(Blum) I Love Learning, I Hate School An Anthropology of College

Do you think higher education is valuable? Why or why not?  If possible, what changes would you incorporate into higher education to enhance learning?

21 thoughts on “(Blum) I Love Learning, I Hate School An Anthropology of College

  1. I DO think it’s valued…. it changes the course of my career and helped me move beyond a “job” that lacked purpose for me personally. Looking at my doctoral education, I believe that students need to spend more time researching and being in the field. Less time watching PowerPoint presentations!

  2. Being in HE, of course, I find it to be very valuable. If you were to ask someone who was not in education they may respond differently – so my opinion is probably biased. Trade schools are equally as important as they provided needed services to society, most of which are well-paid, benefit- earning company’s. Conversely, not everyone is “school material” for a plethora of reasons. If every person continued on and graduated from HE, then our society would be impacted by individuals seeking specialized occupations. Individuals with a variety of experiences and education make our society successful. There are MANY occupations that do not require a degree and are valued – Military/Armed Forces??? Of course, one can graduate from ROTC with a degree and go on to a
    Lt. J.G. position, but there are many other servicemen/women under who are needed.

    Also, regarding the intro video (which is very funny by the way!), common core is supposed to address that burning question…..”Why do I have to know algebra and I do not know how to balance a checkbook?”

  3. Higher Education is valuable. In my case, it has the open door for advancement in career. Education has also been a place where I was able to learn about others’ opinions on topics. Exposure to others’ opinions that are different than mine and the freedom to exchange ideas in a safe place is ideal.

    One thing I do dislike in higher education is the heavy emphasis on a letter grade. This may condition the learner to aim for the points to earn the grade rather than conceptualize the learning. I think that a letter grades unintentionally creates an environment where the priority is shifted to the points.

    • Lupe, I agree with your closing paragraph. Unfortunately, how do we asses students learning unless we test and then grade? Project-based assignments are a good measure of learning, but can this be used in all areas of academics, and for how long? Though I do agree with you, what can you propose that educators do to ensure learning besides giving a letter grade to measure achievement?

    • Lupe,
      Thank you for your response. I wholeheartedly agree with your first paragraph. Education most certainly opened my mind to many new perspectives and opinions. I credit the woman I am today to the education I received, the amazing people I have met and the life experiences I have witnessed. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I believe in higher education. I believe that social awareness, critical thinking and the journey one travels to find her/his career path are all vital elements which contribute to the importance of higher education. However, I also have to admit that at times, the essence of a well-rounded learning experience is missing within educational institutions. A learning experience which values the learner, the learner’s point of view, and the learner’s unique talents is sadly rarely found. Instead, learning is promoted as a process done within large lecture classrooms with very little (to none) human-to-human exchange of ideas and thoughts.

    Crossing the finish line has become more important than the training, a healthy diet and a focused mind. In other words, the process of learning, growing, developing and reflecting has been replaced by getting through a sequence of classes which deems you as an “expert” within the discipline on hand.

    Do I still believe in higher education? Yes! However, I also believe that changing our system is absolutely necessary if we want to truly cultivate an environment of learning.

    • Ruby, you make a good point regarding ‘the process of learning, growing, developing and reflecting’ being overshadowed by just getting through a sequence of courses. I do see this in some of my students who have ‘figured out’ how to get by with minimum engagement in their own learning. However, I am optimistic, as I have experience more students who are engaged and hopeful in their college experience. I am but one instructor, so I can only speak from my own experience, but I have found that more students voice their disengagement with general education courses than the core courses of their major. I do not have any brilliant solutions to this state of affairs, but there definitely needs to be a shift in the current norm.

    • I agree Ruby. College has become a means to a very specific economic end. My guess is that feeling has always existed in Higher Education, but with college costs rising and economic factors affecting the middle class in new ways, we are no longer discouraging students from viewing college from a strictly ROI frame. In fact I think many college staff are now encouraging students to view college as primarily an economic stepping stone. Students are in turn responding by questioning any learning outcome that does not appear to be directly related to job skills. Job growth and security are fantastic reason to attend a university, but they are not the only reasons. I feel higher ed needs to strongly emphases the more intangible experiences of college as valuable.

  5. As a doctoral student and university instructor, it stands to reason that I see value in higher education. However, like Denise, I see value in vocational schools as well. The reality is that college is not for everyone; just like becoming a journeyman electrician or plumber is not for everyone. There are also a lot of students that would benefit from a community college experience prior to attending a 4-year college … there is a lot to be said for maturing and exploring educational/vocational interests.

    I definitely appreciate my college experiences, but equally important in my journey have been my experiences in the trades. I think both have helped to broaden my perspectives and prepare me for the road ahead. On a side note, to respond to the question Denise pulled from the video … “Why do I have to know algebra and I do not know how to balance a checkbook?” … I think both are important (LOL)! Not only did I use algebra in the trades, I also used it in both of my professional career tracks. I think math gets a bum rap … often we are not presented the material in a way that connects it with relevant, real time situations. I think this can be said for a lot of subjects.

    • Hi Ro!
      I totally agree with what you are saying. I think that learning done outside of traditional Higher Ed is just a fulfilling for students as the learning done in Higher Ed. It all really depends on what you want to do. You want to be a physicist? Higher Ed is for you! You want to be a mechanic? Trade school is for you!

