Click here to read a fascinating piece by Derek Bok, former Harvard President, where he argues that politicians, economists, and students misconstrue the rationale of a university education. For the vast majority today, it is about young people getting good middle-class jobs and getting the tools needed for competing in the global economy. Bok argues that this focus could back-fire and result in less useful education, which could end up harming students and society. I've seen this at first hand - too many students just want a degree and don't want to learn and discover amazing things about the world around them.
Bok suggests that the rationale of a university education is to strengthen students' moral character and prepare them to be active, informed citizens. Maybe our governments and political elite don't want this, which is why they lay such great stress on the material rationale for universities.