We put a lot of pressure on education. We hear these contradictory statements in headlines everyday:
Education makes us complacent
Education will liberate us
Education makes us employable
Education kills our individuality
The stakes are understandably high. There is no doubt that education is a matter that concerns nearly everyone. I once heard a saying from a nutritionist that “everyone’s an expert on food, since we’ve been eating since day 1.” In wealthy nations that could certainly be said about education since we have all taken part through compulsory schooling and many of us continue to pursue formal education throughout our lives.
Higher Education is in an interesting position. According to Martin Trow, we are moving towards an era of universal high education in certain countries. That means that if a person chooses to do so, he or she may categorically pursue some form of higher education since this includes universities with open admission or certain community college programs.
Compounding on this trend is the fact that vocational education in high school is in decline, and we now expect higher education to prepare students for the workforce. And who’s job is that? Does it fall on community colleges? Does it fall on universities? Does it fall on the workforce to work together with high education?
When I first started studying higher education as a field, I was hopelessly optimistic. Whenever I would read about innovations in Germany or Finland I would proclaim “We have to try this here!” like so many general interest articles do in the paper these days.
I now understand that our culture, history and politics shape our education in ways that are difficult to oppose in the short-term. There is also the issue of public perception which can be both an ally and challenger to higher education.
I hope to continue to explore the issues pertaining to the function and purpose of colleges and universities as I genuinely believe that higher education has the ability to transform lives and communities. However I recognize that this field is not without controversy, and opinions, in general, will always ruffle someone’s feathers.