‘The next generation of college professors should think in terms of working outside the ‘mainstream’ university world’
Great Books scholar Colin Pearce, who has spent the last several decades of his life in front of a classroom, said he’s leaving academia with a sense of trepidation, as the classical liberal education enjoyed by students of the past is no longer what today’s young scholars experience.
“There is a great demand placed on the university by the corporate sector for a supply of ‘credentialed’ students to serve their operations,” Pearce said. “Then there is the pressure from the political sphere to make the university cohere with the most strongly trending opinions in the public square.”
“Whatever insulation the university had against these forces in the past has long since dissolved.”
Pearce, in an email interview with The College Fix, said much needs to change to fix higher education for future generations.
“The next generation of college professors should think in terms of working outside the ‘mainstream’ university world,” he said. “They should keep their eye out for newly emerging institutions that stand for a ‘Back to the Future’ approach to higher education.”
Pearce is retiring from Clemson University, where he served as a professor for the school’s Lyceum Program since its founding in 2014.
The program, housed within the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, works to explore capitalism’s moral, political and economic foundations. Pearce said he believes programs like the Lyceum initiative at Clemson are the cure to “the diseases which ail the modern university.
“The graduate of the Lyceum Program is a student who can readily explain to anyone interested why humane learning is at the heart of true education and how the student who has been exposed to it will differ in certain fundamental characterological respects from the one who has not,” Pearce told The Fix.
During his tenure at Clemson, Pearce taught a variety of political lecture courses within and outside of the Lyceum curriculum, including American political thought, political terrorism, political theory, international relations, comparative politics and American government, according to the university.
“Professor Pearce is the Socrates of the Lyceum Program. Like Socrates, he spent a lifetime talking to young people about the most important things. He also shares another quality with Socrates, namely the intrepid pursuit of truth. And, like Socrates, Pearce has always stood his ground. He is an intellectual warrior and will be impossible to replace,” stated C. Bradley Thompson, executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism.
Pearce, in his interview with The Fix, said the outcome of the current “managerial revolution” on American educational institutions is creating the “ideal student” who, instead of developing critical thinking skills and becoming an enlightened member of society, is “deployable in the modern economy and feigns sensitivity to any and all articulated grievances to do with inequality, race, gender, environment, climate and so on.”
Making matters worse, many of today’s freshmen enter college without the requisite academic skill set to succeed, he said.
“The contemporary undergraduate’s knowledge of history, geography, politics and related subjects is for the most part beneath measurement,” he told The Fix.
Today’s college students’ English skills are wildly underdeveloped, he said, adding that “reading Federalist 10 becomes a challenge of Everest proportions.”
The professoriate of today also lacks rigor, he said.
Since he entered the university system as an instructor in the nineties, he said he has observed that “the demographic profile of the professoriate has changed dramatically and the standards of the ‘Old Guard’ have faded away.”
IMAGE: Clemson University