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Category: Education, Government, History, Leadership, Liberty, Virtue Comments: 2

A Model of Leadership Education, Part 3: So What Should it Be?

This is part 3 of an 8-part article.
Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here
These ideas represent the highest level of the current debate, and while there are some good ideas here, nothing comes close to lasting solutions that will really make the difference.  So much for the current generation of deep thinking about modern education and the role of higher education in the Twenty-first Century.
If we go back one generation, to the point in time when the thinkers were actually educated in the classics before taking up their careers, we learn much more that is valuable to the quest for an ideal college system.
Mortimer Adler, the editor of the Great Books, suggests that fixing modern American education is attained by not teaching anything of practical, applicational value.  That is, education can be improvedby ignoring job training and doing what schools were meant to do in the first place: educate through the classics.
Ironically, the result of schools actually providing superb education is that graduates are more equipped to think, innovate and lead in the corporate and career world.
By emphasizing job training in the schools, we have chosen to graduate non-educated workers who must be trained on the job anyway and only rise to leadership through personal gifts and “networking” with”influential superiors.”
The training of leaders, the fundamental role of college, is ignored.

Jacques Barzun, leader of the great books program at Columbia a
generation ago, suggested 68 changes that are needed in the university system.  Here we have included twelve :

  • The faculty, which is the university, must convey at every turn what education is; therefore must reduce and disdain the opportunities for professional cant.
  • Be . . . choosy about new projects.
  • Focus on teaching over research.
  • The university must maintain its role as the “guardian of learning,” not sell off to the highest bidder.
  • Teach the 3Rs better and more often.
  • Put learning ahead of credentials, or better still, end credentials.
  • Get out of the housing business.
  • Recover academic independence from the government, corporations, and other funders.
  • Stop taking grant money for non-education purposes. “Education is a full-time task. University endowment or state subsidy is for education; it is a misuse of funds and talent to embark on other than educational efforts.”
  • Make it clear to society that education is public service.
  • Create “cluster colleges”: colleges which do their own thing, but work in proximity with others.
  • Focus on the university’s role as the keeper of learning, and drop everything else.
  • Stop doing everything else, and start educating!

Allan Bloom, bestselling author of The Closing of the American Mind, suggested as late as 1987 that the only hope was to re-emphasize the classics in all parts of the undergraduate curriculum.  This excellent suggestion, the true hope of the university, was widely discussed and hardly implemented.

Robert Hutchins, former President of the University of Chicago, wrote in 1936     in The Higher Learning in America that each university has four goals:
1) Liberal Education-to train citizens and leaders for the nation.
2) Academic Education-to train researchers and professors for the university.
3) Professional Training-to train students in specific work skills for the market.
4) Political Education-to train government and quasi-government workers   for the state.
According to Hutchins, every college impacts all four, but every college also chooses one master-to the detriment of the other three.  The history of America higher education, Hutchins says, is numbers 1), 2)  and 3), and we are rapidly moving toward 4).  He labels the history of American education as Education for Liberty from 1780-1860, Education for Learning from 1860-1940, Education for the Market from 1940-2010(?), and Education for Government Bureaucracy as the legacy of the Twenty-firstCentury.
His solution to this trend was that in every generation, regardless of the outside trends, a few schools must choose 1): Education for Liberty.  If this happens, we will retain our freedoms.  If not, we will lose them. He was right.
And finally, Josiah Bunting of the Virginia Military Institute wrote in An Education for Our Time that old schools will not make the necessary changes to train citizens and statesmen for liberty and so the founding of new colleges is necessary.  This excellent book outlines how an ideal college, focused on  the classics and training leaders, can significantly impact the future of a nation and the world.  He was also right.
To Be Continued….

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