The purpose of an education is to see through the conjecture and implausible techno-fantasies penned in David Gelernter’s recent op-ed piece, A High-Tech Rebirth From Higher Ed’s Ruins, Jan 23, 2017. Would it to be too much for Gelernter to mention an institution, a course, or a faculty member to substantiate his characterization of college as a catastrophic failure with ‘slanted readings and random garbage’?
His portrait of a dying industry could not be further from my experience in higher education. Colleges are dense ecosystems of learning and research that have propelled decades of innovation. Students learn from faculty, from each other, from the vast resources at hand, and by being at arms length from the marketplace. Colleges are vital centers for thought that ask students to form opinions and put themselves into the debate. There are facts to be learned, yes, but there are many ways to interpret and make use of those facts. To be educated is to have knowledge to draw from today, but it also engenders the capacity to learn in perpetuity.
Underlying Gelernter’s networked future is a belief that education exists to serve the marketplace. Education falters if it is not valued as a good onto itself. What catastrophe awaits our society if we dismantle higher education in favor of limited certificate training with ‘software templates’ from think tanks, churches and biotech companies. The marketplace teaches only what the marketplace needs. As artificial intelligence improves, a hands-on education steeped in arts and humanities will become more important, not less. There is proof that college functions, just ask the many educated leaders in our workforce today.