Higher education has never been so low. From the zenith of being the sole possession of reclusive monks who dedicated their lives to delving in secret ancient texts in isolated monasteries, science has become a tool in the hands of the rich and powerful to dominate, exploit, manipulate, and intimidate rivals and the general public. Humanities and social sciences, which once debated ideologies and discussed the merits and demerits of human nature and humankind, are now used as indoctrination tools to plant dogmas in young and malleable minds.
Universities were once a place where you came to grow as a person, broaden your horizons, learn about the world we live in, the ideas that permeate society, and formulate your views about the world. But since universities have become dependent on private funding, their facade as intellectual establishments has been nothing but a front. Today, when you enter college, you can tell from day one what will be your worldview and political affiliation when you graduate.
Even history, a field of research that was supposed to be a straightforward study of the past, is subject to so many interpretations and distortions that no one can agree even on the facts. Ask a thousand historians, and you will hear a thousand views, often completely contradictory, on the same event and based on the same evidence.
To have any merit, humanities and social sciences must be disconnected from hard sciences and acknowledged for what they are: personal interpretations of reality based on personal background and personal knowledge. As things currently stand, universities are both the source of the social fragmentation that is disintegrating society, and a hub where intolerance, division, and destructive views are nurtured in the name of “academic freedom.”
An academic degree still enjoys respect, especially higher degrees. However, if matters continue to develop as they have been for several decades now, universities will lose all merit in the eyes of the public. According to the institution from which one has graduated, you will know what political view to expect, and accordingly, people will decide whether or not to listen to that person.
Worse yet, higher education institutions are failing to provide students with required knowledge for today’s job market. Already, professional trainings are far more effective for employers than a university or a college degree. Since the knowledge, training, and professional experience of applicants who have been given professional training are far more relevant for what employers need, they will often prefer them over applicants who have expansive general background but little professional required knowledge, and who require more training to become productive workers.
There are, of course, benefits to academic learning. Being able to formulate one’s thoughts in a consistent, clear manner is very important for any person. Also, the rules of academic writing allow us to go over vast amounts of material very quickly without losing essential information. Learning how to meet deadlines, handle pressure, and collaborate with peers to produce a better outcome are all desirable results of academic learning. Yet, the price tag of warping young minds in order to acquire these skills does not seem to justify it, especially since there are other ways to get them.
And perhaps the biggest loss of all is the leakage of permission to interpret into hard sciences. You cannot call something “hard science” or “exact science” if it is based on interpretation rather than on measurements and results. If you can play with numbers the way you play with words, then the numbers are meaningless as is the science you profess to present. For this reason, hard sciences must be cut off from institutions that teach humanities and social sciences, and the two latter ones should not be regarded as sciences whatsoever, since they are not.
To merit its name, higher education needs to focus first and foremost on acquiring social skills, communication skills, ability to articulate feelings, embrace conflicting views, and making room for diverse perspectives in a vibrant society. Put differently, higher education should be about elevating the level of humanness in humans. Education must be pristine in terms of political bias (as hard as it truly is to do), and focus on creative and inclusive thinking to create broadminded individuals rather than the current opposite. Unless the academia reverses course soon, it will be too late to save it.