Thursday, 27 June 2013


Writing is not about the "cash-value" of education as today's mainstream political and business culture has convinced students, parents and educators alike. (This is not to blame William James philosophy of pragmatism, though many critics argued that he is the source of this marketplace mindset.) Nor is writing a matter of just another skill, like knowing how to work the latest gadgets on a cell phone. Writing is a reflection of thinking, that is critical, reason-based, reflective thinking. Above all writing is a reflection of a creative mind, although by no means is creativity limited to the domain of writing. In a society that has reduced education to the business model.

It is true that the top  liberal arts colleges and universities in many parts of the world have what we call "core requirements" in the curriculum. This means three to six credit hours of math, history, literature, foreign languages, etc. The struggle inside the universities is between the core requirements advocates and the advocates of the student's major and minor fields of concentration who want greater flexibility for the student to choose from a basket of what are called "electives". If one studies the trend, even in major US universities, it becomes clear that the core curriculum has shrunk significantly, while there has been a struggle between courses in the major and electives. Even worse, there has been a trend to dilute content within courses, essentially making elective courses "fluffier" so students choose them. In short, the "mass culture or people magazine approach" to the curriculum is another dimension of this problem, one for which administrators, professors as well as the broader community is responsible.
I am not surprised that people even ask whether writing matters, any more than I would be surprised if the same people asked that learning math, music, art, literature or anything outside of one's very narrow field of career-oriented goal matters. Some argue that technology is to blame for the current apathy toward writing or anything related to a solid liberal arts education that has its roots in the Renaissance Era and continues through the Enlightenment when intellectuals saw the value to the individual and society in education the general population.

When I was in higher education, students were well aware that society, that is the political and business culture, wanted them to become super-specialized in their very narrow fields. The argument was that their employer would train them, if it became necessary to have a certain skill such as writing a simple memo or letter. Education as cash-value oriented for the sole purpose of serving businesses and not enriching the individual through creative endeavors and through service to society at large is as pathetic as government and business not wanting human beings to think for themselves because blind loyalty is the only thing that matters.

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