Donate Today! Help us help others.

Lynch Coaching


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A decline in who we are?

The news media has picked up on what has been on on-going discussion in the Chronicle for Higher Education and among educators: the decline in education.

Of concern at the college level is the decline of standards in critical thinking and research, the shift from scholar to customer, and from the search for truth to how to make more money and increase your personal lot in life.

Critical thinking means many things, but for this purpose the ability to reason through and understand all sides of an issue or problem and be open to altering your own view or acknowledging the strengths as well a weaknesses of opposing viewpoints.

In other other words: think.

Teaching at the high school, trade school, community college and university level, teachers and faculty observe that students want to go the easy way: to teach to the test, to have their views be heard without any reference or serious consideration of the views of others, to not have to delve into such valuable resources as history, philosophy, psychology, religious studies or anything that may require and understanding of society differing from the one they grew up in and accept as the one true way.

Too many students want it their way...their view and vision of the world to be the one and only acceptable way of doing or seeing things. [This may explain the election of a government that no longer compromises and governs but sticks to black and white constants over a functioning society]. 

Research is an 8 letter 4 letter word, beyond quick Internet searches, Google, Wikipedia and whatever is fastest and easiest to find.

Some schools no longer allow faculty to encourage, much less require, scholarly juried sources of academic material. It has become OK to use pulp magazines and Internet sites that present the misinformation or sales bias material provided by public relations and advertising sources as "fact" (without any indication of the source being anything less than balance and academic). [I have worked in the media and know how these "sources" the students feel should be accepted are generated.] These schools call themselves colleges and/or universities. Even public universities have eroded the standards of research and ability to reason through all point of view and question the authenticity of not only opinion but of facts.

Those same students then complain about getting a B instead of an A, credits not transferring and faculty members who dare to present views or opinions that do not fit with their own.

Education as a customer service institution has grown as state budgets get tight, increasing consumer centered generations take over decision making positions and the model of public-private partnerships and government backed student loans fuel the engines of education.

But can a student be a customer? Are teachers there to help students grow into citizens, decision makers, leaders and excel or to simple train them for the jobs they perceive as allowing them to pay off their student loans and have a better life for themselves and their family. The American Dream as money and not as a concept of democracy, public service and social interdependency may already be so entrenched that the solid liberal arts education of the past, the self thinkers who built this country, may have gone the way of the dinosaurs for most of America.

Can a student be an informed customer if they are not aware of the inaccuracies of thought, of how others think, of a changing work beyond YouTube and Facebook?

While seeking to better yourself, and by extension your families wealth and well being are a key part of American capitalism and most say American democracy, should it be the foundation of how decisions are made, the motivation for our educational standards and actions, the root source of who we are?

That's another debate, one that requires critical thinking skills, research, being open to a wide range of views and the overall needs of society as well as self.

Are we capable of such a discussion? Are we teaching our future generation of leaders to be able to make solid decisions on these and other key issues?

Or are we teaching them to get what they pay for, demand what they want and believe what they already believe?

And what of the educators and administrators?

Are we hiring teachers who read, question, put the pursuit of knowledge first or who are seeking steady jobs working with age groups they like being around? Are we hiring administrators who hire and fire, move chess pieces around and who are more interested in balancing budgets than rewarding employees who push their students to think, funding programs that help students to push the envelope and opening the door to debate and critical thought? Are they setting prohibition and policies or allowing for faculty to stretch and challenge students? And are they bean counters or innovators?

A discussion for another time.

-Dr. Art Lynch


N186P said...

This post made me think about a lot of different things Dr. Lynch. I am graduated high school in May of 2012 so I am still fresh on how high school education goes. The curriculum is designed to get students to memorize material in order to pass a test. The curriculum is not designed to help students learn life long material or to help the students with life long lessons, it is simple forced down their throats untill the test next Friday, and right after the test, that material is never brought up again and the curriculum jumps to something completely different.


Anonymous said...

USA has always been an intensely commercial society, and formed by those on top of it, to protect those on top of it, the rich. this does not encourage anyone to dream of abstract 'truth,' much less 'beauty.'

there is always a temptation to imagine a golden age, one or two generations in the past, whenever current events suggest things are not what they were. but in fact, there is plenty of evidence to support the more likely idea that a nation born to protect slavery and support ethnic cleansing has always been crass and brutal.

al loomis
MARCH 12, 2013 12:18 AM

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis, Art. Too often teachers are required to teach to pass tests. Schools, students, and parents demand this. Government also. Our culture is permeated with instant gratification that reinforces this. Critical thinking and broad education appear to be dying. It is a sad state of affairs and it will signal the decline of this country.

Howard Schneider

Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis as well. In high school I only had a few teachers who actually encouraged learning versus merely teaching to pass an exam. I can admit that I was one of those students mentioned earlier in the article what wanted to take the easy road. As an adult I see the value of an education and that most things acquired easily bear meaningless fruit. I wish I would have had better teachers and a self-motivated student in my youth because I am certain my life would have taken a different direction.

Anonymous said...

i think the top one percent, or whatever you want to call them, want us to dumb down and be stupid. Focus only on your field and your income and you become a pliable serf to be manipulated and take advantage of and to increase the profits of the very wealthy or the very powerful. Too bad, but we appear to be headed to be headed into a new Dark Age of "enlightened" ever present communication. Ever see the movie "Brazil?" or the origional "Rollerball?'

K186T said...

Education should change when technology change. However still keep some things in the curriculum that is still used today in daily life.

Anonymous said...

Attend class, memorize this chapter, take this test and a month later the information is gone. I think teachers now are starting to care more about their students and not just a paycheck. Critical thinking skills are needed everyday on an ongoing basis and should be taught in high school. Not everyone will attend a school of higher learning and even then your not promised a anything.