I teach college. I'm relatively new at it, and I've noticed that a lot of smart people have conflicting ideas about what it's supposed to do. One idea is what I call the selection hypothesis. College is supposed to separate people who are smart, motivated, or some combination of the two from people who aren't. For example, I once asked my stepfather, a vice-president who frequently makes final decisions on hiring, what he expected from college graduates, and he said, "College shows me someone was able to show up every day for four years and do their work." For him, college selects between people who can do shit and people who can't. A competing idea is the transformation hypothesis. College is a transformational experience where students learn to interact with the world in better ways. In a previous thread Lizard King gave the best argument I've seen in its support: Recently, I was reading an article by my favorite blogger who, while discussing the issue of college graduates on food stamps, argued for what I call the fuck-this-shit hypothesis: The society that taught people to want a defective college degree is, unfortunately, going to be expected to support those that bought it, it's still under warranty. At the very minimum, it owes them their money back, and if they don't pay you should sue for breach of contract. "At the conclusion of this course, students will show a proficiency in...." The plaintiff rests. "They should have studied more." Agreed. But then you shouldn't have admitted them, you shouldn't have passed them. Inflate the grade, Gresham's Law the society. All along you've said "you need to go to college so you can get a good job" but the system was not designed to raise producers, it was designed to raise consumers. Well, here we are. Why are you surprised that they need consumer stamps? Why are you surprised they moved back in with you? "We did the best we could." No you did not, I was there, I saw it. You borrowed against their future, and they can't pay it back. And now you're yelling at them." Or in other words, whatever college is supposed to be doing, it sucks at it, and it needs to be doing something else. Given that the author is anonymous, it would be easy to dismiss him or her as a random loon, but the assessment joke in the first paragraph and the author's other writings on the subject lead me to believe that this is criticism from someone else who has taught college. There have been a lot of good discussions on education here. The School Thread alone is better than anything I've ever found on a dedicated education form. It's a nice mix of students and teachers with thoughtful opinions. So what do you people think the purpose of college should be?