The Man Who Could Make Your Kids Less Ignorant
tags: college,Robert Maynard Hutchins
A new Council of Foreign Relations and National Geographic survey shows that most American collegians are global illiterates. Only 29 percent of 1203 enrolled students or fresh graduates passed a “global literacy” test—asking, for example, whether Indonesia has a Muslim majority. The average score was 55 percent. Illiterate college students become ignorant citizens—and policy makers. In 2006, during the Iraq War, The New York Times reported that many members of Congress couldn’t distinguish Sunnism from Shiism. One Democrat admitted: “it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”
Before force feeding anyone more facts, this survey is a reminder of how we must redefine the purpose of higher education. This way, whatever facts are conveyed will fit into a “perspective” and “categories” that resonate for students.
Although he died nearly 40 years ago in 1977, we need the wisdom of the educational reformer Robert Maynard Hutchins. While he probably would be shouted down on many campuses today for being politically incorrect, this Oberlin graduate and anti-McCarthyite was a true liberal. He wanted universities producing thoughtful, knowledgeable, and critical world citizens, not narrow-minded specialists, soulless technicians or indoctrinated political bullies...
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