Thoughts on Fixing Higher Education in America
There has been much discussion about what is wrong and right with the American Education System; opinions range from public schools that are costing more and more to fund but not producing great results all the way to the higher education systems that supply the schools and colleges with well educated professionals. On the one hand, we have hard science and business advocates that wish to regimentize education and measure all outcomes in educational process (extreme cost-benefit decision making and performance-based funding) – testing, testing, testing; on the other side we have liberal and radical formulations that push for yet more individualization of learning, personalized meanings of realities, de-constructivism of the existing system, and the de-sciencing of measurable outcomes. Yes, we all do matter; however, we all as individuals do not make up the whole of teaching and leaning. Apparently ALL OF US must be winners! For the rising costs and the nation’s future, WE better pay attention to both opinions and demands and find a viable consensus to IMPROVE what we now do. This post will present some very basic information on the call for more integration and softening of learning system so as to allow better self-development, stronger belonging, personalized outcomes,compassion, and deeper meaning in education.
Here is a simple list noting what these educational leaders seek. The following information is based on my understanding of what is needed according to P. J. Palmer and A. Zajonc. Here is my list. WE NEED:
- Whole person education, including spiritual and transformative processes for inner and outer life;
- Compassion within community based on “secular ethics of heart” (Dalai Lama), “habits of heart” (de Tocqueville), and bringing the heart-imagination into learning (Einstein) to revitalize the system;
- Analytic and integrative processes and content to foster cooperation, peace and harmony;
- Interdisciplinary views for the multiverse of teaching, learning and knowing;
- Teams, service learning, peer teaching, portfolio work, shared opinions/power, all aimed at a wider approach to what is taught, learned and known to be true;
- Participant observation that shrinks the space between observer and observed phenomena – making greater imagination, intuition, and integration of the whole;
- Space and time for personal imagination and insight into knowledge and its delivery;
- Deduction and induction, but with more personal imagination and inquiry (Whitehead);
- Contemplative and mindfulness practices that increase the deeper joy of learning and knowing;
- Aesthetic balance between technical-scientific views of hard atomistic information and experiential, feeling-state learning of the personalized self;
- Integration of facts, values, self-experience to enhance personal meaning of learning – it is all about the personal experience and continued attention of the learner (W. James);
- Ending the dominance of the scientific observer over the observed object – knowing that the observation of anything by any form of measurement (including persons) always influences what we think we observe (Heisenberg, Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger). So, outcome measures need to consider this fact of physics.
With such massive changes we must not lose sight of the need to continue to measure outcomes. Without data to show the new integrations are working, we CANNOT now that they are working. Efficacy is beyond personal
“feelings” as the sole measure of effectiveness. Measurement, however, must include both quantitative and qualitative procedures as well as serious concern for individual difference of learners.
For more information refer to Palmer, P.T. and Zajonc, A. (2010). The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. SanFrancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 1-75.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
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