The leaders of many, if not most, colleges and universities might agree with this assessment of the problem, but would likely argue, with some justice, that no single institution can risk being the only one to change; that restoring attention to the fundamentals, rather than the frills, would put that one institution at serious risk.
Indeed, it is true that this is a collective problem, and that action by many schools, supported by a strong national impetus for change, is a necessary condition for success.
In the peer culture, time spent on class work, reading, and reflection must be limited; too much of it becomes a stain on a student’s social value.
It has become possible -- even likely -- to survive academically, be retained in school, get passing grades and graduate with a baccalaureate despite long-term patterns of alcohol and other substance abuse that are known to damage the formation of new memories and reduce both the capacity and the readiness to learn.
None of this makes for higher learning, nor does it adequately prepare students for employment or citizenship.
We need to rethink the ends and means of higher education.We mean the assumption that retention is just keeping students in school longer, without serious regard for the quality of their learning or their cumulative learning outcomes at graduation.We mean giving priority to intercollegiate sports programs while support for the success of the great majority of students who are not athletes suffers.The atmosphere of too many residence halls drives serious students out of their own rooms (functionally, their on-campus homes) to study, write, reflect, and think.Rethinking higher education means reconstituting institutional culture by rigorously identifying, evaluating and challenging the many damaging accommodations that colleges and universities, individually and collectively, have made (and continue to make) to consumer and competitive pressures over the last several decades. ” We mean the allocation of increasing proportions of institutional resources to facilities, personnel, programs and activities that do not directly and significantly contribute to the kind of holistic, developmental and transformative learning that defines higher learning.Expectations for hard work in college have fallen victim to smorgasbord-style curriculums, large lecture classes, and institutional needs to retain students in order to make the budget.Minimal student effort is rewarded with inflated grades.The primary problem is that the current culture of colleges and universities no longer puts learning first -- and in most institutions, that culture perpetuates a fear of doing so.Isolated examples to the contrary exist, but are only the exceptions that prove the rule.We allow passivity to dominate students’ already slight engagement with courses and faculty.Collectively Putting Learning First The common lament that higher education has become a business, or that it has emerged from its recent struggles having too much “corporate” character, is not the primary issue.