College Years Is The Time To Get Cultured
The history of higher education is a complex and, for the most part, a very undemocratic one. Painting it in a few broad strokes feels almost like cheating, but for the purpose of this article, we will have to do so. Also, the author would like to point out that this over-simplified history of higher education is going to be massively Euro-centric.
The Brief (and Oversimplified) History of College Education
Most experts would agree that university education has its roots in both Muslim and Christian monastic schools, as well as other educational facilities which provided young members of various religious orders with some kind of education about the world around them. Of course, some analogues of university education also existed in Ancient times, like for instance in Ancient Greece, Persia, China and India.
It wasn’t until the 11th century and the founding of the University of Bologna that we got our first university in the modern sense of the word. Other universities followed and for the next few centuries, they provided total aristocracy with a very broad education which was still much more than the rest of the population could hope for.
During the Enlightenment and due to the paradigm shift brought upon the French Revolution, college education became available to more people, as well as more secular in nature. All of a sudden, students became the ones driving for change, introducing new ideas and ensuring the human race takes a progressive course.
Then, in the 20th century, as universities started transforming into companies, college students also started undergoing certain changes. The only goal became graduating as quickly as possible, with as many connections as possible so that they can get a nice, cushy job that will allow us to purchase unnecessary stuff.
And this is sad.
Culture as a Way of Life
The college years are supposed to be so much more than chasing some corporate or semi-corporate dream where your only goal is to wrap things up as quickly as possible, get that degree, get a job and start repaying those student loans. This is especially indicative in the American higher education system, where the student loans have become so impactful that they have started discouraging some people from even attempting to enroll the best colleges.
The college years are supposed to be a time when a young (or old, why not?) person becomes cultured. This is where we have to differentiate between the notion of being cultured as simply knowing something about literature, philosophy and arts and being cultured in the sense of opening one’s mind to world’s numerous and unlimited influences. In other words, college years should be the time when you let the world in.
Culture as a way of life is opening your mind to opinions, influences and world views that you might otherwise discard completely. It is the ability to hear everyone and to formulate an opinion on something only after you have been exposed to as many influences as possible. It is a time when you dive into the darker parts of your being, try to shine some light on them, and emerge from the experience a wiser person, much like Dante did so many centuries ago.
The New Age of Culture
Unlike Mr. Alighieri, who; despite all of his many talents and carefully honed technical skill, was limited by his upbringing, his religious and cultural background and a constrained knowledge of the world, today’s bright young minds are able to learn and absorb so much more. We are not saying they will be able to accomplish more than Mr. Alighieri (in fact, we seriously doubt it), but the modern age provides the potential to do so.
For example, you once had to live in one of the dozen cultural centers of the world in order to be exposed to the highest achievements in the field of theatre, opera or visual arts. These days, websites like Cennarium or one of the many virtual museum tours allows you to consume culture no matter where you live. You can watch classes and take part in workshops taught and organized by the leading experts in their fields regardless of where you come from.
The world we live in also allows college students to get in touch with more people than ever before, both in their area, and also half the globe away. If, for example, a student from Germany wants to get in touch with the leading expert in their field who happens to live in Japan, it can be done in a matter of seconds. The exchange of ideas has been made easy to such an extent that it truly does feel we all live in the same town.
The Bright Future?
The business of the college education is here to stay. That is the unfortunate state of things. That being said, the opportunities that present themselves to the modern college students are so varied and so attainable that we feel optimistic.
We honestly believe the day will come when college students will once again remember their role as the initiators of the progressive way of thinking and life.
Author Bio: James D. Burbank has always been interested in the ways technology is changing our world, especially when it comes to education and business. If you have the time, check out his blog — BizzMarkBlog.