Universities and colleges have an uphill battle in front of them after Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk’s recent “letters of expectation” to the public institutions (Greg Neiman, An opportunity, or else, Advocate, March 28, 2013).
The university and college sector should not just be the training branch for corporations.
That’s a very old issue. Ever since the time of Plato, Aristotle and Pericles, the same question arose — how does a society prepare people, not only youth, for full participation as citizens? Higher education and training evolved to pursue this goal.
It was imperfect. Hazards were many. Employers and their representatives in government continue to be successful in fobbing off education and training costs onto public taxpayers.
Trying to restrain costs for students who would not have to leave to get degrees, diplomas and certificates further hogties the system.
Generally, the educational philosophy literature says that education and training should not just be “instrumental” to prepare well-equipped, dutiful employees.
Higher education should be probing, questioning, critical, and pleased to explore knowledge areas that may, or may not, have immediate practical application.
Many related issues follow out of that view. How badly does commercializing research distort its purposes? Can independent inquiry be sustained if education buildings, programs, and even courses are named after rich donors?
How well can students be evaluated through grading practices known to lack scientific grounding?
How well does the system deal with scandals in which university and college money is used to attend political party fund-raising functions?
Those are some of the multitude of questions in front of the Red Deer College board or any institution hoping to become a university.
Lukaszuk delivered bad signals to those whose job is to make policy about education issues.