I was at the last meeting of one of my committees this morning, when someone from the Humanities mentioned that traditional higher education has worked pretty well for the last hundred years or so.
I replied that we are colossally bad at higher education.
The rest of the committee was a little taken aback by my comment, so I briefly tried to justify it, though I admit I did not do a good job. I still believe that, for the most part, students learn despite higher education and not because of it. We know that humans have a limit to their attention and capacity to learn, and yet we insist on putting students through an industrial education model. We are glad that our students get jobs and make money, but we talk very little about quality of life and preparation for lifetime learning. This is knowledge work, not factory work.
Given the amazing and accelerating interconnected complexity of the world’s problems (many “wicked problems”), I am more and more convinced that teaching students a smidgen of any one topic is really not worth the effort — whether that’s literature, computing, architecture, etc. If students cannot grok the interconnectedness of problems, they will continue to be tools of those who do.