THE UNIQUENESS OF THE UNITED STATES SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION

The United States of America, with its origins as a colony of the British Empire, faced a challenge that African and Asian colonies grapple with almost two hundred years after the American Revolution:

How to create a distinctive identity and in so doing, what should be retained and preserved from the culture and institutions of our former colonial master?  The U.S.A. under the guidance of one of its most brilliant Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who did not go to college, took the bold step of creating a new structural approach to designing the curriculum of higher education.  The goals included educating common people to be well-rounded in their general knowledge of human abilities and talents and to create an entrprenueral class that would advance the economic goals of the new nation, stimulate inventiveness and invigorate commerce.

To achieve these goals, the European approach which narrowly focused on the development of the skills needed to be a competant professional in a given field was abandoned.  This narrow approach was elitist in nature, assuming that the family leadership and social background of the candidate was sufficient to create the well rounded sophistication that characterizes the upper-class.

In contrast, the United States system of higher education has two sub-systems:

1. A chosen major which is career oriented plus a minor, again of your own choice.

2.  General Education Requirements.  This set of classes requires the student to take a broad range of classes that cover specific fields of study such as science, history, psychology, political science, physical education, and the arts.  The student has a limited range of choices within each field.  The requirement is to complete a required number of units in each field.

Another goal of the U.S. system was to challenge the cultural assumptions concerning career choice and career longevity that characterized most European cultures and nations.  The assumption that one should know what profession or craft to be pursued at age nineteen or thereabouts was abandoned.  Introducing the student to a broad range of skills and fields of knowledge allows the possibility of developing a talent and or skill that is not realized or appreciated at a relatively young age.

The national culture of the United States encourages everyone to seek new employment when the level of self-satisfaction has diminished for the present field of employment. If this requires additional education or training, so be it!  The work ethic of this nation is based on the principle that output or production is more efficient when the worker is gaining satisfaction from the work done.  Successful Americans relax and enjoy themselves in order to return to work in a relaxed and happy frame of mind.  Play is used to support work rather than working in order to play.

The final goal of the American system of higher education is to develop sophisticated consumers. The efficiency of the market is increased when the consumer demands more sophisticated and efficient products. More investment in research and development will result from higher demand for efficiency from consumers.  Research and development provides careers for educated people thus increasing the return on investment in higher education and its contribution to more cost productive manufacturing.

An important market in the consumer market serves the practitioners of hobbies.  The need for a hobby in this culture is an extension of the work ethic.  What does “free time” mean to an individual?  Many times, a hobby results from something you learned in a General Education class in college.  A hobby can develop into a small business or a marketable skill.  The result is a second career after retirement.

In conclusion, general education requirements intend to make education a integral part of life.  An evolving process that responds to ever-changing needs and views maturity as the opportunity for new challenges. A process that nurtures an introspective attitude that seeks to use time as a valuable asset.  A process based on the principle that every day brings new and fresh opportunities to enhance and enjoy life!

Pete Mhunzi

5 thoughts on “THE UNIQUENESS OF THE UNITED STATES SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION

  1. UGOCHUKWU AKALONU

    Oh! I am so glad to hear my Uncle’s name – Late Professor Sylvester Obi Akalonu, (May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace, Amen.) being mentioned in your Blog! He was indeed a great man.
    If only He were alive up till now, my dream to do masters in California, USA, would have been fulfilled.
    You, too, Sir, has achieved greatly like him. To God be the Glory.
    —-Ugochukwu Akalonu
    ——–From Imo state, Nigeria.

    Reply
    1. petemhunzi Post author

      Dear Ugachukwu,

      How wonderful to hear from you! I have not contributed anything to the blog in over a year because I was not receiving any response. Believe me, many of Profesoor Akalonu’s students still remember him and speak reverently of him. He changed my life by teaching me the value of education. I hope you can achieve your goal of completing a Master degree program. May God bless you.
      Sincerely,
      Professor Pete M. Mhunzi

      Reply
      1. UGOCHUKWU AKALONU

        Dear Professor Pete,

        Amen, to your good prophecy! God bless you, too, for me.

        Thank you so much for finding out time, out of your busy schedules, to reply my message. I really appreciate it, so much.
        Actually, I am so glad hearing these wonderful things about my uncle, who used to be a member of our reputable family, “the Akalonu’s”.
        With respect to my master program I earlier talked about, it is so sad I won’t be pursuing the program anymore, considering the amount of resources involved, in terms of the high out-of-state tuition fees and living costs, in studying at universities in california.
        However, since my area of specialization is Mechanical engineering and my GPA is good (3.53 out of 4.0), I have applied to Minnesota State University for January intake, to study MSc Manufacturing Engineering Technology.
        If i am able to raise enough fund for my studies from good, Godly and cheerful givers out there, who might be willing to help me and encourage me, then I have a chance to succeed in the masters, but if the reverse is the case, then I will forget about it.
        Like i said earlier, if only my uncle were alive, as well as my father, Sir M.A.K. Akalonu, i would not have a problem at all, because he or my father would have sponsored me entirely. Since he passed away, and my father too passed away, life has been so difficult, even when hot brains like us exist. May God bless me and help me, Amen.

        Once again, thanks and remain blessed.

        Sincerely,

        Akalonu, Ugochukwu.
        +2348037349528

  2. cara

    I was recommended this blog through my cousin. I am now not positive whether or not this post
    is written by him as nobody else recognise such targeted about my trouble.
    You are wonderful! Thank you!

    Reply
    1. petemhunzi Post author

      Dear Cara,
      I do not think we are cousins! But maybe so! Many African Americans are descended from Ibos! I thank yo sincerely for writing in response to my article on US education.
      I am so grateful to Professor Akalonu. he changed my life by teaching me too appreciate the deep meaning of education. He was truly a great man who will live on in the hearts and minds of many African Americans who were blessed to have been educated by him. I wish you the best in life.

      Sincerely,
      Professor Pete M. Mhunzi

      Reply

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