Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Caught in the ACT

    <ny scholars in the media have recently expressed their concern regarding citizen apathy and civic disengagement. Last week, in fact, an op-ed article appeared in the New York Times that reported on “The End of Education As We Know It.” Contributor and Columbia professor, Mark Taylor, wrote on what he has seen at his own university and across the country: “emphasis on narrow scholarship” and “limited knowledge that all too often is irrelevant for genuinely important problems.” Indeed, as a whole, reports assert that if current downward trends in civic involvement continue, our political and social systems will be undermined, leading to general societal decline.

    Over the past few decades the figures have been startling: survey research on college students put together by the American Council on Education found that in the late 1960’s more than 80% of freshman endorsed “the importance of developing a meaningful philosophy of life” as their top value. In 1999, 71% endorsed “being well off financially” as their top concern. Material well-being has taken precedence over personal and community values. Research also suggests that today’s youth are generally less civically engaged than their previous counterparts. The proportion of college freshman who feel it is important to keep up on political affairs was halved from 1966 to 1998 (58% to 26%, a record low). Generally students are not feeling the social responsibilities towards their communities, or towards the world as a whole, that they were feeling 30 years ago.

    As a solution to this overarching social decline, Taylor proposes drastic change in higher education to “problem-focused” programs, as compared to departmental programs, that would involve collaboration between all different departments and completely transform the current way that students learn. What would it be like if we incorporated this “problem-based” model at Carleton? The trend has already started with ACE courses that combine coursework with community needs and with ENTS capstones that have provided some substantial recommendations to the college and the surrounding community. What is education for, if not to gain the knowledge to be capable of giving back? It is something to talk about…stop by the ACT office to talk about what you can do now for the Northfield community.

    Leave a Comment
    More to Discover

    Comments (0)

    All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *