The growing chorus of higher education critics calling for change is eliciting some public resistance by the academic establishment. But if the reasoning in a recent rebuttal to such criticism by John Tierney, a former Georgetown University and Boston College political science professor, is representative of how the Ivory Tower thinks, the need for reform is even more urgent than previously imagined. Educators need to be clear-thinking to train the young, not muddled and illogical.
In an article in the Atlantic, “Let’s Calm Down About Higher Education,” Tierney took issue with critics who question higher education’s utility, citing articles entitled “How Liberal Arts Colleges Are Failing America” and “Is College a Lousy Investment?” He wrote that higher education is doing just fine financially and intellectually.
He offers two explanations why higher education criticism is proliferating. One is that calls for reform are merely incessant clatter; Tierney considers such critiques to be little more than background noise as it has been for centuries. The other is that critics of academia are often driven by political agendas. He even suggests that there is something nefarious and inappropriate about reformers’ objections: they are “meant to scare, not to inform; to back agendas, not to enlighten or improve.”