When I was reading “The Day the Purpose of College Changed” I was alarmed by the drastic difference noted by the author Dan Berrett. In the past 45-50 years, higher education has become more varied and widespread, but until reading this article I had never considered at what cost that change was caused by. Was it caused by an aging population more eager to participate in the global market spurred by tensions with the USSR? Was it due to a failing and evolving economy that began to lend itself to technology? Why is that these “intellectual luxuries” as called by Reagan became inaccessible to those who wanted them and why did the purpose of learning become something solely viewed as a stepping stone to a monetarily successful career?
This article arguably blames the cost of higher education at the expense of taxpayers as a reason for the shift away from liberal education and the negativity surrounding it, but I wonder if the negativity towards education was what devalued the liberal arts side of it and therefore led to less support for it’s funding and subsequent rise in tuition costs. While there could definitely be a cause and effect relationship present, I think it would be reasonable to argue that it is more difficult than appears to label which variable is which.
“In the early 1970s, nearly three-quarters of freshmen said it was essential to them to develop a meaningful philosophy of life. About a third felt the same about being very well off financially. Now those fractions have flipped.” What caused this shift in priorities, because this element is the key to the business model, highly expensive university we see today. To me, education should cultivate all aspects of self; it should not focus on simply adding knowledge to brain as means to achieving an end, such as a fiscally successful job, but to teach ways to think about the world critically and solve problems. Without the work of Socrates, Descartes, and Thomas Locke, many of the foundations of government would cease to exist and where would that place society? Yes I’d like to be able to make money like everyone, but it is important to me the way that I can relax by listening to music, or read a novel, or even wear clothes that express my personality.
The shift in the cost of the university reflects a shift in attitude regarding what liberal education means, and the way it is viewed and publicized by the likes of Reagan in the 1970’s is very marginalizing and limiting. Advocates like the AAC&U’s understand the worth of education, and I strongly believe that it is not the economy nor the globalization of the world that is responsible for the change in priorities regarding higher education, but rather attitudes of people who have a limited understanding of the scope of liberal education’s influence because society has conditioned into them that college is for job training, regardless of the fact that these skills are “what employers have consistently told the group they’re looking for in new hires”.