Whatever happened to the purpose of a college or university being to educate students with truth that will shape their hearts and minds? Or was that ever the intention? It seems that the shift in education to an experience is connected with another type of problem; the idea that making money and having a good reputation is more important than what kinds of graduates are actually being produced.
Inputs vs. Outputs
It is common in many areas of life to assume that our success is based on or directly proportionate to our amount of activity. A man goes to the gym and thinks he is successful because he did a lot of repetitions with a large amount of weight, but his form was bad. A woman thinks she did a good thing because she gave ten dollars to a man at the gas station who said he was in need, but she didn’t ask him his name or find out how he got there. Educational institutions pump large amounts of money into all kinds of things, including instruction, but often stop short of asking what the activities and instruction produce.
What does it mean to educate someone? If a school has a large library, does it mean people are educated? If a school has 20 nationally recognized professors who have each written two books, does it mean students are being educated? If a major university builds a seven million dollar basketball arena, does it mean students are learning?
The real question should be, “Can a student demonstrate competency with the knowledge that was gained?”
Institutions don’t like the implications of a move towards purely outcome-based assessment because it doesn’t guarantee a revenue stream. Someone could learn elsewhere and come in with competency. The institutions will begin to lose their illusion of power over knowledge and will be forced to more effectively evaluate both students as well as their own institutions.
The hesitation towards measuring competency is also because many colleges and universities are more like businesses. They care about money. So they end up dragging their feet when it comes to assessing themselves, unless they think assessment will somehow bring in more money. When you have an agenda that is anything other than making an honest evaluation of yourself, you are sure to make yourself look better than you actually are. That is exactly what happens, and it’s why colleges market themselves as a place to get a great experience instead of a great education.
Why should we not go even further, and push educational institutions to demonstrate not only what kind of things students can do with what they learn, but also demonstrate what kinds of people they are becoming? Aristotle said, “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Paul the Apostle said, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). If you give a corrupt, arrogant, entitled, greedy, self-indulgent young person the ability to navigate the business world or to build jet engines, what do you think he will produce? If you intend to shape the heart and the mind with knowledge of the truth in humility, you will get an entirely different result.
What do you think? Do you, or most people you know measure the effectiveness of a college primarily by its activities and its longstanding tradition, or by the types of graduates it produces and how they are able to live?