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September 5, 2013

What Should Be The Real Purpose of College?

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Students now go to college expecting their degrees will help them on the way to professional success. However, University of Virginia professor Mark Edmundson argues that students who do this miss the point.

“A real education — I will offend a few people by saying this — is humanities-based and it’s oriented around the prospect of getting to know yourself, figuring out who you are and what you really want to do with your life,” he said.

Today’s colleges, Edmundson warns, are more business-oriented than they were in the middle of the 20th century. With deluxe dorms, fancy gyms and massive football teams, “schools have become more consumer-oriented,” and attract attendees who are more like customers than students.

It’s the job of humanities to challenge the students out of this mind-set, he argues.

“The humanities can help you to do better in life. You can learn to read well, write well, think well, present yourself in an appealing sort of way. But I think that fundamentally we’re not about success. What we’re about is challenging and examining every single kind of socially accredited standard out there.”


Warm up questions
  1. What do you think the goal of education should be for elementary school students, high school students and college students?
  2. Do you think these goals are being met?
  3. Which classes do you think are the most important in school? Which are your favorites?
  4. What is your definition of success as it relates to growing up and finding a career path?
Discussion questions
  1. Is learning about yourself and discovering what you want to do with your life an important goal? Should teachers be responsible for helping students achieve this goal?
  2. Do you think colleges are too consumer-oriented? What are the benefits and draw-backs to having this style of college or university?
  3. What do you think about Dr. Edmundson’s opinion on higher education? Do you agree or disagree and why?
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