Thinking Citizen Blog — “College became the Default. Let’s Rethink That.” (John McWhorter, NYT)
Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — “College became the Default. Let’s Rethink That.” (John McWhorter, NYT)
John McWhorter (photo below) has been, to me, one of the most interesting, iconoclastic thinkers of the last half century. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times he questioned the assumption that college is a good idea for all students. I learned in the article that McWhorter himself had never graduated from high school instead leaving after tenth grade to attend “Simon’s Rock College” (now a unit of Bard College) the only accredited four-year “early college” in the United States. Would “early college” be a great idea for many? I also learned that McWhorter is a great admirer of Leon Botstein, the President of Bard College, since 1975 (at age 29), and the author of “Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture.” Intrigued I decided to learn a little more about Simon’s Rock, Bard, and Leon Botstein. First a few quotes from the McWhorter article, then a few from Leon Botstein, then a few biographical notes on McWhorter and Botstein. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
SHOULD COLLEGE BE FOR EVERYONE? IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
1. “We should also understand that just as some kids at 16 are ready for a college education, just as many kids at that age are ready to take their places in the working world.”
2. “Most of us today would have a hard time articulately justifying why people must spend four years taking 40 courses in this and that before becoming executives, administrators, or fundraisers.”
3. “College should be something some kids choose out of personal predilection.”
NB: “Even as a young student, it was hard for me not to notice how many of my contemporaries were just marking time until they ‘got that piece of paper,’ as some would put it.”
BOTSTEIN (below) QUOTES — Beethoven, What College Presidents Do, Swimming and Driving Lessons
1. “If Beethoven were sent to nursery school today, they would medicate him, and he would be a postal clerk.”
2. “At best, most college presidents are running something that is somewhere between a faltering corporation and a hotel.”
3. “Going to school should be like taking swimming and driving lessons: preparation for something adults continue to wish to do.”
NB: “No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician — and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member — pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.”
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES IN MCWHORTER AND BOTSTEIN
1. McWhorter, born in 1965 is an associate professor of linguistics at Columbia. He is the son of academics and has a PhD in linguistics from Stanford.
2. He has called himself a “cranky liberal Democrat” and was a vocal Obama supporter but has been a trenchant critic of affirmative action and of what he calls “woke racism.”
3. Botstein was born in Switzerland in 1946. Both parents were Polish-Jewish physicians. Botstein is also a conductor. He has a PhD in music from Harvard.
NB: Botstein established the Bard Music Festival in 1990 and has been conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra since 1992. He has performed or recorded for the London Symphony, the New York City Opera, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others.
THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY ARE AVAILABLE HERE:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.