Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Learning Experience?

Teaching is not a lost art, but regard for it is a lost tradition.

The test and the use of a man's education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind. --Jacques Barzun

Today's issue of the Amarillo Globe-News contains a story that hits pretty close to my home. Apparently, some people have voiced their objections to a billboard ad campaign for Amarillo College.

I hadn't even noticed the billboards. The geezer in me won't take his eyes off the road. I proudly say in my raspy, old-man voice: That's twenty-seven years without an incident!

Anyway, here's an example of the controversial ads: One of the billboards pictures a shopping cart full of bagged groceries. The text: I wanted a job with choices. "Paper or plastic?" wasn't what I had in mind. At the bottom appears the Amarillo College logo next to the tag line: "Hire Education."

It seems like all of the negative reaction so far is of one sort. It says that the ads demean people who, for whatever reason, never went to college, folks who work for a lifetime in jobs that don't require a degree.

One of the many things my parents consistently taught me was that any honest, productive work should be honored. In my adult years, that view has become my own settled conviction. So I find myself siding with those who consider the ads irritating on that count.

What I don't hear about is how the ads tend to reflect and reinforce the debasing of higher education.

College is all about job satisfaction?

It's all about a better career? (And let's face it, in this climate better is code for more money).

No learning for learning's sake?

No becoming fit for public service?

No quest for knowledge or search for truth?

I know, in our current atmosphere, some of these questions sound ludicrous, a reflection of the problem.

Anyone who knows college life in the United States is well aware that student apathy and academic cheating are two of the biggest obstacles that professors face. There are reasons for that.

My question is why should a college ad campaign promote that culture of cynicism which undermines the academy's best reasons for being? For all of its instructing, shouldn't a college teach something of a higher order?

For a closer look, here's the story: Amarillo College ad campaign draws fire.

I'm curious. What do you think about this?


Dee Andrews said...

I'm with you, Frank -

On all points. And, I think it is a great shame that most young people today, including a couple of them in my own family, unfortunately, don't share this mindset and point of view.

Our institutions of higher (and even lower) education should not, I think, help promote such a view, either.

It's really disturbing to me and Tom. I was thinking on these things earlier today in writing about taking the oath/affirmation to become licensed as an attorney in the state of Louisiana. It was a very serious charge and the whole experience of law school and the practice of the law was life changing in me for the better.

Cheers & Blessings to you all today!


Leland V said...

I will throw in another piece of data: At the turn of the century (1900, not 2000) the three highest paid professions in the US were medical doctors, attorneys, and college professors. This has certainly changed. I am not sure if it is a cause or an effect of some of our country's education problems. (I have not seen the data, so this might be one of those pesky urban legends. However, it is believable.)