Regarding a Defense of the Scholarly Life

In an op-ed piece, Bill Maxwell of the St. Petersburg Times writes in defense of the scholarly life. The gist of his thoughts are that as colleges and universities experience greater and greater financial pressure, they are being driven to act like and produce more like businesses rather than true educational institutions. To me this challenges our core value:  what is the true purpose of education? Are we called to be utilitarian and produce workers to fill jobs, or are we called to educate human beings to be thinkers and discerners?

As with much in life these questions represent a continuum with extremes in both directions, and in many ways we need to turn the answers into “yes – and” rather than “either – or”. If we fail to educate with the skills to survive and succeed in the working world, we fail our students. If we fail to educate with the skills to think and challenge and question what it means to be human in our world, we fail our students.

To me that is the value of a liberal arts curriculum, particularly at the undergraduate level. But even at the MBA level, if we fail to address the “greater good” questions, I believe we fail our students. This is why our curriculum must continue to address the “softer skills” like ethics, leadership, etc., and this is why the UST MBA curriculum remains comprehensive.

As the economy continues to founder and we face mounting pressures to do more with less and act more like a business, we will do well to keep in mind our true purpose as members of an academic institution. We must not lose sight of our higher calling.