Monday, June 09, 2014

"Ireland is the world leader in educational snobbery" says Donal Lynch

Jackie Lavin was right to question if costly college degrees pay off in the Sunday Independent sees Donal Lynch adding to the debate started by Jackie Lavin who said that our graduates "haven’t a clue". Lynch chastises academics who "bridle" and "sniff" at anyone who questions the job they do in Ireland's third-level colleges. He further thunders that our "third-level system has become bloated beyond all recognition" and that we can't afford such "bullshit" as "critical thinking". 


Image source:
The Keep Calm-o-matic.
OK - so it is clear that Donal Lynch did not have a good experience in College where he "spent four years doing a law degree but I am not even close to being a lawyer". Perhaps he is angry that he did not get appointed to be a Judge, or get a top job in a law firm, or get a "high paying and meaningful job upon graduation"? Like Lavin, he is of course entitled to his opinion. But simply bashing Colleges and their Academics in a one-sided newspaper article, and accusing us of "educational snobbery" is in itself "bullshit".

If Lynch had paid attention in class he would have found that "critical thinking" might actually be useful in producing balanced articles in newspapers. The USA based National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction defines critical thinking as follows:

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

So - instead of jumping on the Bash our Colleges and Universities Bandwagon, please try to be constructive as well as critical and look at both sides of the debate. According to the latest figures from the Higher Education Authority, 49% of undergraduates and 71% of postgraduates are in employment 9 months after graduation - somebody is hiring these students who "haven’t a clue". Maybe we are doing something right after all!

If above makes me an educational snob - so be it!


  1. I believe that in the US there is research that indicates that college education has minimal impact on critical thinking skills ( Have we evidence to the contrary over here? How do we know that the employability of graduates is not due to their innate abilities (the ones that got them into college) and not the added value of college. Correlation is not causation. How would we go about determining this? (And this is before we even get to the cost of higher ed and whether the same outcomes/objectives can be achieved more efficiently).

  2. I am all for the traditional Humboldt/Newman version of universities and education, but the notion of 'Critical thinking' is very questionable and is not far from gobblegook.Critical thinking is something everyone talks about but if you ask anyone to describe a person who has critical thinking they will describe someone like themselves. If I was seeking to hire a person I would far prefer someone with more tangible soft skills then critical thinking.

  3. I like the irony of an article that set up against academic snobbery while containing examples of same ('We looked pityingly on the poor fools who had to do 40 hours a week in engineering or endure the wrinkle-inducing hell of actuary').