Something is amiss in the field of higher education. Post-secondary institutions, once the tranquil seat of knowledge, have now become festering sites of carnage. How else to explain the increase of sexual assaults, alcohol poisonings, drug overdoses, campus murders, and rampant sexism on our university and college campuses? If the goal of higher education is to teach students how to survive in the real world, then the real world is truly f#@ked.
In my day, surviving university meant that we finally graduated, but today it seems more about getting out alive. Crazier still are some of the solutions to the above issues currently being touted by university administrations. On the one hand, we have Liberty University promoting guns in dorms, and on the other hand, we have the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University informing his “self-absorbed and narcissistic” students that a university is not a day care and that they should all grow up. So, I guess the choice is between scolding spoiled students or allowing them to shoot each other.
Not all of the blame can be put on university administration. Many of today’s students are taking the whole “coddled comfort” syndrome a bit too seriously. Take, for example, the recent decision by University of Ottawa’s student union to ban free yoga classes due to “cultural appropriation”. Also, for many students, it is no longer about the journey, but only about the destination. Simply put, it’s all about obtaining the degree with as little effort as possible. Check out BirdCourses.com, a website devoted to helping students select an institution’s easier courses based on their “birdiness” value.
Then, of course, we have the professors. I will leave that discussion for another blog, but the idea that tenure is a sacred cow that guarantees a job for life is no longer viable in today’s fiscal arena. That said, the solution is neither filling seats with students that are not academically prepared nor sacrificing quality for quantity. Some universities are forging ahead with distance based offerings, and although there may be something positive about that approach, there are also grave concerns. Take New Westminster College, for example, this particular bastion of online learning has no students, no building, and operates solely as a fellowship degree-factory that guarantees tuition costs under $1000 per course and workloads less than 40 hours per credit. If this is the future of online education, then I hope it becomes virtually non-existent.
In a perfect world, post-secondary education would build our intellectual future by ensuring classes are filled with students eager to learn. In an imperfect world, post-secondary education is solely a business venture that builds the institution’s economic future by ensuring classes are filled with students willing to pay. Economic realities suggest the solution is somewhere between these two extremes, but I fear we may have already moved too far from Plato and too close to play station.
The Doctor is not sure where the future of post-secondary education is heading, but a good start would be for universities to stop treating students like consumers, and for students to stop treating universities like Walmarts.
Update: The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has recently reinstated their free yoga classes. Add one point to the student side of the NRA equation.