David Brooks scores again. In today’s New York Times he connects Clayton Christensen’s commencement speech at Harvard to living the “measured” [and meaningful life]. Brooks describes the “well-planned life” and the “summoned self”. If Drucker’s educated person is to master the world’s realities, learning’s outcomes should drive the learning environment, rather than the other way around.
The purpose of any organization—from a governmental agency or nonprofit foundation, to a corporation or a church—exists to create results outside of itself. The result of a school is an educated student, as is a cured patient for a hospital, or a saved soul for a church. The only things that exist inside … are costs, activities, efforts, problems, mediocrity, friction, politics, and crises.
The measured life should surely be a learning outcome and chief among external results for the place of learning.
Eugene Lang criticizes internal results in the liberal arts college:
Today, unlike their forebears, liberal arts colleges do not as a general rule feel impelled to exercise a proactive role in preparing students for service in their communities. Contemporary liberal arts curricula are seldom designed to implement that civic dimension of their missions by reaching beyond the campus environment. Rather, conscious of their established prestige and historic role in higher education, they are substantially consumed by internal academic agendas. [i]
Even the traditional disciplinary knowledge, skills and attitudes, coupled with the integration of a liberal arts approach, only go so far. Institutions like those Lang describes inevitably decline into self-absorption. An emphasis on internal results can taint the entire culture of an institution.
The essential unit of measurement is the unique contribution each graduate makes and will make in the world, for the sake of the world. If each teacher envisions the teaching of theory and practice in this way, then the learning environment will always be a complex mix of globalism, real organizations, faith, knowledge management and integration, application and external results, benchmarked both by civil society’s performance capacity and the impact of individual lives. We must imagine the learning environment as almost blurred beyond recognition in its boundaries, domains and possibilities.
Specifically, this means a graduate will have experienced culture, work, service, knowledge creation, communication, and will have become a complex person. This will involve the critical ability to transform information into applicable knowledge, in all its diverse forms, formation of the practice of living the examined life, and the capacity to reproduce this in others.
Specifically, this also means that the teacher guides the student into relationships, community, international and diverse places and people, work, knowledge products and projects.
What is your tuition dollar buying?
[i] E. Lang. (Winter, 1999). Distinctively American: the liberal arts college. Daedalus. 128:1, 135.