Sweet Briar College is near Lynchburg, Virginia. It has been educating women in the liberal arts for a hundred and fourteen years. Though a small school, its endowment is a healthy $94 million. And it has announced that it is closing.
The closing is for financial reasons; applicants are declining and costs are rising.. Sweet Briar is not alone, other small liberal arts schools are facing the same issues. Some are changing their curricula, some women’s schools are opening to men. And Sweet Briar is closing.
Such small women’s colleges were once referred to as “finishing schools;” they finished a lady’s education in preparation for marriage to an educated man, whose home she would manage thereafter. That market vanished when, in a triumph of feminism, the housewives had to go to work in the 1970’s.
Further, the liberal arts curriculum has become anathema: It promotes critical thinking rather than unthinking acceptance and it does not convey any technical competence in an increasingly technical era. A double whammy.
A liberal arts degree now is a subject for jokes or preparation for entering a teacher’s college. The courses have been dumbed down to accommodate the hordes of students previously excluded by scholastic underattaiment; they are largely worthless (the courses and ultimately, the students.). Women, now dependent upon work, need career oriented education and not all wish to be teachers. Farewell Sweet Briar, as you fade into the memories of aging women …
The very premise of liberal education, learning to think for oneself, is at odds with the current zeitgeist of American education. The new paradigm is shaping kids into compliant and useful citizens per John Dewey et all and using Common Core to assure that all education everywhere is identical. A liberally educated thinker might call it “brain washing.” So, we assure that there are few such thinkers around.
Schools for math, science and engineering have to deal with reality willy nilly and they do that. Alongside the reality, they require “social sciences” and use those for the required brainwashing. Juxtaposed with the science, it is less effective, though it works to a degree. It can be perplexing but is not uncommon to find a hard headed engineer who immediately stops thinking when the subject switches to politics, economics, religion, etc. It’s as though two different brains were involved. They produce good science for the real world but remain brainwashed in the voting booth. But man’s conflicted nature has ever been, has it not?
Colleges are serving up courses via the internet at much lower prices; that is just the beginning. Today there is no rational and honest excuse for the buildings and related high costs. The unions will cry havoc at the thought of doing without all those dues-paying members and politicians will listen … for a while. But too much money is at stake; the buildings will go at some point. Then, with few teachers needed, the final market for liberal arts degrees will fade away. And all brains will be identically washed, but those of children of the elite governing class.
That will carry a high price for our species. We need technicians to deal with external reality, certainly. We need critical thinkers to deal with ourselves. Without them, we are at the mercy of the politicians, who have none.