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What is the role of colleges and universities?

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What is the role of colleges and universities?

Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Fri Dec 23, 2005 11:54 pm

I am specifically referring to how colleges and universities serve their students, though they doubtlessly have other roles.

I plan on going to college next year. It will probably cost my family quite a bit of money, and it will cost me several years of my life. This is not something to embark on lightly. I have decided that I want to go to college to get training. I want to develop my acting skill, hence my biggest consideration in choosing schools was the quality of the theatre programs. It is also nice that I will get the campus experience, and get to live somewhere different from home (I have excluded schools which are too close), and have access to a lot of education oppurtunities.

But if I did not want training in specific skills, I doubt whether college would be worth it. Economically, I would need the degree to be eligible for many jobs, but I have decided that this alone would not be worth the time and money. It would be a great social experience, but there are other great social experiences which I might miss by going to college. I could study a wide variety of topics and try to discover what I want to do in life, but I could do that outside a college too. I could go to someplace like St. John's with their liberal arts curriculum, but I could read all the books on their list without attending their school, and though I would be depriving of their tutoriing, labs, and other advantages, I may gain other oppurtunities by teaching myself, not to mention the lower costs.

So in conclusion, though there are many advantages to a liberal arts education, the most moving justification for a college education is getting the training in a marketable trade. I think developing the skill of thinking is very important, and some people need to go to college to develop thinking skills, but I think a) I already some good thinking skills (though they can always be improved) b) it can also be gained outside of college c) there is no guarantee that college will provide this. And what better way to learn how to think than by studying a specific trade (such as engineering, or painting, or economics) in depth?

This being a Classics forum, I expect some very strong disagreement.
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Postby Inero » Sat Dec 24, 2005 2:54 am

Dear GGG
You pretty well answer your own question stated in the subject line. The prime purpose of a university education is to provide a broadly based education, rather than a trade qualification, which is better suited to a vocational-type school.

You seem to be a good candidate for taking a first degree by Distance Learning, while working part time in some interesting job. That way you will not run up a massive student debt or be a drain on your family. When you have a clearer idea of what you want to specialize in, you can then take on-campus courses.

I'm sure many will disagree with this advice, for, despite being around for a long time, Distance Ed still has many detractors, mostly among academics with a vested interest in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Though, since Textkit members belong to that growing breed of autodidacts, perhaps DE will find approval here.
My 2.5 cents worth
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Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Sat Dec 24, 2005 5:15 am

Ah, but I know what I want to specialize in - theatre. A college with a good theatre program is the best place to train. Therefore, I want to go to college.

Don't worry about my family's finances. We can afford it without too much trouble. It's just that we saved all that money by being cautious about spending it, so we part with it dearly :wink:

EDIT : I approve of distance learning, though in all honesty I prefer to find the right books/people/websites and grant myself more control over my studies (as I do with Greek) ... but the pesky issue of credit! On the other hand, there are some things which cannot be done by distance learning ... I can just imagine somebody trying to conduct an online voice lesson ...
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Postby Adelheid » Sat Dec 24, 2005 8:58 am

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:Ah, but I know what I want to specialize in - theatre.


Aren't there theatre schools in the USA?
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Postby Inero » Sat Dec 24, 2005 2:13 pm

Adelheid put his finger on it - theatre, being an applied art is best studied at a dedicated school.

If money isn't the issue (which it is for most students), why all the angst? Just go to the school of your choice and have a great time.

<I can just imagine somebody trying to conduct an online voice lesson ...

You may be surprised what they teach by DE these days!
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Postby Adelheid » Sat Dec 24, 2005 2:26 pm

Inero wrote:Adelheid put his finger on it


She hopes so :D

Is Adelheid a boy's name in Canada :lol: ? Bert, also from Canada, got it wrong too...
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Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Sat Dec 24, 2005 7:21 pm

I'm not in angst, if I get into one of the schools of my choice I think I will be well off. I want to open a general discussion of what is the role of college/universities, not just my case. So, what is it?
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Postby Inero » Sun Dec 25, 2005 4:23 am

Sorry, Adelheid, about the his/her!

Adelheid is not a common name in Canada, which is why we got it confused. Perhaps because your avatar has a somewhat masculine air about it...
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Postby vir litterarum » Sun Dec 25, 2005 6:22 am

College is only a necessity for some people and certain fields. For a field such as classics, a college education is not always necessary because a person can purchase all of the materials they need to learn everything within the field and teach themselves. In scientific and mathematic fields, however, college may be necessary. Certain lab equipment and esoteric knowledge may only be found by attending college courses. For many people, The primary reason for attending college is attaining recognition for knowledge they could attain on their own. A person may be perfectly competent in Greek and Latin, but they will not be recognized in the field unless they have a degree to accompany their knowledge.
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Postby Bert » Mon Dec 26, 2005 2:57 am

Adelheid wrote:
Inero wrote:Adelheid put his finger on it


She hopes so :D

Is Adelheid a boy's name in Canada :lol: ? Bert, also from Canada, got it wrong too...

