Showing posts with label Written on the Heart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Written on the Heart. Show all posts

Friday, September 7, 2012

Baloney about Higher Education from President of Wesleyan University

In Written on the Heart,  Philosopher J. Budziszewski's primer on natural law, Budziszewski argues that certain truths are innately known to all people. These truths form the natural law, and are, as it were, written on the heart. 

Midway through the book, Budziszewski describes this innate knowledge as our "baloney meter."  He maintains that all people know at some level that certain concepts are contrary to the natural law and are baloney.

Budziszewski believes (and I agree) that American higher education has adopted the mission of dismantling the baloney meters of the young people who study at our nation's colleges and universities. By the time they finish their studies, students have come to believe that there are no ultimate truths, no natural law, no fundamental principles for living. Instead they think that all truths are relative and changeable, that people make decisions based on their own self interest, and that the meaning of life is shaped by the quest for pleasure, power, and recognition. 

Yesterday's New York Times contains an example of higher education's baloney.  Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, responded to critics who charge that American higher education is outmoded.

Michael S. Roth, President of Wesleyan University
Basically, Mr. Roth is defending the status quo in Amerian higher education at places like Wesleyan. The purpose of higher education, Roth loftily maintains, is to "teach us habits of learning." Education should encourage students to developing an "openness to being shaped by experience."  Quoting Dewey, Roth writes, "The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling."

In short, Roth argued, the purpose of higher education "is to give all citizens the opportunity to find 'large and human significance' in their lives and work.'"  And--Roth might have added--the cost of finding human significance at a university like Wesleyan is only about $40,000 a year.

Of course, Roth's defense of higher education is just baloney. In spite of the universities' efforts to dismantle their students' baloney meters, students are beginning to figure out that higher education is not worth what the universities are charging for it, particularly at institutions like Wesleyan, where many professors specialize in political correctness, deceptively packaged as "the liberal arts".

All university presidents can express high-minded ideals about the value of higher education, and some of them can quote John Dewey.  But we should not take these attestations seriously until we see college presidents rein in their own salaries, lower tuition costs, and figure out ways to make sure a college degree leads to a well-paying job.  By the way, Wesleyan University is one of the ten most expensive colleges in the United States.

References

Budziszewski, J. Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law. Intervarsity Press, 1997.

Dawson, Christopher. The Crisis of Western Education. Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1989.

Roth, Michael. "Learning as Freedom." New York Times, September 6, 2012, p. A23.