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A narrow and dated view of college [Letter]

ValuesRobert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s most recent column ("College: where kids become leftists," May 28) is a perfect exemplar of the necessity some folks feel to firmly grasp tradition in the face of progressive change. The entire column, with its many pointed claims and overt jabs to entire groups and cultures, can be boiled down to the sentiment of "What my family and ancestry have done for years is the only worthwhile field of study and all others must be neglected."

I'm originally from an upper-middle class neighborhood in the Catonsville area and currently I am third-year student studying education at a Yonkers, N.Y.-based liberal arts college, Sarah Lawrence College, a school that if Mr. Ehrlich knew much about would probably make his stomach turn. Although Mr. Ehrlich acknowledges a very real and daunting circumstance of higher level education in which graduates face "not enough jobs and too much debt," he neglects to see the road map which has led to academia embracing certain values that tend to, depending on the institution where the individual is enrolled, be construed as "leftist."

The subjects Mr. Ehrlich cites as being "uber-left" and "indoctrinating" our precious youth are have been extensively studied through a multitude of internationally-based research organizations and scientific journals across the globe. If it was up to me to decide if I'd choose to side with the traditional values my parents endorse (who, by the way, the writer claims are the real victims in this indoctrination scheme) or the dynamic values a society acquires and subsequently embraces through intensive research and experimentation, sometimes facilitated over decades if not centuries of time, I'd choose those values with greater noticeable impact.

Education can lead to tremendous work and inspire some of the most innovative and creative solutions to the world's most pressing problems. If approached within Mr. Ehrlich's vision, however, schools would most likely become industrial farms pumping out a work force in America that doesn't acknowledge the dismal, sometimes life-threatening, conditions to which they might be subjected. In the words of educational and political philosopher Paolo Friere, "Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."

Although I agree with Mr. Ehrlich on the vast over-emphasis on collegiate education maintaining its place in society as a privilege not a right, thus leading to greater levels of student-loan debt, I believe he's misguided on the foundations of higher level learning and the work academics have accomplished to get our schools to this point. There's still so much more work to do, however, and to imply we should favor a system that dismisses the advances we've made to this point is dangerous. Instead of reverting back to a time where unproven tradition trumps observed successes, we should champion the success we've made to this point and vow to push for more substantive research and results in the future.

Brady Wheeler

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