Cultural Psychology

White Paper: Materialism, Idealism, and Higher Education in California

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I’ve just completed a new White Paper on public higher education policy in California.  Here is an abstract:

For the last 50 years, a belief that building a robust and competitive state economy should predominate California’s public higher education goals has become increasingly prevalent, and today it is taken as an unchallenged assumption. This White Paper emphatically rejects that assumption, and argues that broader cultural and social goals are of equal, if not greater importance for Californians’ well-being than purely economic ones; and that to achieve these broader social goals we must place more emphasis on humanities and the classical model of liberal education.

A more detailed Executive Summary is included with the paper.   You can download a copy to read here, at the Californians for Higher Education Reform website.

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  1. This is an excellent effort. I struggle with the business paradigm that pervades all aspects of our lives, including higher education (if it is not good for finding a job, it’s not worth teaching). The case you have made against materialism is refreshing.

    I offer a half-baked thought on the role of business. You argue that the business sector can benefit from a liberal education because of all the soft skills that come with it, e.g., critical thinking. I am not so sure that we can seek this synergy. While some positions most definitely do need workers with such skills, there are many positions that (from the point of view of an individual business) are best filled by a diligent worker with solid technical skills who doesn’t rock the boat. As you mention, debt plays a role in this. A worker saddled with debt presents less of a challenge to authority. In the same way, a critical thinker presents a greater challenge to authority. While the business sector (and society) as a whole would benefit from critical thinkers unburdened by debt, I suspect that most individual businesses would not welcome the change you propose. (I also suspect that similar arguments may hold against other so-called special interests.)

    It seems that the same battle against materialism you are fighting in higher education should be waged in all sectors of society.


    April 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

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