I think a lot of U.S. educational institutions ignore the advances made by institutions in other countries out of a self-absorbed, "manifest destiny" sort of Americanism (forgive my use of the term)--the idea, in short, that we are better than everyone else. That we are more wealthy and advanced than everyone else; therefore, we must already be (by default) the leader in everything. Even when we're not.
And we are blind to the fact that we are, ourselves, the ignorant promoting the ignorance of others. I don't mean this to be a blanket statement, of course, or I would implicate myself in the process. But where does real learning take place? When a person is forced to grapple with real ideas and come to a real conclusion--on his or her own. Not to spit out facts on a test. Not to present an overview of what everyone else has thought on a subject--although I do find value in examining other perspectives to help solidify my own.
I can't speak to the value of the tutorial system since I haven't experienced it. But I can speak to the value of a person coming up with new, independent ideas...perhaps even before he or she has published the Ph.D. dissertation. THAT is learning. And the promotion of THAT is education.
26 September 2005
A friend of mine who works at a university in the States recently responded to my little rant, which involved the question, "If the U.K. system is so well-respected and the U.S. system is looking for ways to improve itself, then why doesn't the latter get ideas from the model of the former?" Here's what she had to say: