Saturday, March 27, 2010

#loveHE


I think that I would be happy to go to school forever (if someone took care of the bills), so perhaps I'm a little biased. But it makes me SO ANGRY (so angry it's hard to speak about it) to hear a number of the discussions going around at the moment on the supposed 'uselessness' of higher education. Because it makes me angry and I've spent too long thinking about it, this may not be a very logically argued post. Just sayin'.

I entirely agree with those who point out that higher education, both in the US and the UK, needs a lot of work. If Universities aren't paying for themselves, then the government either needs to make funding a priority (duh...I argue that degrees trump the Olympics, Mr. AHRC), or find ways to make them more efficient. Efficiency is a Good Thing anyway, but the way to achieve it is not closing Classics departments or leaving professors to founder. Nor is it churning out thousands of PhDs who will never find jobs in academia, although I very strongly disagree with those like Thomas Benton, who argues in the Chronicle for Higher Education that graduate degrees in the Humanities are virtually worthless (Master's degree in English because you thought it would get you a job and now all you have is debt? Bad Idea. Master's degree because you loved every minute of it and all you ever want to do is talk about English even if it means you have to work in a shop? Debt, schmet.). There are problems in the system, in the divide between professional studies and liberal arts studies, in the funding issues - so fix the problem - don't discount the system, please.

Education ROCKS. And I struggle to see why a rising number of degrees raises so much anger here in the UK. Is it a class thing? I think it's partially an educational structure thing - here in the UK, you don't get a liberal arts education; you study One Thing. In my opinion, that's stupid, unless that one thing can still teach you how to think. And how to write. And research. And speak. And read. And all sorts of things that may not be part of a plumbing course, but can still help you make an incredible plumber. Or baker. Or scientist. Or teacher. Those who argue against degrees forget that major employers more often than not leap at the chance to hire someone with more education. And it's not because they've studied Media, or whatever - it's because they have a more mature mind, not in the 'no longer things about fart jokes' sense, but in the 'able to think abstractly and work with others' sense (well. they should anyway).

The Times Higher Education Supplement has begun a campaign, based in Twitter, called #loveHE. Part of the problem, it claims, is that Universities have an 'image problem'. The campaign ' is an all-embracing and unashamed way to champion higher education in all its multifaceted glory, from inside and outside the sector. ' Woohoo!!!! Plus Patrick Stewart is one of their supporters. Double woohoo!

But seriously. We need more of this. Let's stop saying why education is useless (please) and begin talking about why our society rests on a foundation of learning. Stop railing on education, because it's one of the most important things civilization really has going for it.

10 comments:

Alan Gallagher said...

Usually I agree with you...about books and education and love of books and all man has made to brighten and share life...except sometimes I am affected by Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberly and its "two gross of broken statutes and a few thousand battered books." Yet the books, the poems, the lines, are still worth it. alg

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