LO in Higher Ed. LO7577

Thu, 23 May 1996 09:45:04 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO in Higher Ed LO7516

Bravo Ben Wagner who wrote, "While I believe it is important to teach
these [James Needham's list] skills, I think it is a shared responsibility
between the individual, the education system, and business. I would
expect that the party with the most to gain, would take on most of the

When I read James Needham's list of essential skills for college grads, my
first throught was, "Are these skills essential _only_ from college
grads?" Like Ben, I wonder if business is not looking for an educated
goose to lay a golden employee egg.

Similarly, many students and graduates of our esteemed institutions of
higher learning look at a sheep skin as a guarantee for employment and
success. Everyone is looking for a return on their investment.
Businesses look to education to provide a constant supply of job- ready,
reality-based, education-on-demand, trained workers. Students expect to
never again have to grace the halls of academia once they graduate. And
colleges and universities are looking for the fatted calf in an
ever-increasingly and narrowing market. Viewed another way, everyone is
feeling that someone or something _owes_ them.

Historically, higher education can be collapsed into four major categories
(according to Hal Bender): (1) to facilitate change in a dynamic society,
(2) to support and maintain good social order, (3) to promote
productivity, and (4) to enhance personal growth. These categories must
be interrelated. Success or failure in one affects all others.

The purpose of education derives from a need to remain current in the wake
of rapid change and increasing knowledge. It has two dimensions, one
social, the other material. To support and maintain social order,
education must _assist_ in building groups within communities that
identify common problems and then _participate_ in solving them.
Promoting productivity is manifested at two levels. The first is the
organizational or institutional level where education should enhance
individual performance as a means toward organizational effectiveness
(training & development). The second level is to promote productivity at
the societal level. And finally, personal growth oriented programs
operate on at least three levels-- the relational level, on the
self-actualization level, and on the enrichment level.

I wish it were as simple as _one_ avenue as proposed by John Warfield. It
may very well be that "The avenue begins with the recognition that the
infrastructure of the university is not organized to suport the kind of
learning that is required." Perhaps we are looking for a utilitarian
approach to intellectual tradition in the workplace. A question to be
asked is, "Is this the principle role and responsibility solely of higher
education?" Are we seeking education _only_ for organizational
effectiveness through the enhancement of employee competence? Are we
_training_ merely to improve employee performance in their present job?
Are we _educating_ employes for future well-defined positions in the
organization? Are we _developing_ learning for the general growth of the
individual or organization, and why?

Enough musing for today.


          Peter L. Heineman, Manager of Contract Training      
          University of Nebraska at Omaha                      
          College of Continuing Studies                        
          1313 Farnam Street                                   
          Omaha, NE  68182-0335                                
          (402) 595-2340  FAX (402) 595-2345                   
          Internet: pheineman@unomaha.edu                      
       Education is a training in the middle way
       between the dogmatic belief in absolutes
       and the cynical negation of all belief.
       Benjamin Barber

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