Our colleges and universities aspire to help students to find what John Dewey called "the large and human significance" in their lives and work. This requires not just teaching to the test and not just parroting critiques. It requires learning to think with contexts and concepts, deploying cooperation and creativity.
On this July 4 we should dedicate ourselves to recovering the American promise that education should increase our independence. Since the founding of this country, education has been closely tied to self-reliance, to declaring one's independence through one's ability to think for oneself and creatively contribute to society. In a quickly shifting economic landscape, it is understandable that some parents and pundits are calling for streamlined learning to train people quickly. But gearing education only to meeting current economic conditions is a ticket to conformity -- and also to economic and cultural mediocrity.