Friday, May 25, 2012

Debating Higher Education

Dale Stephens and Michael Ellsberg raise a lot of points that we in the LCMS would do well to keep in mind. There are too many to mention, but one of them that really struck me is how the argument for the liberal arts degree is starting to sound more and more like the logic behind a subprime mortgage. I've paraphrased that somewhat, but the point stands.

By the way, I haven't read Michael's latest book yet (actually, I drafted this post back in December, I have read it now that it's May), but it's called The Education of Millionaires (aff link) and it looks very interesting (it is).

And please, please don't think that either of these men are anti-college or anti-education. They're just pointing out specific reasons why the status quo isn't good enough, and that the conditions on which education is structured have changed, and that the structure is failing under the new conditions.

(Or, think of it this way: when Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted Lutheran Church in Lake Wobegon, MN, was founded, all of the parishioners spoke German. The congregation's charter and organizational documents are all in German, the children speak and read German, the liturgy is conducted in German, the lessons and the sermon are given in German. Fast forward 100 years and everyone in Lake Wobegon speaks English and they don't know any German. That's a change in condition. They'll need to translate their documents into English, start teaching people German, or something, but the one thing they can't do is act as if conditions have not changed.)

Change is coming. We in the LCMS need to decide if we're going to be the ants or the grasshopper. We can see this coming change as an opportunity to be trailblazers and leaders (creating an example for others to follow) and setting new benchmarks, or, failing that, we will allow ourselves to become victims of circumstances from which we will not fully recover.

If we fail to innovate in the education sector, we're going to have a lot in common with Sony (think Walkman vs. iPod and traditional music distribution vs. the iTunes store).

One final note: the coming sea change is not limited to higher education. ALL Lutheran schools need to start thinking differently.

Ok, that last note was actually the penultimate note: It's important to know what needs to change, as well as what should not, must not, and cannot change (lest you think I'm saying anything along the lines of "God is still speaking..." or the Book of Concord is a living document).

[Note: I've been going through some of my unpublished drafts, this being one of them. Even if they're not perfect, I might just push them out the door anyway. This one seemed appropriate since most colleges and grad schools have finished their academic year, and high school graduations are just around the corner.]

UPDATE: This topic is especially important in light of decisions like this. Changes are coming to higher education, but even a move like putting a CUS school under the custody of another CUS school is just the tip of the iceberg.