Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Modern Education

It has been a long time since I disagreed with Hugh Hewitt, but Monday was such a day. Hugh had Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College on his radio show. Much of what Dr. Arnn said I agreed with, until at Hugh’s urging he produced his list of what he called “serious old-fashioned” schools. In short, Dr. Arnn divided schools into four groups by two qualities: Serious versus Unserious schools, and Old-fashioned versus Modern. Dr. Arnn went on to state that a school was “serious” only if it instilled character and values into a student, and that Old-fashioned meant holding, even defending traditional Christian values. Again, so far no problem. But from there Dr. Arnn turned into a blatant propagandist, claiming that only about ten schools would meet the standard for Serious Old-Fashioned school. I found serious problems with his arrogance on that point. The sheer fact that none of the military academies met Dr. Arnn’s cut should tell you how short-sighted his list was. Perhaps he was merely being polite, but Mr. Hewitt made no attempt at all to correct any of Dr. Arnn’s misstatements or omissions. I certainly noticed that Dr. Arnn favored schools on the east and west coasts, so it surprised me that Hewitt did not point out how much of the country Dr., Arnn was – however inadvertently – insulting. For example, here in Texas any serious college evaluation must include Baylor University in Waco, Texas A&M in College Station, and while Dr. Arnn mentioned the University of Dallas he somehow missed the University of Texas at Dallas, a fast rising star in many reviews. Dr. Arnn had not a word of mention about Houston Baptist University, or Lady of the Lake University, or Trinity College in San Antonio. And that is limiting the field to the Christian perspective, which would frown on things like coed dorms or an agnostic/atheistic worldview, which would exclude some otherwise fine universities.

The reader will note that I have not yet mentioned online studies, which I consider an equal if not superior option to the nominal experience for many students. So far as I know, Hillsdale does not offer even a single online course, so it is poor indeed on that matter of addressing student needs, but in the main it is obvious that many people who consider themselves experts simply prefer to promote the schools they know, which brings me to my question for the day:

In terms of building a young person into an intelligent and responsible adult, what three colleges or universities would you consider the best? Please share your reasons.


Mark L said...

You have already named two I would include: UT-Dallas and Texas A&M.

UT-Dallas has set its compass on academic excellence. They are one of the few schools in the nation where a bright student can get a (virtually) free education -- paid for through scholarships. (What an delightfully old-fashioned concept -- pay a student's tuition because of academic excellence rather than because of that student's ability to play a team sport.) They aim at filling the same role in the 21st Century that Cal Tech did in the 20th.

As much as it grinds me to admit it (I am the type that would be more likely to want to go to U-T Austin), those Aggies in College Station also develop young men and women into citizens. My middle son plans to go there, and I was struck by the civilized behavior of its students when we visited. Whenever we stopped to find our way around the campus, within 30 seconds, someone would offer to help us find what we were seeking. It did not seem contrived, either -- the offers of help seemed sincere.

Having grown up in Ann Arbor, MI (the home of the formerly-great University of Michigan) these simple kindnesses astounded me. On Central Campus at the UM you could be lying on the ground bleeding, and the only notice students would take of you would be to make sure they stepped around you so they did not get blood on their shoes.

A&M has a great academic reputation -- especially in engineering and veteranary science, two of the few true professions taught at the university level (along with law and medicine -- things like journalism, teaching, and business are trades, skilled trades in some cases, but still trades).

As for a third school? Probably Cal Tech. It may have fell victim to political correctness in the last decade, but through the mid-90s it was still a serious school.

Anonymous said...

Rice University.

Anonymous said...

Hillsdale College offers a core curriculum with an emphasis on the traditional liberal arts. Additionally, each student takes a course on the U.S. Constitution. Grades are not inflated. This makes it a superior college for educating intelligent minds. The question at Hillsdale is: What does it mean to be good?

Harvard University attracts bright students who are exposed to the world of ideas but sometimes lack a perspective. The students seem to compete with themselves rather than search for absolute truth or the good. The question is at this college: What have I achieved or acquired?

The Jesuit Universities mix the search for good and the relationship of all men to each other. A Jesuit education causes you to think, to seek, and to challenge yourself within a core curriculum but with an emphasis on man seeking his relationship with God.

The overall best choice for a college education is a college that is not dictated to by an outside regulating office, but one that is educating students who will be life-long learners and seekers of the truth and what is good. A student needs to study the great thinkers, the great questions, the ideas in all the liberal arts disciplines.

Let's just give young students a chance to start their education on a solid foundation.