Is this a philosophical question itself?
In these harsh economic climes, education is always one of the first to take a hit.
In New Zealand it came in the form of cutting funding to all night school providers, tying employment rates to funding for tertiary institutions and tightening up student loan and allowance criteria. What it has meant, however, is that Universities and Polytechnics alike are looking for ways to cut overheads in preparation for worst case scenarios.
This issue, however, is not confined to New Zealand.
You may remember marches, bordering on riots, in the UK late last year after their Government announced expansive reforms to funding for tertiary studies. This included removing all direct funding to the universities and instead the students paying the full cost of their education, representing a jump from circa £3,000 to up to £9,000! At the same time they cut student grant availability and slapped interest back on student loans.
Does this sound awfully familiar to anyone else? One of the biggest woes to come from the UK, bar their heinous student-loans, is that the changes to the funding system have come at a detriment to educational quality. Less funding means less spaces, which means fewer people so they offer less courses and wind up with far less electives. Which in turn means fewer people, so they reduce course size so they enter the doom spiral and everyone suffers because of it.
I understand that the knee jerk reaction is to go for a slash ‘n’ burn of areas that aren’t directly contributing towards your outcomes based funding. Unfortunately the arts are usually the first area to be hacked away at and Philosophy is usually one of the first casualties. I mean who employs philosophy students?
The thing is, philosophy isn’t just about posing questions that no one can conclusive answer. It isn’t just about making people question their beliefs or the existence of chairs. Philosophy is about interrogating thought processes. It’s about analysing all sides of the argument and formulating your own in a preemptive strike towards the greater truth.
There’s a fantastic post from a Philosophy Lecturer based in the USA who is currently fighting to save the philosophy department. You can read it here.
For the TL;DR lot amongst us this excerpt sums it up magnificently:
“Philosophers look at what can and can’t be inferred from prior claims. They examine what makes analogies strong or weak, the conditions under which we should and shouldn’t defer to experts, and what kinds of things (e.g., inflammatory rhetoric, wishful thinking, inadequate sample size) lead us to reason poorly. This is not to say that doctors, district attorneys, or drain manufactures cannot make decent assessments without ever taking a philosophy class. It’s also possible for someone to diagnose a case of measles without having gone to medical school. The point is that people will tend to do better if, as part of their education, they’ve studied some philosophy.”
In other words philosophy is about contexualising ideas, examining your own and learning that nothing is quite as it seems.
Which, surely, is what tertiary education is all about?