College Should Change Your Mind - About Something
You leave home with the values instilled in you from childhood. Some of those values have been a part of your family, your heritage, since time immemorial. Suddenly you are on your own, living in a dorm at a college where no one checks on you, or sets your curfew, or puts gas in your car. You are free to be whatever you choose to be. The question is: what will you choose?
From Mona Lisa Smile
A college education is basically about teaching you how to learn something specific, in a short period of time, to a proficiency level sufficient to pass an examination or write an essay of the basic concepts particular to the subject you've studied. After you've successfully done this a couple dozen times, the university will grant you a degree in the discipline you chose to concentrate in as a major area of study.
They don't just let you study the law, or art, or medicine, or history. They require you take classes in a wide variety of subjects. Why do you think that is? Is it because they want to make more money off tuition, books, and fees? Well, yes they do. Is it because they have more staff in each subject than they can possibly afford if they don't fill those professor's classes with enough paying students to support the university's budget? Well, yes it is. But it is also because the philosophy of a higher education is to teach students to explore subjects outside their field of interest, to consider points of view contrary to their own, and to discover opinions and convictions they possibly didn't hold before. In short, the point of an education is to allow you to think differently.
From Good Will Hunting
Too many of today's students come to college with a determination to be unaffected by anything they read or hear while there. They already know it all. They are vested in the beliefs, traditions, bias, and downright prejudice of their upbringing. Not only have they already been taught everything they need to know as an adult, but they have been warned against the altering of a single one of these views. Their self-worth depends on an unwavering walk along the deeply rutted path of thought held by all those who are just like them. Those unlike them are worse than the enemy. They think differently. And so they are inherently wrong, right down to the ground.
Why they go to the trouble and expense of a higher education, is anybody's guess. But too often they are simply following the example set for them in their homes, churches, communities, and previous schools. There are far too many geographical regions in this country where people are so certain of their view of the world, there is no room left in their minds for a singular new point of view. They've seen all they want to see, and they've already made up their mind about all of it. What they expect to achieve by sending their children to institutions of higher learning can only be deduced to be missionary work among the heathen.
A higher education is exactly that. Its purpose is not to devalue one's beliefs, but to enrich them. It is not to securely lock the vault of the mind, but to fling the doors of the mind wide open to the light of day, the mysteries of the night, and the entire universe of the yet to be explored.
A recent Wall Street Journal article delved into this subject, "At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years." The test measures the student's ability "to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table." This article begs the question: is the college at fault or the student?
When my daughter graduated high school, one of the speakers at the commencement ceremony was a young woman about to enter one of the most demanding engineering schools in the world. In her speech she said she felt like an ant standing on one side, looking across the expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge. She was beginning a long journey, not knowing where the journey might take her, what challenges she would confront along the way, or even if she would complete the journey or fall along the wayside somewhere. Oh for young people today, true students of higher education, who were excited about the adventures of life and the process of learning new things. As a nation, we face too many daunting challenges to be saddled with a rising generation who think there is nothing more about which to make up their minds. Here's hoping there are some among them who dare to change their minds about something - anything.