or “The Purloined Proof” on my blog inside-higher-ed ”

This must change. A starting point would be a realistic understanding of higher education.

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