Phi Beta Cons

Long, but Hard-hitting Essay by a Canadian Prof

I don’t think I had ever heard of the University of Prince Edward Island before today, when I came across an essay on L.A. Review of Books by Ron Srigley, who teaches at the institution. It is entitled “Dear Parents: Everything You Need to Know About Your Son and Daughter’s University But Don’t.”

Professor Srigley is fed up with the dumbing down of higher education and the way it has been hijacked to serve purposes other than education. He writes that most of the people now working in higher education “have chosen to serve other interests (money, power, expediency, reputation, career advancement, convenience, compliance with the zeitgeist) in preference to the ones that were once our raison d’etre — intelligence and learning for both our students and ourselves.

The transformation of higher ed has altered the incentives facing the faculty: “you will stop doing what it is you do (serious study of texts and historical events, honest lectures with real content) and start doing what you are expected to do (keep an increasingly disengaged and intellectually limited group of young people entertained or otherwise distracted for three hours a week.)”  Correct, and if you’re not pretty good at that, out you go.

Here’s the money quote from the essay: “How can you cease to do, or at least do badly, what you claim is the raison d’etre  of your institution — cultivating intelligence and learning — while still persuading people to pay you large sums of money for your services? Without putting too fine a point on it, you lie, obfuscate, and ‘redefine’ your mandate so as to hide the truth….”

Read the whole thing.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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