Democratic Higher Education


Hello, everyone. For today’s lesson, we will be learning
about Democratic Higher Education. The primary theorist of this subject is Amy
Gutmann. She’s the current President of the University
of Pennsylvania and author of the book, Democratic Education. As the framework for this lesson, we will
be using Chapter Six – “The Purposes of Higher Education,” from her book. Throughout the chapter, Gutmann asks questions,
such as this one. “Should compulsory schooling extend to college
education?” History tells us that extending the years
of primary school has been successful before, but that may not be the solution for students
of the modern era when considering the following ideas. First, high schools may have failed students
prior to their college enrollments. This can partially explain the next point. There are students that perceive schools more
as prisons than anything else. Extending primary school into the college
years will be like increasing prison sentences for these kinds of students. Lastly, grade schools don’t always help
students develop the character traits they need to successfully contribute as citizens
in a democratic society. These issues need solutions other than extending
mandatory schooling. Although this doesn’t serve as a complete
fix for everything that students may lack in and out of primary school, Gutmann still
argues that students can learn how to think critically about political problems and how
to create opinions that are worth defending. A mastery of these social tools can develop
students as scholars and as effective participants in a democratic society. This leads us to the primary democratic purpose
of a university, which is protection against the threat of democratic tyranny. Students can learn and practice variants of
conscious social reproduction, but there is still democratic control looking to subvert
such intellectual creation. Universities can help prevent subversion in
multiple ways, such as with the following two concepts. The first concept is academic freedom. This right allows scholars to assess existing
theories, established institutions, and widely held beliefs. Scholars can even arrive at unpopular conclusions
without feeling or being judged. There are duties that come with these rights,
though. Scholars must always honor the scholarly standards
of inquiry. They also can’t isolate themselves in an
“ivory tower” to avoid all external influences. They must, however, resist improper ones,
and defend themselves against threats of democratic tyranny. The second right offered from a university
is the freedom of the academy. Improper influences can come from within,
so a university must avoid promoting popularity instead of intellectual merits, failing to
defend faculty against political attacks, and leaving scholars with too many nonacademic
duties. We will now move on to the second democratic
purpose of a university, which is to educate officeholders. As we learn about this second purpose, we
will also be answering this second question from Gutmann. “Why should universities not try to maximize
social value?” Gutmann argues that intellectual merits and
moral principles of nonrepression and nondiscrimination better serve society. A university can teach these values to inspire
citizens to exhibit professional authority in their social practices. Ultimately, this servitude allows a university
to act as an educator of officeholders instead of as a gatekeeper under the influence of
the job market. University communities that maximize the social
good instead of social value, lead us to the final portion of today’s lesson. The third democratic purpose of a university
is that it must be a community of scholars, students, and administrators who share intellectual
and educational values. This leaves us with the last question from
Gutmann. “Is there an ideal university community
by democratic standards?” Yes and no. There are different kinds of universities,
but they could all benefit from democracy. After all, participation and distributing
power within universities, can result in better decisions, be educationally valuable for students,
and make faculty and students more committed.

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