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The Meaning of Higher Education Essay

Whether it is in a developed country or in a developing one, higher education is a crucial and decisive part to the development of any societies. Higher education provides knowledge necessary for people so that when they graduate they can do well in their jobs and professions. So what exactly is the true purpose of higher education? Graduating from a good college with a high GPA does not provide anyone with a guaranteed success because the true purpose of college-level education is to teach people how to think.

The most successful people do not always graduate from top-ranked universities. Joe Queenan listed some famous examples in his “Matriculation Fixation”: “Bill Gates, David Geffen, Michael Dell, Graydon Carter and Madonna are all college dropouts. Ronald Reagan attended tiny Eureka College, while Warren Buffet went to Football U in Lincoln, Neb. ” (Queenan 380) There are in total more than 4,000 public and private colleges in US and there is a ranking of them. Most people have a wrong belief that if they attend higher ranked colleges, they can be guaranteed a rich, full life.

Queenan wrote: “Such individuals believe that securing admission to a top-flight university provides a child with an irrevocable passport to success, guaranteeing a life of uninterrupted economic mirth” (Queenan 379). In fact, it is not always true. I agree that higher ranked universities may provide a better environment to develop, but they do not include all the best students. Many smart and talented students cannot go to good universities not because of their academic ability, but because their financial state just allows them to go to lower ranked and cheaper ones.

Good land does help, but a good plant itself is still the most important. Furthermore, success does not just depend on intelligence, it depends a lot more on social skills, communication skills, creativity, diligence, etc. That’s why, Queenan wrote: “In real life, some children get the finest education but still become first-class screw-ups”; “Some of those boys and girls who are most likely to succeed are going to end up on welfare or skid row” (Queenan 379). The ones who get the best education may not be the most successful ones.

For example, one student who can study well, get into a top school but he feels satisfied with himself and becomes lazy, another one who can study not as good, get into a lower ranked school but he is more hard working. The second student is most likely to be more successful than the first one. The incorrect thoughts that the rank of the school or our intelligence will decide our chance of becoming successful are corrupting the true purpose of higher education. Beside the rank of the school we study and our smartness, our grades are regarded as the most important achievement after 4 years of colleges.

Along our long road of education, our academic abilities are graded. Consequently, the transcript becomes a kind of proof and acknowledgement for our ability. However, what is the point of getting high grades if we forget the knowledge right after the final exam of a course? The grades do not help us do the job; it is the knowledge and skills we study that help. Roberta Borkat’s “A Liberating Curriculum” is her idea about giving students inflated grades and positive comments that they have not earned: “All students enrolled in each course will receive a final grade of A” (Borkat 340).

She explained her idea: “Under my plan both students would be guaranteed an A. Why not? They have good looks and self-esteem. What more could anyone ever need in life? ” (Borkat 341). Most of her students did not care about knowledge; they just cared about at the end of the semester they will get an A, B, C, D or F. She believes that it would be much easier if she could just give away an A to everyone without wasting her students’ time to finish papers and her time to grade them. Maybe it was just an intention and she did not actually do it but it showed us how much more the students care about the grades than the actual knowledge they study.

Leonard J. Kent also talked about how the grading system is changing what education is about in his “Traditional Graduate Grading and the Gold Star Syndrome. ” He wrote: When I speak of the gold star syndrome I make reference to the traditional grading approaches perpetuating and reinforcing the unfortunate tendency of our society to latch on to, and to cling to, a quantitative rather than qualitative system of measurement, so that what becomes crucial is neither what you do nor the joy you discover in what you do, but rather, how much you make or how many hours you work.

Translated into the college situation, the question becomes neither what you have learned, nor the joy you may have found in learning, but, rather, what are your grades? (Kent 3) Grades are now getting more important than the true quality of the education. They are attached much more importance than they actually have. Grades are not always your true ability. They sometimes include chances, luck, mistakes, etc. As a result, this quantitative measurement may be unfair to students who pursue the true quality and joy of education.

People who graduate with high grades may not perform well in their professions because their grades do not reflect their true ability, while some talented ones who unfortunately do not get very good grades keep being rejected by companies and do not have chance to contribute to the society. The traditional A-F grading system needed to be fixed to fit to the true purpose of education. So finally what is the purpose of higher education? The very true purpose of education is to teach people how to think, or in other words, how to react.

In Earl Shorris’ “On the Uses of Liberal Education: As a Weapon in the Hands of the Restless Poor”, he wrote: “The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you” (Shorris 425). When we go to college, our thought s should not only be about degrees, grades or the number of credits it is required to graduate, but they should also be what we can learn, how we can use that knowledge after graduating.

The challenges, tests, papers we finish in college and the knowledge we study enrich our mind and become the fun of education, the fun of knowing more. Shorris wrote: “You must do it because you want to study the humanities, because you want a certain kind of life, a richness of mind and spirit” (Shorris 426). We have to make college degrees become more valuable. They should not merely be pieces of paper that provide access to jobs, high salary and good standards of living. Higher education has become one of the most concerned matters in any countries, but it is now forgetting about its true purpose.

Degrees, grades, rank of schools should all be secondary next to the knowledge we study from college. I believe higher education should do more than it currently does to fulfill its function of training critical thinkers, rather than being a factory that produces a mass of graduates without caring about their quality. Works Cited Borkat, Roberta F. “A Liberating Curriculum. ” Reading Life: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. Inge Fink, Gabrielle Gautreaux. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. 340-343. Kent, Leonard J.

“Traditional Graduate Grading and the Gold Star Syndrome”. Washington, D. C: Council of Graduate Schools in the U. S. , 1969. Queenan, Joe. “Matriculation Fixation. ” Reading Life: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. Inge Fink, Gabrielle Gautreaux. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. 378-381. Shorris, Earl. “On the Uses of Liberal Education: As a Weapon in the Hands of the Restless Poor. ” TEXT Messages: A Collection of Resources for Writers. Ed. Reggie J. Poche, Kim C. McDonald, Sarah DeBacher. Southlake, TX: Fountainhead 2008. 421-434.


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