BY DAVID NICHOLAS
Central Michigan University’s Teaching and Learning Collective, a faculty grassroots initiative, this week welcomes another guest author and speaker to focus on issues and challenges facing higher education.
David Nicholas spoke last week with Andrew Delbanco, Director of American Studies at Columbia University, about his book, “College: What it Was, Is and Should Be…”
“The financial pressure that people feel is narrowing or constricting our sense of what the college experience should be all about,” Delbanco said.
Professor Delbanco believes that some of what colleges have traditionally offered is being lost.
“One of the things that our colleges have done, uh, I think quite well over the centuries is to prepare people to be citizens. That is, thoughtful people who, uh, can tell the difference between an opinion and an argument, an opinion being something that’s based on prejudice or tradition or hearsay or personal taste and an argument on, on, on evidence, you know, this is why I believe X or Y or Z about a difficult problem,” Delbanco said.
Delbanco said that the growth into becoming citizens is the experience of coming in contact with and living with people of different points of view or different cultures.
“And that too I, I I fear is a function of the college that’s under a lot of stress these days. We hear some people saying that one way to constrain costs is to go from four years down to three years which is on some level a perfectly reasonable proposition…um…students are under more and more pressure as soon as they get to college to pick a major or a specialty, um, um and I, I feel that we need to be aware of might be lost if we go in that direction,” Delbanco said.
In Delbanco’s view, what college could be is being sacrificed to a focus on an outcome rather than producing the higher level thinking citizens that were graduated in year’s past.
“And we don’t want to see college become exclusively, uh, job training program so that our future citizens don’t have the opportunity to engage and wrestle with these, with these difficult questions.”
Professor Delbanco takes part in a Speak Up, Speak Out forum Wednesday evening from 7-9pm and gives an address Thursday evening at 7pm titled, “What is College For?,” Both events are free and open to the public.