Developing a knowledge mission for American universities

What do we need to know and why? And how does that impact the mission of higher education? I introduce the idea of a Knowledge Mission and how higher education should think about its larger purpose.

What do we need to know and why? And how does that impact the mission of higher education?

This project marries two deep interests of mine: what all American adults should know and the future of American higher education.

The prompt was to flesh out a theory of change for higher education using a Three Horizons framework: what’s the status quo, what’s the desired future, and how can/do we observe that future emerging? A fundamental variable was left open for me to identify: the facet(s) of higher education that I felt needed exploring.

In parallel, I explored how universities might tackle the question of what, specifically, their students should be learning. This research dovetailed with higher educational change at a most fundamental level—why students should study what they do. I then saw my approach: the possibility of framing the mission of university education around concrete knowledge objectives.

Though an aim of this project was to propose a “solution” for change, a more overriding objective was to frame the problem and its “wickedness.” In this way, my work is indicative not just of my thinking about college in America but about how to analyze how people, institutions, knowledge, and organizational processes interact.

Thank you to Ashley Finley and Randall Bass who led a seminar on Higher Education’s Big Rethink as part of the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Georgetown University.

Illustration by ChatGPT/DALL-E

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