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Values and Meaning of Attending College - Essay Example

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A common interpretation of the purpose behind America’s colleges and universities draws upon the need of education for a vibrant democracy and society. Such a focus on community ignores the importance of pursuing a college education for individuals striving to achieve their own goals…
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Values and Meaning of Attending College
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Download file to see previous pages In contrast to an individualist purpose for attending college, Boyer believes the college has an obligation to teach “a more coherent view of knowledge and a more integrated life” (Steltenpohl & J. Shipton, 1995, p. 18). In addition, he warns that we must be “mindful of the consequences of selfishness” (p. 18). Boyer does not provide a defense of individualism, even though he says it is “necessary” (p. 18). Instead, Boyer relies only on his defense of community in making his case for two essential goals. The problem is that Boyer does not actually believe in individualism when he claims colleges have an obligation (or duty) to enforce this idea of a more “coherent” or “integrated” life. A perspective that believes in individuals to develop their own views on knowledge or life would advocate for an obligation or duty for colleges to present knowledge to students and to allow them to form their own judgments. The purpose, or goal, of college is not to give students a passage, but rather to present facts and objective information. A “passage” sounds inherently biased toward whatever values the college seeks to supply their students with. While this kind of education—such as that provided by Christian private colleges—has a demand, but that demand is specific and does not represent the general purpose of college. Indeed, having students personally powered and committed to the common good is potentially valuable, but not if that commitment undermines their autonomy. The result of Boyer’s perspective is clearly laid out by Perkinson in his essay “The Educated Person: A Changing Ideal,” specifically in his treatment of John Dewey and socialization (Steltenpohl & J. Shipton, 1995, p. 36). Dewey and pragmatist philosophers advocated schools as tools for producing intelligent decision-makers in a participant democracy. In reality, what this meant was that loyal citizens coming out of public schools were not “leaders, but functionaries” (p. 36). Everyone coming out of schools was equipped with common values, beliefs, and attitudes serving the American status quo. Economically, every child was prepared to accept his or her role as a cog in a production system. This is the logical result of the kind of solution that Boyer seeks by telling colleges that they have an obligation to teach their students how to be members of a community. However, Boyer and Dewey have been influential enough to change American education at their core. One can see this influence even in our Brandman catalog, which withholds degrees from students who have not completed the sometimes-irrelevant education requirements. The opposite perspective—that we ought to be honoring the role of the individual in education—is borne out by Whitehead in “Universities and their Function” (Steltenpohl & J. Shipton, 1995, p. 38). Whitehead locates the “proper function of a university” in “the imaginative acquisition of knowledge” (p. 39). Imagination is an individual ability and does not depend on a community. When one looks around a college classroom, one does not see a group of people engaged in the attempt to better their community through the process of learning. While Boyer would think this is a problem, Whitehead is more concerned with whether individuals are involved in an imaginative acquisition of knowledge. The imaginative pursuit of knowledge, one would suspect, might lead to an individual developing his own ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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