Many Do Not Understand What a Quality Education Is
30 December 2016 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
Mr. Y, an intelligent observer asks: "Is a 'quality higher education' simply a title for going to the right school or is it actually an education? And, is it possible to get an education from the wrong school or without a school at all? And isn't it true that many graduate from a 'quality' school without ever being an elite? (Like my brother who has a PhD from Harvard.) I think an education from the right place is an essential feature of elitism in our culture but it's not enough to define it. You wouldn't ban the education but you might make your opportunities based on what you know and how you function rather than on where you went.
Kimball Corson It is an education, of course. But the rest is not entirely true. A top quality education is obtained from excellent professors in small classes of excellent students who are all inspired to learn and are guided by those professors on the issues and key points within the dynamics of the class and in interactive discussions, some few during class, and more with students afterward, followed by much study alone with books and published papers later. The top schools and best universities tend to most provide that experience the most often. All else is lesser. Smarts and skills really do rub off from top people who themselves are very smart, dedicated and enthusiastic about their research and teaching.
The educational experience can be, and was for me, elevating, life altering and transformational. I was a smart but somewhat unruly kid going in. When finished, I had had the luxury of having studied under eight then or later Nobel Laureates in my field, several of the best law professors ever (e.g., Richard Posner) and had sat in on multiple additional classes of several other Laureates in other fields (e,g,. Saul Bellow, English; Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, physics). It was a horrendous experience, hard to top anywhere else at any other time. I was lucky. I did not create the opportunity, but I was smart enough to see it developing and take advantage of it.
I did not wind up at the University of Chicago by mistake. I knew what was coming together there and I went for it. One undergraduate professor I had said I was years ahead of myself in these sensibilities. I never doubted it. I knew what work everyone at Chicago was doing and had done before I even arrived there. I got the very best out of my experience.
Later in her life, my mother was an English professor at the University of the Americas in Mexico City and had close ties to Harvard, having "placed" several transfer and graduate students there during her teaching years. After I won a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in economics as an undergrad, and could go anywhere I chose, I applied to Harvard and Chicago, was accepted by both and chose Chicago which I knew I would in advance. My mother had a conniption and hammered me with why. I didn't explain more than to say it was a better opportunity then. Many years later, after I was finished with my education and was practicing law, she told me she had investigated the matter thoroughly and clearly understood why I had chosen as I did and that it was not to spite her as she first thought.
I hear people say all educations are the same and fungible, that top universities are a sham, that it is all baloney. That you can learn it all yourself, that it is all what the student does and not much of it really matters later except what you do later. Surveys show most Millennials think it is more who you know, than what you know and have learned that matters more for success.
Such is the horrible state of anti-intellectualism in our age. Misinformation is rampant and people are genuinely adrift.