There is so much to be done with all levels of education in the United States, and so much that is being done horribly wrong, and so much that is offered as a solution that is even more wrong, that I shall try to shed some light on where we have been, where we are, and where we are heading in higher education. There isn't enough room here to even touch the surface of higher education, let alone all of education in the U.S.
The backbone of higher education in the U.S., historically, has been in the field of liberal arts. Liberal arts have been the springboard to original thinking, and freeing us from the narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness of business and industry. To be sure, business and industry have fluorished in America. That is obvious. Less obvious, but far more profound, has been the impact left by liberal arts in the U.S.
Typical of the business-only mind is that it sees success, profit, and innovation only in the short run. However the foundation of American higher education was laid by institutions that had a liberal arts primacy: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. As those schools expanded outwardly, they kept their liberal arts genesis, and added to this liberal arts mix with hundreds of small liberal arts colleges across America. The new roster of liberal arts colleges number in the many hundreds and include a variety of institutions that have held to the importance of this wide and enlightening area of studies and experience. Morals, altruism, ethics, empathy, sharing, etc. are important groundworks in studies at places such as Berea, Mount Holyoke, Earlham, Lawrence, Carleton, Grinnell, and hundreds more. We are a great nation and culture because of colleges like these. This made us different from other nations because it required a wider mix of study and knowledge to the mix of business and industry studies. This widened the knowlege of the students, opened new academic and enlightenment doors to students who might otherwise have been tied to narrow courses such as business, biology, investment, mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering, etc. But there was an even greater component that liberal arts added to the mix.
Liberal arts colleges did not shy away from teaching ethics. Wider academic discovery was coupled with ethics, morals, etc. Yes, these were a part of the curricula, and liberal arts colleges especially did not hide from it. Altruism, compassion, empathy, honesty, sharing, the arts, ad infinitum were not considered superfluous or dirty words. These values were a proud part of liberal arts colleges. LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES ADDED TO THE POTENTIAL FOR ALL AMERICANS, WHETHER OR NOT THEY ATTENDED COLLEGE.
As we held to those values, the U.S. fluorished, innovated, revolutionized the world of business and industry. In recent decades we have begun to slide away from the liberal arts. Short-sighted business and industry leaders have made a steady and power-laden effort to cut the liberal arts out of the college budgets in favor of the more directly connected courses in business and science. America has begun to slip badly ...very badly. The impact of this change is not immediately obvious, but it is happening.
The short-sighted business leaders love to point to the inventors and leaders in electronic gadgets and communication. But it is obvious that the onslaught evolution of leading companies in China and India are on the horizon and will overtake many American companies. Some American companies are already wilting in the face of confrontations with these Asian giants. And short-sighted American busiiness helped them along by sending our unique expertise to China and India along with the work related to expanding these industries. China and India learned our expertise, took millions of jobs from the U.S., and did all this with the complicity of American business greed [short-sighted]. Today, American business and industry have very few ethics or morals, and certainly see no relationship between the liberal arts and corporations. And there is now a movement to limit support of liberal arts and plow the money into short-sighted, narrow study related to business and science. We would do that at our own peril.
This is a difficult and complex subject to cover in this little space. Allow me to use the example of Winston Churchill. During Britain's darkest moments in World War II, when all hope seemed lost, and it looked as though Nazi Germany was about to invade the British Isles, Churchill told the Treasury NOT to cut the budget for the arts. He said that now more than ever, the British people needed the hope, renewal, and enlightenment of the arts. And so it did. And so do we today.