Ivorytower

The Antiquated University

At the New York Times' “Schools for Tomorrow” conference, Larry Summers expressed his disappointment with our education system. The former Harvard President argued that, “The world is changing very rapidly… Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time.” He’s right.

The system is archaic and impractical. Technology has changed not only how we can learn, but also what we should learn. At the conference, Summers described “Active Learning Classrooms” where students and professors can engage with lessons that are applicable to the world. Instead of memorizing information they can access through their phone, students need to be cultivating a global perspective, and learning the skills that promote creativity and innovation within the new knowledge economy.

Summers suggested that we are on the cusp of a profound paradigm shift in our education system, with improvements just around the corner. His bet (and hope) is that "the next quarter century will see more change in higher education than the last three combined.”

I was very happy to hear Mr. Summers take on the education system. As a Senior set to graduate from a top tier liberal arts college, I have been terribly frustrated with how irrelevant and antiquated the academic part of the college experience is.

While home for the holidays, my father (who has been kindly working his tail off to pay for my tuition) asked me, was it all worth it? I really thought about it… All of the money, time, and opportunity cost sunk into… what? Good parties? Some late nights memorizing textbooks, only to regurgitate the outdated knowledge on a test the next day – probably forgetting the minor details by dinner?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have learned a great deal and really enjoyed my college experience. But quite frankly, the majority of my education has come from the Internet - and its abundance of amazing resources including Wikipedia, TED Talks, and blogs.  

The main thing I have gotten from college has been interaction with other students, and the inspiration that my generation can change the world. What I really want is to learn about the latest technologies and discoveries that will shape the future, and collaborate with my peers to find solutions. Yet academic institutions seem to be fixed on yesterday’s models. The current system is inhibiting our potential, rather than unleashing it.  

We now understand the best conditions for learning and creativity – and the ways to spark innovation. We have a more clear vision of the future - and the significance technology will play in solving our world’s issues. And yet we are still not utilizing any of this newfound insight in our classrooms. What a crying shame.

Indeed, it is time for a change.

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