What Colleges Will Teach in 2025

Friday, September 27, 2013
Humanities Writ Large

Following the TIME Summit on Higher Education, Jon Meacham, an executive editor at Random House, the author of the Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and a visiting faculty member at Vanderbilt University, authored a column for Time Magazine where he explored the issue of what it means to be a truly educated college graduate. He writes:

At the heart of the debate between traditionalists (who love a core) and many academics (who prefer to teach more specialized courses and allow students more freedom to set their own curriculums) is a tension between two different questions about the purposes of college. There are those who insist that the key outcome lies in the answer to “What should every college graduate know?”... Others ask, What should every college graduate know how to do?

Those three additional words contain multitudes. The prevailing contemporary vision, even in the liberal arts, emphasizes action: active thought, active expression, active preparation for lifelong learning. Engaging with a text or question, marshaling data and arguments and expressing oneself takes precedence over the acquisition of general knowledge.

He proposes that individual instutions need to determine for themselves how to address these questions and assess their own graduates. He closes with his belief that "The college graduate who can think creatively is going to stand the greatest chance of not only doing well but doing some good too."