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  #1  
Old 07-23-2008, 11:02 AM
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Do we really educate college students to be better citizens?

Most US colleges and universities have a core curriculum in arts and sciences that is typically justified with the claim that a broad education better prepares a person to be a citizen in a free democratic society. When I was in Turkey this summer, I observed that their colleges lack such a curriculum and there are serious questions about how democratic Turkey is. On the other hand, the UK also lacks such a broad college curriculum but most people think it is pretty democractic and their citizens no less prepared for freedom than US citizens.

Can anyone think of a simple question or test that might verify or falsify the claim that our broad college curriculum helps college graduates be better democratic citizens? The question or test would have to be posed to college students who have taken at least some of these core courses.

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Old 07-23-2008, 11:13 AM
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As a graduated college student I'd have to say that college's effect on that is pretty minimal.......in many cases it shelters people from the real world too. Especially those that go to college on mommy and daddy's money and just live in a dorm/goof off for 4+ years....then when (if) they graduate they are hit hard by reality....unless the parental contributions keep on comin'.....
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by pawoSD View Post
As a graduated college student I'd have to say that college's effect on that is pretty minimal.......in many cases it shelters people from the real world too. Especially those that go to college on mommy and daddy's money and just live in a dorm/goof off for 4+ years....then when (if) they graduate they are hit hard by reality....unless the parental contributions keep on comin'.....
Do you think the core courses you were required to take, had any effect on how you behave in a democratic society?
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:18 AM
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Can anyone think of a simple question or test that might verify or falsify the claim that our broad college curriculum helps college graduates be better democratic citizens? The question or test would have to be posed to college students who have taken at least some of these core courses.
Well...How about:

Do you feel that your broad college curriculum has or will help you to be a better democratic citizen upon graduation? Explain.
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:24 AM
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IMO, one of the great failures of education (lower and higher) over the last couple of decades has been the emphasis as "job traing" as opposed to what might be called "life training".
If you look at the ads run by colleges, they seem to push the better job/ better pay aspect. Maybe, with the high cost involved, they are forced to show an economic benefit to that amount of debt.
Like many people, I am not working in a field closely related to either my Bachelor's, or Master's degrees. Yet, I feel that my college experience prepared me as a person to deal with the changes that happen in life.
Bring back the Liberal Arts curricula, and teach them HOW to think; not WHAT to think.

(Goodness-- I DO sound like a raving liberal, don't I?)
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by kerry View Post
Do you think the core courses you were required to take, had any effect on how you behave in a democratic society?
most of these artsy farsty classes I have to take really cut into my schedule and I could use the time for classes I need for my degree. I find it pointless to sit through classes such as music appreciation, film appreciation, or ceramics when I am an engineering major.
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Old 07-23-2008, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by WVOtoGO View Post
Well...How about:

Do you feel that your broad college curriculum has or will help you to be a better democratic citizen upon graduation? Explain.
Yes, that question has been at the forefront. One problem is that reading the answers will be very time consuming (although perhaps worth the effort) The other is that it's possible that the person is not consciously aware of what difference it has made yet the difference might be detectable by another method rather than a direct question.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by MS Fowler View Post
IMO, one of the great failures of education (lower and higher) over the last couple of decades has been the emphasis as "job traing" as opposed to what might be called "life training".

If you look at the ads run by colleges, they seem to push the better job/ better pay aspect. Maybe, with the high cost involved, they are forced to show an economic benefit to that amount of debt.

Bring back the Liberal Arts curricula, and teach them HOW to think; not WHAT to think.
How do you teach life without having real life in kollege? Just because I read a book about skiing doesn't mean I won't break both legs on the slope. In kollege, you can fail a course and take it over. In life, the opportunity once gone may never return again. In kollege, you can do average work and get along. In real life, you might get fired.

It will be very hard to ask someone to put aside money for a metaphysical gain. Much easier to say "Give me $10 and I give you a shovel". as opposed to "Give me $10 and you will lead a more fulfilled life.".

I have had a liberal arts education. Do I think it will help me think better? Probably not. Looking back, would I rather go for a different type of school? Probably. Way too much fluff, IMO. When I have a good job, well fed, good roof over my head, etc, etc, if I want to pick up a book and educate myself, I can do it.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:17 PM
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I'm not necessarily sold on the implicit premise that a college education, broad Liberal arts or otherwise, makes one a better citizen than not having one.

"better democratic citizens"? Too broad a concept to nail down.
Take this true scenario. My daughter graduated from high school in 2000. She heads to the Univ.of Delaware. During the summer, she introduced me to a male classmate who has enlisted in the Marine Corps. She goes to Newark DE; he goes to Paris Island.
I run into him once or twice over the next four years. Comes May 2004, daughter graduates and as sheer coincidence would have it, the same fellow happens to be coming home on leave and helps her move her things home, some which end up in my house.

I couldn't help but wonder who had seen and accomplished more and had more "life shaping experiences" -- a kid studying biology in college or a young man who traveled from Okinawa to Iraq and a few other places in between.
Granted, statistics say she'll earn more more over her lifetime than he will, other things being equal. But that's not what you are looking for.

Back to the citizen profile. She works in the Counthy Health Department (for now) and he works in the County Sherriffs's Department K-9 unit. I guess I'd have to say they are both good "democratic citizens". (law abiding, self supporting,etc,) I'm sure you would agree with that assessment.

