"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Refusing Federal Call to Dumb Down College

Thank you, Dr. Sullivan:
CANTON, N.Y. (AP) _ The president of St. Lawrence University used a commencement speech on Sunday to champion liberal arts education and criticize federal education officials for an agenda that will "dumb down" U.S. higher education.

Daniel Sullivan reminded the 551 graduates that they came to the upstate New York campus for an education "in the liberal arts," not a "professional education, or technical education, or vocational education _ it is education for life, education that inspires students to be lifelong learners."

Singling out U.S. Education Department Secretary Margaret Spellings, Sullivan went on to say a federal commission's report last year on the future of higher education is a "national embarrassment."

He acknowledged that some of the criticisms from the so-called "Spellings Commission" are valid, but "the medicines proposed for curing the problems will in most cases make things worse."

Sullivan, president of St. Lawrence since 1996, will serve next year as chairman of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization of 1,100 institutions.

Promoting "liberal education" is among the association's initiatives because it has become "more and more necessary for almost all kind of work and life in a modern society like ours," he said.

An association survey of U.S. business leaders cited by Sullivan found they "reject a higher education approach that focuses narrowly on providing knowledge and skills in a specific field" and favor "a balance of a well-rounded education and knowledge and skills in a specific field."

Sullivan said the federal commission report lacks detail on what a "high-quality, 21st Century education" should be, doesn't value faculty and would replace the current college accreditation system with standardized test results _ "a one-size fits all federal government constructed form of accreditation" _ rather than peer reviews.

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