I saw this article on Facebook from a former professor of mine at UW-Fond du Lac. I'm a very strong proponent of the 2 year UW Colleges and all the benefits they provide to students, so seeing MJS articles on my news feed from them naturally piques my interest. Needless to say my heart sank when I read deeper.
A group of professors had already commented below the posting and pulled out a quote from Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) in the article. Mr. Nass' disdain for the UW system has been widely known but him saying that colleges need to create 3 year programs to get people out is what I have an issue with, a big issue. One professor stated the obvious: "Stop cutting our funding and we can create more sections of courses that are bottlenecked." But I think this goes to the core of a debate we really haven't been having in society while we are meddling with our higher education system. That debate: What is the purpose of higher education?
Myself, I think that college is to form a well rounded and educated individual. Those general ed courses that everyone has a certain disdain for are what make universities centers of higher learning and separates them from the technical schools. Colleges and universities are places where individuals are supposed to become more well rounded, typically through the social sciences, and gain a greater understanding and insight to the human condition. It is a place where we study what makes us human, and how paintings and art convey the information they do, how history can shape where we go in the future, how philosophers and sociology are interconnected. You major in an area of "study" at a university, not major in getting this job or that job.
Our technical schools are for those people who have a specific job they are looking to gain skills for that don't necessarily require an intricate knowledge of the world around them. Is that to say they aren't "smart"? No! Absolutely not! In fact, my best friend is someone who went to a technical school and can run circles around people who went to a university with respect to having knowledge on a specific topic. But should we adapt this model to someone who is going to school for teaching? Or business? Or economics? Not so much.
Beyond just the debate about the technical schools and universities in 2012 we are also subject to business being king and trying to exert more force on colleges. Now, I want universities working with business and industry to better develop their coursework and keep current on skills that are needed to perform jobs. But, we have to ask the question, are colleges places to create skilled workers, or places to created learned individuals? They are not mutually exclusive, and it is something we are going to be confronted with in the Neo-Gilded Age. It is also something I fear, that the pro-business money will start waging a stronger campaign on as we move along...