Listen up, readers: I have a question for you.
Buried in yesterday’s post on the long-term decline of educational standards was this observation by Professor George Reisman that I’ve been struck by for some time:
Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the mis-education provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being ‘simple, uneducated men.’” [Emphasis mine.]
So here’s the question: I know many of you regular readers have been to college—or as we call it here, university. How does that gibe with your own experience?
In other words:
How much of the essential content of how many major books did your
brain hold after you graduated?
We all know that many students emerge from universities knowing less than they did when they entered; graduating with heads full of random, unintegrated bites of information, and arguments they’re aware (deep down) they’ve never really mastered.
We know you can leave today's universities without every having heard of the giants of your own field; that you can be given an economics degree having never read (or read of) Adam Smith; or an architecture degree without ever getting to grips with Frank Lloyd Wright; or a philosophy degree without ever even encountering, or wrestling with Aristotle.
We know all that—or do we?
How does your own experience gibe with any or all of these observation? I’d love to know.
UPDATE: Just to make it easier, why not answer these three questions for me:
a)How many major books were you required to read in your uni course?
b) How much of those did your brain hold after you graduated?
c) How many of the leading figures of your discipline were you introduced to, and in what depth?
For my own part…
a) I studied at two architecture schools, the first of which (Victoria Uni of Wellington) was lucky to even own one-hundred architecture books. Fortunately, that particular situation was improved at Auckland, though one was more encouraged to read magazines on post-modernism than actual books. So I’d have to say that I was required to read very few—but between them the Auckland architecture and main libraries allowed me to read several hundred (which somewhat made up for the paucity of the education on offer).
b) I’d like to think I managed to digest them all, but a more integrated (it could hardly have been less) course would have helped.
c) Aside from historian Russell Walden, the lecturers I encountered at the Wellington school in my day seemed completely unaware that any architects existed apart from Ian Athfield, Roger Walker and the luminaries at the Ministry of Works (yes, possums, that does show my vintage). And in Auckland, if you didn’t subscribe to a mongrel combination of Le Corbusier and the Deconstructivist-de-jour you might as well have been dead—which pretty much describes the response if any enthusiasm for learning more about Frank Lloyd Wright was shown.
So those are my answers. How about yours?