What's missing when you don't go to college


William Deresiewicz for Slate.com

If you want a good education, you need to have good teachers. It seems ridiculous to have to say as much, but such is the state that matters have reached, both in academia and in the public conver­sation that surrounds it, that apparently we do. Between the long-term trend toward the use of adjuncts and other part-time faculty and the recent rush to online instruction, we seem to be deciding that we can do without teachers in college altogether, at least in any meaningful sense. But the kind of learning that college is for is sim­ply not possible without them.

Teaching is not an engineering problem. It isn’t a question of transferring a certain quantity of information from one brain to another. “Educate” means “lead forth.” A teacher’s job is to lead forth the powers that lie asleep within [their] students.

Education is a running theme on The Web Ahead. How do we learn? What resources are out there? Do you really need to go to college? This article hits on something I believe in deeply, but haven't said enough on the show — there is a deep, unreplaceable experience that you have at a real college.

The rapid decline in our society valuing a college education is alarming to me. There is something that happens when you go away to college, and study with real professors. Something that can't be replicated by robots.

You know great teaching the moment you encounter it. Yes, you feel, this is it—this is what I came for. It reaches deep inside you. It satisfies desires that you didn’t know you had. It makes the world feel newly large and meaningful—exactly, again, like art.