Educated Obsolescence

A friend recently posted the following link on her Facebook page:

http://tinyurl.com/dh2ktq

It’s an OpEd piece in the NY Times regarding the end of the university. The writer suggests that university graduate programs must change just like Detroit and Wall Street must change in order to stay relevant in a dynamic world. That means getting rid of programs that are highly specialized and/or look for ways to integrate across disciplines. Not changing means to prepare students for jobs that are no longer available. It’s akin to the US government offering bailouts to buggy whip manufacturers.

Having gone through a graduate program in a state institution and having been in a graduate program in a private institution myself, I agree with the author of the Times piece. Too often, required university courses are nothing more than a means of preserving a program that has no value in the real world. For example, my master’s program in counseling required a full semester of statistics. While some of the information was useful when reading journal articles, the course did nothing to help me be a better counselor. What I needed to know about statistics was also covered in introduction to counseling, counseling theories, etc. At the same time, I received no training regarding the management of a case load in a community mental health setting that is underfunded and understaffed, and whose clients are chronically mentally ill.

Lexington Theological Seminary, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affiliated instution, recently announced that it planned to look at all programs and revamp its offerings. The change is a result of the recent economic fall of endowment income balanced against the cost of operations. The seminary’s survival depends on change: offer classes that are practical for future local church pastors. The theological differences between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have little significance for the average person sitting in a pew, so why force the student pastor to spend voluminous hours contemplating them?

Furthermore, the seminary will take into account its method of delivery by offering more classes on-line. Certainly student interaction with one another as well as a professor is important, but that, too, is available on-line.

We can all think of other institutions, businesses, and organizations that are fighting hard to maintain the status quo. I believe the only ones that will still be around and thriving ten years from now are the ones that take a rigorous look at what they have to offer. Trying to preserve something that no longer belongs in a post-modern world is like spitting into the wind and a waste of resources.

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