Side Discussion: The Purpose of Education
So, I noticed that a couple of weeks ago, we had an interesting discussion that stemmed from the Harvard University cheating scandal. Some people slammed the students for losing sight of the learning goals at hand, treating the grade as more important than the knowledge and expertise to be acquired. Others chided the university and the academic system as a whole for making education so expensive that it acts more as a marketplace than a site of learning.
I think we were onto a rather important topic — after all, even once you’ve finished your time in college, the education system will have a major influence over the colleagues with whom you interact. That means that the educational mission will remain a crucial issue throughout the rest of your respective careers. With that in mind, I’d like to re-open the subject for further discussion.
At the root of the problem: what is the mission of higher education in the first place? Or what should that mission be? Do you think that administrators have lost sight of the educational goals, charging prices beyond what is reasonable for imparting wisdom and skills? Does this foster a culture that inevitably leads to cheating? What responsibility, if any, do they bear for these scandals? Given the rash of cheating incidents and similar scandals as of late, what do you think needs to be changed in order to fix matters (if, indeed, the situation actually needs to be changed)? Who has the power and resources necessary to make that administrative shift?
On the other side of things, what role, if any, do the students involved play? What should a student’s mission be while going through classes? Does the price of a college education change how the student body should treat that education, or should they resist letting such outside pressures affect their behavior? What about the number of courses that have to be taken in order to complete a degree plan? And if everyone else is already cheating, does choosing to take part in the practice simply level the playing field? Further, how does the university’s mission relate to a student’s behavior — whether or not the school openly admits what its true goal is?
Taking it in a different direction, how do incidents like this change the value we place on a university degree? Should businesses seek degree holders in their hiring processes, or do cheating scandals like this only prove that a degree is meaningless, if any challenging courses along the way may have been fraudulently cleared? Or is there an assumption that a graduate at least acquired some skills and knowledge in college, even if there was some cheating along the way? For that matter, if the cost of a college education is prohibitive for some potential students, are employers just rewarding those who can “purchase” extra credentials? (In contrast, what are your thoughts about the various scholarship and student loan programs across the country and around the world?) In sum, what effect does cheating have on the value of a degree, and what, if anything, should or can be done to boost that value?
Finally, is the cheating trend limited to the education system, or do you see it happening in other areas, as well? What would a larger cheating movement throughout our society signify? How do you think such a tendency might develop — or, if it’s already occurring, how did it happen? Is that something that anyone could actually stop? Or do you think that such an issue needs to be addressed at all?
I may add my opinion later, but I want to give all of you the opportunity to deliberate amongst yourselves first. I look forward to seeing a lively back-and-forth discussion. So without further ado, what do you think?