Higher education exists to produce knowledge. This mission is accomplished by researchers and teachers, working in cooperation, with the goal of producing educated citizens. It is through research, innovation, and teaching that we improve our society. Education of the whole person was one of the earliest goals of higher education. Today there are many competing goals that influence the missions and funding philosophies tied to public universities. In chapter one of How to succeed in school without really learning: the credentials race in American education, David Labaree (1997) identifies three defining goals of education. In order to provide context to how the three goals can be in competition or alignment, two pieces will be used to analyze the goals. The first is an article regarding the role of the government in financing higher education (Baum, 1995) and the second document, The Arizona higher education enterprise: Strategic realignment 2010 forward, is the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) strategic plan (ABOR, 2010).
The Defining Goals of Education
The three goals of education are: social efficiency, social mobility, and democratic equality (Labaree, 1997). They are best understood by comparing and contrasting them according to various philosophical dimensions used to answer questions like, “how much education should one person get?” or is “higher education intended to be a public or private good?”
If higher education’s purpose was solely based on the goal of social efficiency students would only get as much education as they needed for a job, and no more. This educational attainment is not driven by competition or status. It is a combination of private and public interest, but viewed more as a public good, which is supported by the rationale that a more educated work force benefits the economy (Labaree, 1997). This goal is more similar to the goal of democratic equality, than social mobility, which is different and views the purpose of education as a personal investment used to get ahead.
Social mobility focuses on the needs of the individual consumer, the student. Using social mobility as the single purpose for higher education would suggest that higher education is only a private good intended to benefit the individual, with the objective to increase their position in society, giving them a competitive advantage over others. Social mobility will lead to greater stratification due to the focus on the individual. “Social mobility is unique among the three goals in the way that is has promoted the commodification of U.S. education” (Labaree, 1997, p. 43). In order to gain advantage over others, one would strive to get as much education as possible, which is different than the goals of social efficiency or democratic equality.
The goal of higher education through a democratic equality lens is more closely aligned with my values regarding higher education. Democratic...