I did think you were male but I had no reason to think one way or the other.
I must say that Adelheid is definitely a noble name.
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Re: What is the role of colleges and universities?

Postby edonnelly » Mon Dec 26, 2005 11:54 pm

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:I think developing the skill of thinking is very important, and some people need to go to college to develop thinking skills


I would say that the "skill of thinking" is perhaps too broad of a term. College is a little late to be learning fundamental reasoning and logical thought processes.

For many, though, college is the first opportunity to experience real scholarship -- that is, the opportunity to explore the cutting edge of a field and participate in the exploration of novel ideas and theories. This type of scholarship is fundamentally the opposite of a vocational school. There, you learn what others have discovered and/or developed. In college you begin to be a part of the process that develops things that nobody before has ever done. Granted, the undergraduate level can only give you a taste, but it will be a taste of a something that would be very difficult to achieve elsewhere.

College should not be four more years of high school. If you just want to learn things that are available in books and on the internet, don't waste your time or money.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
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Postby annis » Tue Dec 27, 2005 1:24 am

vir litterarum wrote:College is only a necessity for some people and certain fields. For a field such as classics, a college education is not always necessary because a person can purchase all of the materials they need to learn everything within the field and teach themselves.


Er.

I think you can get quite far on your own in the field, but I do think there's great value in college study, too, so much that I'm trying to convince the UW to let me attend a Homer class as a special student (i.e., not for a degree).

There's a large body of what I suppose we could call institutional knowledge hanging out in the halls of Academe — little tidbits of useful knowledge that don't ever seem to get written down in textbooks or papers. Also, any teacher paying attention is going to know where certain kinds of trouble are likely, and can warn you. Finally, as much as I love my commentaries, you cannot ask any of them pointed questions.
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Re: What is the role of colleges and universities?

Postby Paul » Tue Dec 27, 2005 1:26 am

Hi Ed,

edonnelly wrote:For many, though, college is the first opportunity to experience real scholarship -- that is, the opportunity to explore the cutting edge of a field and participate in the exploration of novel ideas and theories. This type of scholarship is fundamentally the opposite of a vocational school. There, you learn what others have discovered and/or developed. In college you begin to be a part of the process that develops things that nobody before has ever done. Granted, the undergraduate level can only give you a taste, but it will be a taste of a something that would be very difficult to achieve elsewhere.


My experience at St. John's College is the opposite. We did not "explore the cutting edge of a field"; nor did we participate in a "process that develops things that nobody has ever done before". Rather, we read and discussed the western canon from Homer to Einstein, learned ancient Greek, and demonstrated at the blackboard theorems from Euclid and Schrodinger.

If I had to do it all over again (and Nietzsche says I might), I would choose SJC again. Its curriculum and way of teaching impart a breadth of context by which one can interpret what purports to be "new" or "current". By following the great conversation of western thought one develops a faculty for critical thinking. It is just this faculty that is missing in so much of today's "politically correct thinking".

edonnelly wrote:College should not be four more years of high school. If you just want to learn things that are available in books and on the internet, don't waste your time or money.

During my admissions interview the director asked after my chief concern about college. I replied, "I don't want attend a college that's just a big high school". He smiled broadly; I said to myself "I'm in!".

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Carola » Tue Jan 17, 2006 3:41 am

This was such a good thread I decided to continue on.

Whilst I agree that a college course, especially when you are young, should be "career based", it would be a poor choice if that is all that was taught. One of the main advantages is learning how to think: how to assemble information, how to analyse that information, how to apply the information. Of course, if you are going to be a lawyer or engineer (or an actor) you need to study areas specific to those professions, but the broad based type of study Paul writes about (and what a wonderful college he attended!) is probably going to be the most important part of your education. The specific areas are going to change from year to year in most professions (i.e. laws change, technology changes) but by honing your "thinking" skills you will be able to cope with this lifetime learning process. Unfortunately I have worked with a few so-called "professional" people whose education seemed to start and end about 20 years ago. They quickly become dated because their professions don't stand still, but they do.
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Postby Inero » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:23 pm

