Further to my previous post on the role of vocational training in Higher Education, I was struck by this refreshingly measured perspective on education and training by A C Grayling – Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London – writing in the New Statesmen.
In response to impending spending cuts in the humanities, Grayling asks us to question the fundamental role of Higher Education. Addressing the current ‘hybrid’ nature of universities, he argues for a balance between training and what he calls ‘proper’ education:
“Engineers and biochemists can benefit from thinking about ethics and politics (they might find themselves working in the oil industry in developing countries where already vulnerable lives might be adversely affected by what they do). In the other direction, literary scholars can benefit from training in logic and the social sciences… both training and education are necessary. To fail to explain to someone the point of being trained in a skill is to halve its value, while to invite people to reflect and discuss if they know little and cannot reason is futile. But are engineers taught ethics? Are students of literature schooled in logic?”
This, argues Grayling, requires a “proper mixture of training and education that advanced study should deliver.” Yet a Higher Education that is increasingly driven by models of economic efficiency and scientific bias can only lead to restrictions in both time and resources, squeezing out opportunities for critical and reflective learning.
In a comment on my previous post, Virginia Yonkers expressed concern over prevailing business-orientated approaches to education in the US, at the expense of “the development of future members of our society… new solutions to problems, fairness in the distribution of resources, and an engaged civil society.”
In a similar vein, Grayling concludes by suggesting:
“Society certainly needs engineers, physicists, doctors, computer specialists, biochemists and geologists. But it also needs its lawyers, journalists, politicians, civil servants, writers, artists and teachers – and it needs everyone on both sides of the science-humanities divide to be a thoughtful voter, good neighbour, loving parent, responsible citizen. In short, society needs to have a civilised conversation with itself about its values and about what is to be learned from the experience of mankind.”