Are universities just about the young and the many?
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
There were several thoughtful responses to last week’s column on Dr. Anne Moore’s ideal of the university.
As you may recall, Anne spoke of three identities of the university at its best: as a place of research, a place of teaching, and more recently, a place for initiating youthful students into an adult world.
Coffee companion Pamela Showler, formerly of our Bow Valley and now doing graduate studies in religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, was not entirely comfortable with Anne’s analysis. She wrote:
I asked Anne Moore her thoughts on Pamela’s letter. Anne said:
“Ms. Showler's quote was great. And I certainly do not mean to imply that university is only for the young. In fact, it is probably the mature students who best preserve the ideals of the university because they usually are there with the understanding of learning about their community, society, and the world. They are less concerned with the job training aspect. She is correct about us doing something about this.”
Canmore coffee companion Dr. Josie Wilson Emmett, recently retired from her Calgary medical practice, picked up on Anne’s concerns over dangers to the classic model of the university. Josie wrote:
I asked Anne to comment on Josie’s letter. She responded:
“Very interesting comments. Dr. Wilson is correct that the democratization of the university has resulted in the increase of student enrollment compared to the elite status of the universities in the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods. This did create one of the major paradoxes of current university education. We wanted an informed, intelligent, and critical populace, and believed that one of the best ways to achieve this was to urge people to attend the university. However, this goal of education for the benefit of society is now losing out to the concerns of job training.”
Then there’s something my Grade 9 grandson, Thomas, said recently in a speech. Although his words were in praise of the school he attends in Calgary, they also speak to the professionalism and personal interest that characterize Anne’s ideal university. One of the things he liked best about his school, he said, was that it had “teachers that cared about both their jobs and their students.”
And so the great conversation continues.
© 2008 Warren Harbeck