Paul Johnson on universities

Poor behaviour at universities has been in the press recently so I thought it might be interesting to post what British historian Paul Johnson had to say about the role of those institutions:

Indeed, the study of universities and the great men and women who have attended them leads me to think that the best of these schools are characterized not so much by what they teach and how they teach it but by the extent they provide opportunities and encouragement for students to teach themselves. The best also help to instill certain intellectual virtues in young minds, including respect for the indispensable foundation of democracy, the rule of law; the need to back up opinions with clear arguments, empirical evidence and hard work; the varying importance of resolute conviction and friendly compromise, when appropriate; open-mindedness at all times; and the perpetual need for courage in the pursuit of truth.

Then there is Bryan Caplan’s view of education nicely summarised here.

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5 Responses to Paul Johnson on universities

  1. struth

    Universities are now doing more harm than good to our societies.

    Time to get them back to basics.
    Medicine and the sciences and not degrees in vaginal meat curtain celebration.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    the best of these schools are characterized not so much by what they teach and how they teach it but by the extent they provide opportunities and encouragement for students to teach themselves

    Why ever would universities allow students to teach themselves?
    They might learn something heretical.
    Like free market capitalism and individual responsibility.
    Can’t have that.

  3. Megan

    I Just reread Caplan’s book ahead of a presentation I was giving on the dire state of education in this country from my purely subjective point of view.

    Current policy decisions are made on the basis of “Education is Good. More Education is Better”. And what and how to teach is now under the total control of policy wonks, bureaucrats and credentialed but totally lacking ein experience ‘educators’. Im not saying there are not great schools and great teachers out there but standards are clearly declining and more money, more teachers, more buildings, small class sizes, Safe Schools, sustainability, Respectful Relationships, bike-ed, water safety, obesity and wellness programs, welcomes to country and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens have not managed to produce, after 13 years of schooling, young people who have the basics of literacy or numeracy. Almost 20 Australian children out of one hundred are at a level of performance that is “too low to enable them to participate effectively and productively in life.”

    A complete matter of shame for a first world country.

  4. Megan

    Quote fail…i totally swear my fingers never went near the quote button. Plus I’m on a keyboard today so cannot blame accidental swipe. That rant is all mine.

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