I agree with you, Carola, in what you say about courses being <career based> when one is young. One doesn't go far in this world without those sacred diplomas and other pieces of paper.
College education, however, should be more than this. It should prompt one to become a lifelong learner. Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to attend a brick&mortar campus - as opposed to distance learning - and come in contact with professors who will stimulate a love of learning for its own sake. This is a tall order in many schools, where the facultry is either cynical or simply there to rubber stamp one's progress report.
Once the degree has been secured to enter a profession, it's often better to learn as an autodidact. The availablity of information on the internet and the help that's available on sites such as Textkit now makes continued study in an institution somewhat redundant. Of course there are those who claim they cannot learn unless seated in a classroom following a set curriculum, and others who need the validation that formal coursework provides.
I'm glad you revived this thread, Carola.
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Postby Carola » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:50 pm

Inero wrote: Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to attend a brick&mortar campus - as opposed to distance learning - and come in contact with professors who will stimulate a love of learning for its own sake. This is a tall order in many schools, where the facultry is either cynical or simply there to rubber stamp one's progress report.


I have actually just finished a few years of distance learning (Latin) and whilst I learnt a lot, I am now transferring to a university in Adelaide. Unfortunately you are always restricted by the standard of the lecturers but I am not sure whether it makes much difference whether they are there in person or on-line. What does make a difference is the amount of time they have available. An overworked academic really cannot help students because their time is usually stretched to breaking point. It doesn't matter how good they are if you have to share them with several hundred other students. Unfortunately university "cost cutting" has seen academic workloads increased as it is hard to rationalise intangibles like "research" and "student mentoring". Some university managements just can't understand that producing "education" isn't the same as producing TV sets or cars - you can't just put the students on an assembly line and bolt on "learning'.
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Postby Inero » Tue Jan 24, 2006 2:43 pm

Some university managements just can't understand


Well, said, Carola!

I have suffered all my years in teaching at various levels from the machinations and idiocies of educational administrators. Of course the administrators say the same about faculty, that they are out of touch with the real world and they've never looked up the word <budget> in the dictionary.

Into this crazy world, enter the student! I guess it was much the same in Socrates' day.
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Postby Emma_85 » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:17 pm

I think the role of College and Universities is many fold really. One, they are of course supposed to educate and prepare the students for their later life, but they are mainly there to pass on and expand human knowledge. A lot of the research that is most useful to us in our everyday lives and for the world as a whole was carried out in university laboratories, a lot of the ideas and philosophies we live with every day are the result of the education many men and women went through in the humanities subjects at university. Good universities are fundamental for the future of a state and the world in general. They offer the brightest students a chance to help everyone and themselves.

At university students learn to carry out original research and to understand an area of science of the humanities better and in a lot more detail. They learn how to work, what methods of working are acceptable and which aren't and how to work independantly and be responsible for your own work.
That's what I'd say is the main difference to say a highschool for the students (though i don't know exactly what it's like at highschool in the US of course). There you were pushed a bit more to do the work as you were sitting in small classes, at uni you are in a lecture theatre with 200 other students and it's up to you to attend or not to attend, to hand in the work on time or do your homework. No one forces you to do it, if you don't you just a bad grade, but they won't go running after you. If you hand you work in even 5 minutes late you receive 0% - again, not like high school.
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Re: What is the role of colleges and universities?

Postby Emma_85 » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:23 pm

Paul wrote:Hi Ed,

edonnelly wrote:For many, though, college is the first opportunity to experience real scholarship -- that is, the opportunity to explore the cutting edge of a field and participate in the exploration of novel ideas and theories. This type of scholarship is fundamentally the opposite of a vocational school. There, you learn what others have discovered and/or developed. In college you begin to be a part of the process that develops things that nobody before has ever done. Granted, the undergraduate level can only give you a taste, but it will be a taste of a something that would be very difficult to achieve elsewhere.


My experience at St. John's College is the opposite. We did not "explore the cutting edge of a field"; nor did we participate in a "process that develops things that nobody has ever done before". Rather, we read and discussed the western canon from Homer to Einstein, learned ancient Greek, and demonstrated at the blackboard theorems from Euclid and Schrodinger.

If I had to do it all over again (and Nietzsche says I might), I would choose SJC again. Its curriculum and way of teaching impart a breadth of context by which one can interpret what purports to be "new" or "current". By following the great conversation of western thought one develops a faculty for critical thinking. It is just this faculty that is missing in so much of today's "politically correct thinking".


I think it varies from subject to subject. Obviously it is hard to 'dive into the deep end' when it comes to philosophy and ancient Greek. They can't set undergraduates the task to go and work out if this word in that edition of Homer may have been added by some monk at some point in time ...
You should have choosen physics :lol: - we get to play with high temperature superconductors and lasers in the labs :wink: .
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