Illiberal Ideas

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, by proposing a reduction in public university support and level community college funding, joins other politicians, including President Obama, who endorse a function for post-secondary education as technical training.

Community colleges certainly can provide useful technical training, and these opportunities should be available to, and accessed by, more people. At the same time, these institutions do not provide the same educational experiences that universities provide.

Not all university students have these experiences, as sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa (2010) have documented. At the same time, those who do are the students who complete demanding courses — forty pages of reading each week and twenty pages of writing throughout the semester — or choose liberal arts majors, which Fareed Zakaria (2015) has argued both have a long history in the Western world and are central to innovative technologies and globalizing economies.

Universities can do more to ensure that those who take their courses have more engaging educational experiences, and yet politicians and citizens decrease support for such opportunities at their own peril.

Arum, Richard, and Josipa Roksa. 2010. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zakaria, Fareed. 2015. In Defense of a Liberal Education. New York: W. W. Norton.

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