While I will reserve judgement, the theme of this Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) conference sounds like yet another example of US Americans telling others, in the case, Asian universities, how it should really be done a la Daddy knows best. Why not just New Approaches to University Education?
Or, as one colleague put it, “It’s nice to see that (Thomas) Vallely & Co have found that Vietnam is too small for their ambitions. They want all of Asia to hear their wise words about higher ed.” I wonder if there will be any criticism of US higher education as a negative role model, in some respects?
Said colleague continues: My own humble opinion is that what’s needed is a conference organized by Asians to explain to Americans how we can improve our universities. My colleagues and I could tell many, many stories about how university education in the U.S. has deteriorated over the years. In the 19th century, American colleges were at best comparable to European high schools. We might be getting back to that in the 21st century.
I wonder what advice Asian scholars would give to Americans about how to raise the level of education in the U.S. Unfortunately, in order to avoid offending thin-skinned Americans, they’d probably keep most of their thoughts to themselves, and would not say, for example, “Drop the slogans!” “Fire the bureaucrats!” “Give lower grades!” “Ignore student evaluations!” “Abolish competitive athletics!”
If FUV really valued the liberal arts tradition to which it pays lip service, it would organize such a conference. My colleague and I won’t hold our breath.
In the grand tradition of comparative studies, the US, with which the event sponsor, the Coca-Cola Corporation, and FUV are affiliated, like all countries, is a positive and negative role model, including its higher education system.
Shalom (שלום), MAA
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