I wanted to start this column with a snarky quote about education, so I did what came natural — I Googled it.

What’s the point?

I wanted to start this column with a snarky quote about education, so I did what came natural — I Googled it.

Zero point zero six seconds (blame AP style for that ugly looking phrase) and 293,000,000 results later, I found one, allegedly from Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Whether or not Twain actually said it (though, the Internet is always right, isn’t it?), the aphorism does ring true today, perhaps more so than when he uttered it.

It is easy to say that America is in the midst of an educational crisis — the litany of other crises would simply say, “Join the club” — but, as a matter of fact, it is. Education is yet another category where America has ceased to dominate its world competition.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States is dangerously average in the categories of reading, mathematics and science, scoring barely above the mean average in reading and science, falling below it in math.

When compared with Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore, it’s a bloodbath.

How could the United States have fallen so far?

Of course, complaining about the state of the country’s education system is hardly a new phenomenon — Twain died more than a century ago.

But something about this just feels different.

College is no longer solely a place of learning. Of course, much learning goes on, but it is not the student’s focus.

We take English classes where English is not taught: we write about our feelings instead. We visit RateMyProfessors.com to see which teacher we can get the easiest “A” in. We can go through college without once reading any of the great books of literature and philosophy, or at least the unabridged versions.

Between beer pong and sexual hook ups, where would we find the time?

The university, for the casual student, is no longer a place of learning. It is merely a jobs factory.

This problem is acknowledged by the university by its “general education” requirements: Fresno State requires students to take units that satisfy a “foundation,” “breadth,” “integration” and “multicultural/international” component.

These “courses are almost always the already existing introductory courses, which are of least interest to the major professors and merely assume the worth and reality of that which is to be studied,” Allan Bloom wrote in his seminal treatise on higher education, “The Closing of the American Mind.” “It is general education, in the sense in which a jack-of-all trades is a generalist. He knows a bit of everything and is inferior to the specialist in each area.”

“But,” Bloom concluded, “this is not a liberal education and does not satisfy any longing [students] have for one.”

In my experience, what the former University of Chicago professor argued rings true. I remember nothing that I learned in any of my G.E. classes, with the two humanities classes I took being the exception.

Which, I think, speaks to the state of education. For all the foundation, breadth, integration and multicultural/international classes we’ve taken, we still are not getting a liberal education.

We don’t read the great literature unless it’s on our own time. We don’t immerse ourselves in the great works of philosophy unless it’s on our time. We don’t learn history unless it’s on our time.

If our schooling only interferes with our education, then what is the point of schooling?</pre>

  • joshua4234

    Not sure where to comment about the thumbs up stuff or who exactly writes them, but the reasoning of the thumbs down to young people around the world having unsafe sex one doesn’t make much sense. I mean it didn’t read “thumbs down to young people having more sex” but specifically unsafe sex. I don’t know whether or not people are having more sex younger or what would be causes of that, but specifically having unsafe sex is caused by a lack of education about contraception or lack of contraception that’s widely available or getting contraception is stigmatized. Also, this is fairly deceptive about what abstinence only education actually is. It’s not that comprehensive sex ed tells kids to go out and have sex while abstinence only tells kids to not have sex, it’s that abstinence only sex ed ONLY tells kids to not have sex and often in practice lies about the effectiveness of contraception. Comprehensive sex ed can tell kids to not have sex yet, but doesn’t lie to them or omit what everything is so if they do have sex they at least know how to do it safely. The evidence bears out that states that more strongly teach abstinence only have higher rates of teen pregnancy so at the very least we know abstinence only doesn’t help anything, if it turns out the rates are caused by something else. Now like I said, I don’t know if more people are having sex younger or not and what sort of statistics we have about why that happens or if it’s even feasible to force that part of culture to change, but what we can do is have comprehensive sex ed instead of abstinence only ed where we are keeping children ignorant at best or lying to them at worst, contributing to the amount of UNsafe sex.

    • Michael

      It seems to me more kids are having sex — both the safe and unprotected kind — because being 16 and having sex is pretty fun. Regardless of whether abstinence-only sex ed or comprehensive safe-sex ed is utilized, I would argue most kids know that having sex without a “raincoat” can lead to babies. They may be naieve to the liklihood of this happening, but kids get preggo cause they are generally careless. It happens to adults quite often too — THAT’S HOW POWERFUL THE LURE OF SEX IS!. We know the consequences of not throwing on a coat, but in the heat of it all, we say screw it, literally and figuratively.

  • Abigail

    This is all well and true, I’m guilty of some of it myself. However, where do we even begin to fix this issue? Do away with general education requirements? Then what does a university become: a sort of trade school?

  • Michael

    Congrats. You’ve observed that higher education is somewhat of a farce. Why this is so is the more insightful, thought provoking question to ask and to, hopefully, try and answer, but it seems you were content with not going there.