      As long as dynamics exist where people can interact with each other and learn, I think that the gaining of knowledge and overall growth can be seen as the byproduct.
      -Frank

  6. Currently I have been thinking a great deal about expectations, outcomes, and communication in higher education. I think if I could impact anything it would be to create a more honest dialogue about goals and consequences among students, faculty, and staff. As I read through the section on the relative importance of grades I found myself becoming unreasonably agitated. As an educator, I can enter into a debate about the importance of grades and if we should even use an ranking system such as a GPA. As a student, I want to scream. Loudly. Why do students seem so much more concerned about grades than learning? Because they are trying to navigate a system that places much more importance on grades then learning outcomes. Grades matter. Grades will determine if students can attend graduate programs, qualify to participate in extracurricular activities, gain scholarship assistance, and stay in good standing as a student. As a student I would be happy to do away with the grading system, but it is not my decision to make. To hold students to be somehow morally deficit for trying to engage successfully in the system that they are actually in seems incredibly dishonest. I think this is what I would change. I would add in more and more honest discourse about the “whys” of college. Why should you go? Why should you study once you are there? Why should this experience matter? I would ask students, faculty, and staff to engage in these questions and work together to understand the whys of higher education.

  7. As an undergraduate I was what you would call a well-rounded student. But did I like actually going to class and doing homework? Not really…but I sure liked most everything else associated with it! I would have to say that I learned more about myself, more about others and more about the world though my experiences in student government, living at my fraternity house, or through interactions I had with people in one of the many clubs or organizations I belonged to.

    Let’s face it. In the college environment, some people are committed to their studies more than others. These aren’t just the engineering, nursing and biology students (STEM majors), there are also students in liberal arts majors that take their time learning in the classroom very seriously as well. However, I am not by any means devaluing someone who might take learning in the classroom less seriously than others.

    The environment that higher education exists in is much larger than just time spent learning in class. Learning can be done outside of class as well and that is why higher education is so valuable in my mind. There are so many touchpoints in higher education for someone to get get involved, to belong, and to learn from others. Higher education is not just the launch point for careers in a variety of different areas, it can be the launch point for the rest of a person’s life.

    I believe that more opportunities for students to engage without having to worry about financial implications or other societal pressures would enhance learning. In many ways, Fresno State and most all other colleges are trying to do this today through various student success initiatives. Is it working? I think so but only time will tell.
    -Frank

    • I appreciated your emphasis on how much learning takes place outside of the classroom, Frank, and I totally agree!

    • Thanks for your honesty, Frank. I think a lot of students feel the way you did. Their classes are important, but they are just one of many important experiences they will have in college. I am curious, do you think attending a school that did not use grades as an evaluation tool would have made you any more or less focused on in class learning.

  8. I personally believe that higher education is important. Being a doctoral student and teacher, I believe in higher education. Higher education has given me opportunities such as a career, meet like-minded individuals, and be scholarly.
    One thing about higher education that I would change would be to make it affordable to everyone. I think some students, even if they wanted to, wouldn’t be able to attend college because of financial reasons. Some students are working two jobs to be able to go to college. I think that if college or higher education was more affordable, people would want to do it. Another thing that I would change about higher education, is to make it mandatory for all professors to take some sort of teaching training. Some teachers in higher education have no clue as to how to teach a class or be engaging with the students.

  9. I do think higher education is important but I do not think that means it is important for all. Until we can make higher education truly accessible, I do not think that it should be considered the ‘right’ path for everyone.

    Even if it were truly accessible to all, I still would argue that some people may find their calling in different ways, through different avenues.

    I think that owning your story and knowing what your path is going to be about is complicated and a complex journey – I do not think that journey needs higher education to happen but I do believe that it can be facilitated by higher education.

    Each path is different choosing the route of higher education is just one path.

    • Amanda I agree with your point on making higher education accessible for those that want to pursue it. I also believe that supports need to be available throughout an individuals journey to seek higher education starting in the PreK-12th grade system.

  10. I believe higher education is extremely important and valuable. Participation in higher education provides learners a place and space to further and deepen their knowledge in a particular areas. The opportunity to further research and investigate areas the most often of high interest to the individual either because of work nor personal experience creates individuals that can share their learning, apply to their personal life or work, and find answers to questions they may be struggling with. In addition, higher education is designed to help the learner consider multiple perspectives and ideas, even those that may be in opposition to their own mental model. The process is also designed to have you question what may be common understandings in which in higher education using research to discriminate between popular belief. Higher education is also a place for dialog, debate, and creating educational leaders that can make a difference.

  11. I think too much emphasis is placed on the “Higher” part of “Higher Education.” Education is what is important. “Higher” is used to refer to post-secondary education, usually at a college or university, and I think that is where the problem comes in. Those that choose a different path after high school tend to get stigmatized because they did not go to college. Since they did not choose “Higher” Ed they, by default, must be “Lower”. But what is important is this: Are they pursuing additional education? Because education is what is important. Education is not confined to a classroom. It is the ability to perceive and think critically, and to exercise discernment so one can determine truth and facts. Scientific thinking is essential in education. Failure to emphasize life-long learning leaves us with many uneducated and gullible people, critical of new ideas, unable to discern fact from fiction, and susceptible to dogma and personality.

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