The idea of higher education is to promote deeper thinking among students, and an elevated level of teaching among teachers. Higher learning requires students to question what is right and wrong and it compels students to keep searching for the “truth” or the answer that they may never find. In today’s society, achieving a higher level of education usually means you are more likely to succeed in the professional world. Of course, there are some who have done it without a degree in higher learning, but holding a higher education can set someone up far into their future. Ronald Barnett and Martha Nussbaum have differing opinions on the theory of higher education. Barnett sees higher education as a cancer, whereas Nussbaum looks at it as an opportunity for students to grow.
From Ronald Barnett’s experience with higher education, he concludes that a constant search for a higher education could be damaging to students. In The Idea of Higher Education, one of Barnett’s passages states: “no matter how much effort is put in, or how much library research, there are no final answers” (Barnett). His theory is contrary to popular belief, as most people think the longer a student stays in school the better chance he or she has of mastering their specific field of study. Barnett also references higher education as being an “unsettling, non cozy experience”. This is an accurate statement for many students because the higher the level a student reaches the harder it gets. Higher education is meant for the smartest, most hardworking students, as those specific traits translate into the most outstanding people in the professional world. Barnett implies that if higher education was a straightforward process, then there would be no higher education at all. What makes higher education distinguished is the fact that it is so difficult to achieve.
The liberal arts model of university education that the U.S. adopted is distinct from almost every other nation in the world. Martha Nussbaum believes the U.S adopted this model because it relates to the social structure of the United States. “From early on, leading U.S. educators connected the liberal arts to the preparation of informed, independent, and sympathetic democratic citizens” (Nussbaum). The connection between the U.S. educational system and the Democratic society that Nussbaum makes shows how dignified the United States is from most other countries. The U.S. promotes this type of education because they want the students to get acclimated to the type of society they are going to live in.
Barnett and Nussbaum agree that the U.S. educational system is trying to challenge their students to make them better citizens. However, Barnett believes that challenging students could be harmful. “A higher education experience is not complete unless the student realizes that, no matter how much effort is put in, or how much library research, there are no final answers” (Barnett). He questions the idea of higher education, as he believes there are no “final answers”. Nussbaum has an alternate theory about higher education as she concludes we are “challenging the mind to become more active, competent, and thoughtfully critical in a complex world.” I agree with Martha Nussbaum and her theory about higher education. I also think that higher education is about challenging ourselves, and I don’t believe that it is as harmful as Barnett portrays it.