Friday, January 21, 2005

Education As Sideline

In response to the argument that top universities properly emphasize research over teaching, Matthew Yglesias pens a good response:
Most organizations don't exist in order to teach students. The American Prospect produces political commentary. The Urban Institute publishes analyses of social welfare programs. Harvard produces research into a variety of subjects. So far, so good. But of course only one of those three institutions invites 6,000 to study amidst its hallowed halls.

If you don't think your institution should take the education of 18-22 year-olds seriously as a mission, the obvious thing to do is to have your institution join the ranks of the many, many, many not-for-profit organizations that don't educate 18-22 year-olds. Perhaps more fundamental than the question about the mission of any one institution is the question of social design. If colleges don't really exist to teach undergraduates, and if they don't do a very good job of teaching undergraduates, then how much sense does it make for we, as a society, to have turned four-year colleges into the gatekeepers of the American managerial-professional elite. Maybe everyone should just go get a job when they leave high school.
Stuart Buck



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