With all the talk today about education, no one talks about the importance of a liberal education. Despite the Conservative hatred of the word liberal, it means “free.” It is the education that free men should have in order to be able to govern themselves. In the old days, when voting was limited to white men who owned land, they were the only ones who needed a liberal education. Now that everybody can vote, everybody needs a liberal education. We were close to that goal in the 1960’s with the rise of cheap state universities and community colleges, but as governments have gone bankrupt, that ideal has disappeared.
Instead of seeing education as a resource that should be widely available, it is a commercial enterprise that is expensive, even for no-name colleges and universities. Thus it has become all about money, not about learning. All the students and the professors care about are salable skills. Universities have become trade schools rather than centers of learning.
The Denver Post ran a front page article on higher education Sunday, but it was all about money — funding for education. Doing a search of the page, I did not find a single reference to the liberal arts, which was the most important role of a university a few decades ago, and certainly a hundred years ago. Higher education has changed, and not for the better. The “bottom line” was that it’s looking more and more like the State of Colorado will soon quit funding higher education entirely.