Why College? (2 Theories)

This article from the New Yorker is an extended book review that gives the author an opportunity to explore some ideas that involve wider implications for higher education.

I’ll mention one: his two-pronged idea of what college is for. He writes that most people think of college as one of the following:

1) a place to certify students for the job market, essentially sorting them out for potential employers. If you can jump through the hoop, then employers will assume you can jump through their hoops, too, and accept you as worthy.

2) a place of higher learning where members of society are enlightened, refined, introduced to higher forms of knowledge, and made to be more engaged citizens who will in turn improve society.

Theory 1 depends on tough standards, reliable testing, and on the college degree having economic value (all of which, according to the article, are on the decline).

Theory 2 depends on a free exchange of ideas, students motivated to grow and improve, and professors committed to teaching and engaging with students (all of which, according to the article, doesn’t exist).

The article is a bit of downer in places, but it’s also a call for action and suggests that major changes are needed.

So, why did you go to college?