Remembering the Origin Focus of a College Education
In today’s world of career driven students (and parents), technology and research driven economy and an increasing desire to retain and graduate students it is incredibly hard to keep in mind the original focus of higher education: the philosophical, moral and religious development of students. It is even harder to think that the original intentions can still be driving forces in our work. While I am not in the business nor want to be in the business of educating students based on religious principles, I am also hesitant to let the sun set on what I see as the overarching reasons for these principles. This concern has been particularly apparent as the ever-increasing cost of education creates an ever-increasing desire for students to simply get their degree and go to work.
I will admit up front that my feelings are inherently connected to my work in conduct and my fear of higher education turning into a business. Educating students to be better more effective and engaged citizens rings true to my deepest professional desires. I want students to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to go out and change the world (for the better) in whichever way they choose and while this may include being competent in a particular trade or obtaining a specific certification, I also think it involves gaining a more thorough understanding of the things that are important to them, the things that they value and the things they are willing to fight and sacrifice for.
Sure it’s hard to have conversations around values and it’s getting even harder as we worry about whether or not we are being sensitive to the widening diversity on our campuses. Sure it’s not as easy to teach, design lessons around or address in traditional student affairs programming. It may even be considered pointless by faculty in the more technical trades. But think of the benefits that come from a society full of people who know what their deepest values are and know how to extend those values to all areas of their life including work, home, community, etc. The politician who not only knows about but embodies collective responsibility, the social worker who lives compassionately, the researcher who shows integrity in her work and her personal life, these are the students I want to create; these are the people I want in my community and this is why I cannot turn my back on the origins of higher education.