Growing up the son of a tenured history professor led me to view universities in high regard—the pinnacle of education and learning.
I’ve since come to see changing behavior as a measure of education and learning. That is, if it didn’t lead you to change your life, how can you say you learned? Without alternate universes to test what would have happened, you can’t test this, so I’m speaking loosely, but I figure you get what I mean.
Well, universities tend to follow the educational model that the teacher knows, the student doesn’t, so the teacher tells information to the student and the student is supposed to change as a result of the information. The student shows his or her knowledge and analytical ability through classroom discussion, writing papers, and responding to questions on tests.
Students in this model learn to accept, not initiate. In my experience, we as a culture coerce and force compliance under threat of punishment.
Considering what behavior that model teaches, it’s compliance. The student follows instruction, without getting to challenge the values of the system nor to explore his or her own.
Students don’t learn to change their lives. They learn not to.
Corporate training and coaching
I’m training and coaching in the corporate world all the time. No corporation I’ve worked with would accept training or coaching that didn’t change employees. They wouldn’t accept teaching that gave employees information and taught them to analyze it to write about it but not act.
I don’t know how well they represent corporations overall, but the ones I work with want their employees to reach their potentials and expand them. They want them to enjoy life more.
My devolving view of universities
While I see signs of the pattern changing, I’ve come to see universities that work on the fact-recall-and-analysis model as far from ideal places to learn. I’m not saying corporations always teach better or that all universities fail their students, but I don’t take for granted that universities teach student to change their lives. In other words, I don’t think they always teach.
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