The Ideal University?

Over at the Apophenia Blog the local resident, Danah, is pondering how she would spend a billion dollars to design a university. If you had the money and the opportunity, how would you design your dream institution of higher education?

I think this is a fascinating question, and one that more people should consider. It is not enough to simply complain about how education works today, but also offer constructive (though maybe rather idealistic) ideas and input.

I wrote an article about the problems of the Danish university system, though it was turned down by the one newspaper I ended up sending it to. To me, the central problem of education is that we have divided up into three seperate sections that hardly seem to be coordinated or even share the goals.

In Denmark, we have the basic school from age 6 to 15 or 16 (ten years). Then we have the Gymnasium (or some other “youth education”) – age ~15-16 to 19-20 (3 years), and on top of that the university or some other “professional training” which can take anywhere from 3 to 10 years, depending on how you prioritize your time.

My article was inspired by another couple of articles which had discussed both the basic shool and the gymnasium, and I meant to follow up on that and discuss the problems of Danish education and the Danish university system in particular.

I was quite inspired by the American writer and anarchist, Paul Goodman whose book Compulsory Miseducation I had just read. The book was originally published in 1964, even before the student rebellion of the late 60’s, but even so, Goodman’s arguments seem fresh and inspired even today. His main point is exactly that you can’t divide education into different institutions and sectors, because the way these institutions educate, form and even raise children will affect their further path through the system.

His solutions generally work toward making school less like school and more like real life. If you are sheltered away from everything until you’re 20 or 30 – how much would you know about anything apart from studying?

This situation may be very special in Denmark with our generous SU-system (free, tax-paid grants for all students for up to 6 years of study), but the general basis remains.

Here‘s my article, and here‘s one of the articles which inspired it – both are in Danish.

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