Via Denis Dutton, Camille Paglia offers a criticism of todays college education and appeal to a more job centered approach focused on trades:

Jobs, and the preparation of students for them, should be front and center in the thinking of educators. The idea that college is a contemplative realm of humanistic inquiry, removed from vulgar material needs, is nonsense. The humanities have been gutted by four decades of pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics. They bear little relationship to the liberal arts of broad perspective and profound erudition that I was lucky enough to experience in college in the 1960s.

I have to say I am drawn into argument by her criticism of the humanities and their ills, e.g. “pretentious postmodernist theory and insular identity politics”, and any suggestion that begins with gutting this from the higher education system will catch my ear. However, I don’t know how much of a solution she has offered.

She wants us to “revalorize the trades”, and make sure that “every four-year college or university should forge a reciprocal relationship with regional trade schools”. I agree these are good things, but ultimately the problem lies with the incentives and constraints these institutions face, not with mission statements or relationships.

Until we know exactly why it is that universities aren’t already operating with an “obligation to think in practical terms about the destinies of their charges” we won’t know how to make them be better. Surely parents and students desires and freedom of choice should incentivize them to be effective already. I don’t think imploring them to be different nor a school’s acceptance of a new mission to do so will suffice. I believe the problem is deeper than administrators and professors knowing how to be a good university.