I think citizenship values are shaped at home, in the community and in primary education more so that by college education, whether Liberal Arts or a specific discipline.

Put another way, whose a "better democratic citizen": the Marine recruiter in Berkeley or the protester who pickets their presence? Impossible to objectively quantify, in my humble opinion.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:24 PM
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First off- MS Fowler - you DO sound like a liberal, Apply for a teaching position now =)

TehDon - No offense dude, but I could not disagree more, but no matter how many examples I pull out, you wouldn't buy it until you see it yourself. just find out who an "industrial designer" is and find a company without any of them =)



To directly address your point Kerry, I'd argue that the classes taught in college do not teach you as much as the time spent in college. Time spent broadening your horizons in a "broad-based curriculum". Time spent cleaning up after friends, time spent hurting peoples emotions and seeing the aftermath (college affords unique oppurtunities for this)

I was an engineering technology major who took all the accursed=) history and art classes and while I didn't enjoy them, I got through it because it was required- I now believe that there is learning in this. Beyond just the facts that you learn (about history or art) you learn that there is ***always*** more to your world than you think. And if you look around, you'll find that those outside worlds (art/music/history/human psychology) affect your current world more and more each day.
You can close your world in, forget art (a life without beauty or creative expression?) forget history (repeat the same mistakes!) and human psychology (not get along well with others...) but your life will be worse for it.

More to the point again...

Does it make you better prepared to live in a democratic society ? yes. It opens your world, and if you choose to keep your world open, then you can fully understand/appreciate the struggle/work to change the democratic society that you are in (because, presumably, in a non-democratic society, you dont have the freedom to work for changes) You can just as easily keep your mind closed, and have no more effect on the world than the non-college educated guy.
I guess that you could say that a broad-based college curriculum has a synergistic effect with people in democratic societies that when combined, produces a person more capable of effecting positive change than a non-college educated person. hmm....I think I like that definition. I'm open to rebuttal on that one since I just penned it.

College opens eyes. Keep the liberal artsy fartsy classes intact, our brains depend on it.

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Old 07-23-2008, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Angel View Post

TehDon - No offense dude, but I could not disagree more, but no matter how many examples I pull out, you wouldn't buy it until you see it yourself. just find out who an "industrial designer" is and find a company without any of them =)


seriously, I do not need these stupid classes. I am glad they offerend me alternative that are somewhat useful in this world. Ethics, Logic, and Philosphy in the place of those three lame classes. At least in my alternatives I can use them somewhat.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:43 PM
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I'm an electrical designer with 6 weeks in Junior college?
Used to was, you could learn how to perform an occupational skill, by learning to do it. Now, you can't learn how to, without a degree. Everyone's stupid. The general classes are biased and outright wrong. It's all just filler, you can read about the history of education in this country, but you might have to do so outside of a classroom, which is why nobody knows. Not to mention, it didn't happen, because there was a plan (conspiracy) involved.

A bunch of people running around with papers that can barely read, write and certainly can't do a damn thing. Look into Left vs. Right brain thought, you'll see what's happening. Just parrots coming out of college nowadays. So no, it doesn't prepare anyone to live in a democratic society. Especially this one, since the ideals of the once free nation were based on natural rights. All that has to be removed, not instilled. Think about it, politically there are -2- opinions in the entire country. One big damn sporting event...
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by dynalow View Post
I'm not necessarily sold on the implicit premise that a college education, broad Liberal arts or otherwise, makes one a better citizen than not having one.

"better democratic citizens"? Too broad a concept to nail down.
Education is a tool. How you use it depends on you. I can kill you with a hammer or make a house with it. Education in the right direction gives them a better tool, with which to make a living. If you cannot do that, we have nothing to discuss. If you have a PhD in say Sherlock Holmes. What will you do with it besides become a parasite or at best work in McDs?
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:51 PM
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Used to was, you could learn how to perform an occupational skill, by learning to do it. Now, you can't learn how to, without a degree.
Used to be as a nurse (met an old retired one), you'd have 15 drugs to remember. Today you have more than 15 classes of drugs and numerous procedures and numerous tools. Things have changed. Used to be you crapped in your pants too. Do you want to go back to those days?
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Old 07-23-2008, 01:00 PM
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To directly address your point Kerry, I'd argue that the classes taught in college do not teach you as much as the time spent in college. Time spent broadening your horizons in a "broad-based curriculum". Time spent cleaning up after friends, time spent hurting peoples emotions and seeing the aftermath (college affords unique oppurtunities for this)
I think you hit the nail on the head with that paragraph John.
Living in society is the best training for living in society.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Angel View Post
Does it make you better prepared to live in a democratic society ? yes. It opens your world, and if you choose to keep your world open, then you can fully understand/appreciate the struggle/work to change the democratic society that you are in (because, presumably, in a non-democratic society, you dont have the freedom to work for changes) You can just as easily keep your mind closed, and have no more effect on the world than the non-college educated guy.
I guess that you could say that a broad-based college curriculum has a synergistic effect with people in democratic societies that when combined, produces a person more capable of effecting positive change than a non-college educated person. hmm....I think I like that definition. I'm open to rebuttal on that one since I just penned it.
There is no doubt in my mind that broad based studies make a person a better more rounded thinker, a likely useful tool in democratic participation, but I fail to see how mandating the importance of abstract knowledge can contribute to the underlying intent of freedom.

Kerry, I think the better method would be to survey university administration as to the potential financial impact on operations if the requirements were removed.

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