Staley and others were discussing what the “college of the future” might look like. Johann Neem, chair of the history department at Western Washington University, said a key piece of that imagining is to separate the academy from the university.
“Instead of the universities getting rid of professors, what if we got rid of the university?” Neem said.
People have an innate curiosity and desire to learn and build a community, he said, which is why they go to yoga studios and join book groups. What if the academy set up shop in a similar fashion?
“We're afraid that, unless there’s a credential with a degree, nobody’s going to want to learn from me,” said Neem, author of the recently published book What's the Point of College? Seeking Purpose in an Age of Reform (Johns Hopkins University Press). “We insult people when we pretend that the only way they’re going to develop their intellect is because we force them to.”