Friday, March 2, 2012

Questioning is a good thing

Last week, the charge was made that education in the hands of pointy-headed liberal college professors is not education but indoctrination.

America has always had an angry and anti-intellectual strain. “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student” bumper stickers and speakers who spit out “college boy” as an epithet have become somehow emblematic of genuine American beliefs.

Some think education can only be measured by how much more college graduates earn over a lifetime than do high school graduates. “Do you want fries with that?” has become iconic for a degree in history or English literature or political science.

The irony of these sentiments is that one of America’s other deep culturally held beliefs is that a broad education is essential for maintaining a democracy.

Consider the possibility that the people going to top-flight universities are there because they have worked very hard and, yes, may be very bright. It is possible that some students may have done well because they went to a less prestigious school but made use of every opportunity that came their way. These are exactly the people we need to be our future leaders.

In the process of education, even the most precious beliefs probably will be challenged. That is why there are Philosophy 101 and Intro to Sociology courses. Questions will be asked that cause discomfort. That is a good thing.

Thinking and thinking in new ways is exactly what separates education from indoctrination, separates a university from a madrassa, and America from much of the rest of the world.

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